Ross School - Senior Project 2008-09

Student: James Fabrizio

Mentor: Adam Judd

Title: The Evolution of the Jazz Idiom from Trumbauer to Parker


I wrote a paper on the Evolution of the Jazz saxophone solo and I also performed and recorded three jazz pieces that show the advancement of the jazz idiom from the 1920Õs through the 1950Õs by examining the solos of Frankie Trumbauer, Lester Young and Charlie Parker. I chose this project because I have played the saxophone for years and have a great interest in jazz. This project has helped me because I can take the knowledge IÕve learned from my teacher in my private lessons as well as the information IÕve read in books and listened to in recordings to enhance my saxophone playing ability, and my knowledge of jazz in general.



Recordings (Bouncing Ball, Broadway, Yardbird Suite)

My initial goals for this project were to play and record 5 saxophone pieces and to write a paper on Charlie parker and his contributions to jazz saxophone. What I ended up doing was writing a paper on the evolution of the jazz saxophone solo, performing 3 pieces, The Bouncing Ball: Frankie Trumbauer, Broadway, Lester Young, and Yardbird Suite, Charlie Parker. I then recorded the three pieces in Hal McKusickÕs studio. The pieces emulated the different styles of the three players and the different eras of Jazz they played in. In order to write the paper I had to put hours and hours into listening to the 3 songs that I would examine. I started with Trumbology by the Bix Biederbecke Band, which Trumbauer was in. When I listened to the piece I noticed that the solo was restrictive, a part of the whole, and was only there to provide contrast to the entire piece. Also, while the solo was technical it was very unexpressive and planned. It was done in the 1920Õs and thus was meant for dancing not listening. The next piece Broadway by Count Basie and the solo by Lester Young, was done in 1940. This time the piece was done for listening and dancing. In this case the solo had expression and small subtleties that arenÕt present in the previous solo. In the big band format the solo is not fundamental to piece but does a little more than just provide contrast. In NowÕs the Time by Charlie Parker done in 1953 the solo is much more than a solo it is the whole piece and is fundamental to it. The arrangement of the solo is incredibly complex with many 16th notes and 32nds along with a relatively fast tempo. The tune is done in Be-Bop style meaning every other note is accented. One other huge difference with this piece and pieces done previously is that true to the Be-Bop form the piece is done in a quintet not a big band and is strictly for listening. It is too complex to be considered a dance tune. Some of the challenges I encountered throughout this process were coming up with a good thesis, mastering the pieces, the recording process and time management. It took me almost a month and a half to come up with a good thesis. Partly due to time management and partly due to my original idea of proving that Charlie Parker was the best saxophone soloist of all time. I constantly had to narrow it down until finally I got to my thesis for the paper. Which is: By examining, analyzing and comparing the technique, style, and diversity of ParkerÕs solos to the solos of his predecessors one can begin to see ParkerÕs mastery of the saxophone, and where he fits within the different jazz eras. Mastering the pieces was a challenge that took hours and hours and weeks and months and lessons every week with Hal where we did nothing but play the solos. The recording process was difficult because at first I couldnÕt get used to it and due to that the first recording was scratched and we had to do it again where it worked out great. Time management was a big issue. At first I slacked off and really didnÕt do much. I didnÕt really get going on my paper until the middle of October and I wasnÕt spending enough time mastering the pieces, which was one of the reasons the first recording didnÕt work out. Throughout this entire process I feel I have grown as a player and have a greater appreciation for jazz greats and the years they must have put in to become as great as they are. I have also gained a greater knowledge of jazz through the writing part of my project. I think I will be playing saxophone for the rest of my life it is a passion of mine, and while I may not pursue a career in it I will always enjoy playing.

Works Consulted

Basie, Count. "Broadway." Rec. 19 Nov. 1940. By Count Basie and his Orchestra. The Essential Count Basie Volume 3. Rec. 1988. Orig. John Hammond Dig. Bob Atshuler and Mike Bernicker, 1988.

Charlie parker. The Complete Verve Master Takes. Rec. 2003. Bryan Koniarz, 2003.

Komara, Edward M. The Dial Recordings of Charlie Parker : A Discography. New York: Greenwood P, 1998.

Martin, Henry. Charlie Parker And Thematic Improvisation. Lanham, MD: Scarecrow P, 1996.

McKusick, Hal. Personal interviews. Fall 2008.

Mertz, Paul. "Trumbology." Rec. 4 Feb. 1927. By Bix Biederbecke. Singin' the Blues. Rec. 1990. Tommy Rockwell Michael Brookes, 1990.

Parker, Charlie. "Now's The Time." Rec. 30 July 1953. By Charlie Parker. Clef EPC 208. Rec. 30 July 1953. Norman Granz, 1953.

Patrick, James. "Charlie Parker." New Grove Dictionary of Jazz. Vol. 2. New York, NY: Macmillan, 1988. 286-91.

Community Member (Details)

Hal McKusick, Professional Saxophonist and teacher.