Fundamental rhythmic characteristics of improvised straight-ahead jazz
The purpose of this investigation is to delineate the characteristics of the jazz rhythmic quality known as swing, and to illustrate these characteristics through transcription and analysis of improvisatory musical examples from model jazz recordings. The meaning of the term swing is explored through examination of publications addressing jazz rhythm, resulting in a compiled list of the characteristics of swing. Two studies follow which investigate the rhythmic techniques of jazz performance in relation to these characteristics. In the first study, five improvisations by jazz masters Oscar Peterson, Wynton Kelly, Wynton Marsalis, and Marcus Roberts are transcribed and analyzed. In the second study, excerpts from a contemporary jazz recording by the University of Texas Faculty Jazz (On The Cusp, 2007) are transcribed and analyzed for the purposes of measuring timing features, including steadiness of beat, rhythmic asynchronies between instruments, and swing ratios. Findings support the compiled characteristics of swing rhythm, and also suggest generalities regarding how jazz musicians interpret time feel, such as accompanying instrumentalists exhibiting a closely synchronized time feel, soloists frequently playing behind the beat of accompanying rhythm sections, and soloists performing eighth notes that are often more even than the eighth notes of accompanying ride-cymbal patterns.