Jazzforschung / Jazz Research 27 (1995)

Franz Krieger

Jazz-Solopiano: Zum Stilwandel am Beispiel ausgewählter „Body And Soul“-Aufnahmen von 1938–1992

 

 

This investigation into the stylistics of jazz piano takes, in an analytical and comparative way, selected Body And Soul solo piano recordings as its object. The aim of the investigation has been to depict the stylistic changes occurring in solo jazz piano using Body And Soul as a reference. Thus an atttempt has been made to look into the special requirements of both the musicologically inclined reader and the instrumentalist. The stylistic analyses are accompanied by 257 notated examples, which are shown in their larger musical contexts with the aid of ten complete transcriptions. The starting point of this survey has been the author‘s interest in solo jazz piano playing and its various interpretations in the course of jazz history the particular object of examination being the jazz standard Body And Soul. This piece, dating from 1930, has been subjected to a discographic evaluation, for which solo piano recordings by 80 jazz pianists were selected. Up to 1992, Body And Soul was recorded as a solo 44 times by 23 pianists and is thus the solo piece most often recorded by players of piano in the hitherto history of jazz.

 

The period of investigation is based on the recordings available to the author. The oldest dates from 1938, the latest from 1992. This period actually covers the major part of jazz history documented on sound recordings. At the same time, Body And Soul belongs to the repertoire of the most well-known and significant solo pianists in the area of jazz, which is, in fact, why the analyzed examples are of such superb quality of interpretation.

 

The present survey is based on transcriptions made by the author. They represent a considerable part of the actual analysis since they describe the piece of music with the help of notated methods thus allowing additional concentration on characterizing the individual aspects. The complete transcriptions of the ten analyzed Body And Soul recordings enable, irrespective of the musical complexity and length of the pieces, to make provable and comprehendable statements. They also represent an attempt to give insight into jazz pieces by revealing a selection of recognizable stylistic elements.

 

The Body And Soul recordings of which the author has produced complete transcriptions are by Art Tatum, Earl Hines, Teddy Wilson, Erroll Garner, Hank Jones, Thelonious Monk, Oscar Peterson, Jimmy Rowles and Walter Norris. Two of Art Tatum‘s recordings have been analyzed, while of all the other pianists one of each has been examined. The analyses cast light on the personal styles of the players of piano. Subjective style in the context of this analysis means the totality of playing modes of a musician as has been preserved and is recognizable from the audiorecordings. In this sense, the style of a pianist is composed of a multitude of musical parameters, such as melody, harmony and rhythm. The depiction of the stylistic changes results from a comparative survey of the personal forms encountered. Finally, the closing chapter of this examination is dedicated to a comparison of the various playing styles of the pianists.