The thesis investigates Wes Montgomery’s improvisational style, with the aim of uncovering the inner workings of Montgomery’s improvisational process, specifically his sequencing and placement of musical elements on a phrase by phrase basis. The material chosen for this project is Montgomery’s composition ‘West Coast Blues’, a tune that employs 3/4 meter and a variety of chordal backgrounds and moving key centers, and which is historically regarded as a breakthrough recording for modern jazz guitar.
The thesis reports on an analysis of Montgomery’s 4 single note choruses of ‘West Coast Blues’, covering the three categories of Harmonic Elements, Melody, and Rhythmic Diversions. The solo is transcribed from the recording and divided into phrases, which are then examined for harmonic elements, element sequences and structural or form devices. Harmonic elements are identified into chordal and scalar categories, and Montgomery’s rhythmic elements are identified and catalogued. Melodic investigation analyses each phrase according to three categories and these are compared throughout the solo. Montgomery’s use of rhythmic diversions, or instances when the predominant eighth note subdivision is not in effect, are identified and cataloged. Finally structural devices such as phrase length are examined, whereby phrases are compared to the harmonic background for beat placement.
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