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Resuming the narrative: the presence of romantic ideals in modern jazz piano

Chryssoulakis, Michael (2016) Resuming the narrative: the presence of romantic ideals in modern jazz piano. Doctoral thesis (PhD), Manchester Metropolitan University.


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This Practice-as-Research PhD suggests ways in which nineteenth-century Romantic musical forms and textures can be implemented in contemporary solo jazz piano performance. In order for solo piano narratives to be expanded without negotiating their location within jazz, the enquiry engages with an examination of the possible ways in which narrative techniques of nineteenth-century Romantic pianism may have found their way into certain modern jazz piano strands. The discussion focuses on Bill Evans and Keith Jarrett because of their educational background and of the frequency in which the two pianists are associated by critics and scholars. One aim of this project is explanatory: to elucidate what are those features in the styles of the particular modern jazz pianists that have contributed to labeling them as ‘romantics’. To achieve this, the thesis begins first with an observation of how Romantic ideology is projected onto these artists. Following, the analyses of their performances draw their vocabulary from the conceptual territory of musical narrative, since Narrative is largely connected with Romanticism. The other aim is paradigmatic: the appropriation of formal and textural models taken from nineteenth-century Romantic pianism, and their application to contemporary solo jazz piano. Through this practice, the narrative possibilities of contemporary solo jazz piano styles are expanded, via the stylistic dialogism between jazz and romanticism. Specifically, the troping of jazz codes with romantic textures, allows the transformation of themes, through the combination of textural topics with chromatic transpositions. The resulting ‘shifts in musical discourse’ are akin to the spirit of nineteenth-century Romantic musical narratives.

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