A comparative analysis of selected piano solos by Red Garland, Bill Evans, Wynton Kelly and Herbie Hancock from their recordings with the Miles Davis groups, 1955--1968

Date of Award




Degree Name

Doctor of Musical Arts (D.M.A.)


Music Studio and Jazz

First Committee Member

Gary Lindsay - Committee Chair


The purpose of this study is to provide transcriptions and analyses of eight historically significant jazz piano improvisations from the Miles Davis groups between 1955-1968. The four significant pianists from this era were Red Garland, Bill Evans, Wynton Kelly and Herbie Hancock. Two solos were selected from each pianist's work with Davis for transcription and are presented in chronological order. Criteria for their selection were: (1) degree to which the recorded improvisation is indicative of each artist's style, and (2) the improvisations contrasting value within this set. The improvisations were analyzed in three basic categories: (1) melodic contribution, (2) harmonic contribution, and (3) rhythmic contribution. There are numerous books of transcribed solos from all different instruments, however, few of these contain in-depth analyses of the music. Even fewer compare related artists over a span of time in the context of their musical contributions. This study shows the link between these four major pianists and an evolution of jazz piano improvisation through an analysis of selected improvisations. The study should be useful to students of jazz piano, or any instrument, in their quest to understand the history of jazz piano performance and provide them with the transcriptions and analyses to aid their study. In addition, historical information is included for each pianist, documenting their musical education and the influences that helped to create their unique style.



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