An analysis of the development of Kenny Dorham's jazz improvisational vocabulary

Date of Award




Degree Name

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


Music Studio and Jazz

First Committee Member

Gary Lindsay, Committee Chair


Kenny McKinley Dorham is often considered to be one of the most consistently under-rated trumpet players in jazz. Considering the lack of published transcriptions and analysis of Dorham's playing, this essay sets out to examine Dorham's improvisational vocabulary and determine how it developed throughout his career. Dorham's career was divided into five distinct periods, based on his recordings and musical associations: (1) 1946-1951 - Dorham's early period; (2) 1952-1956 - With the Jazz Messengers; (3) 1957-1961 - Dorham as leader; (4) 1962-1964 - The Joe Henderson years; (5) 1965-1970 - Dorham's final years.The author transcribed thirty-two of Dorham's improvised solos from 1946 to 1970 and comprehensively analyzed them in respect to melodic structure, rhythmic devices, phrasing and characteristic vocabulary. Detailed analysis of individual periods of Dorham's recorded career showed distinct characteristics of each stage of development, a unique improvisational vocabulary and how it developed throughout his career.


Biography; Music

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