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The "Ellington Effect"

Edward Kennedy (Duke) Ellington

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Features of Jazz


The most salient characteristic is improvisation—group and solo.


Most jazz has a rhythm section: bass, drums, also guitar, piano. The function of the rhythm section is to provide a cusion of rhythm that propels the music forward so that it swings; to propel the energy forward.


Most jazz has a metronomical underlying pulse, with syncopated and additive rhythm.


Most jazz has a reliance on popular song forms, dance, and blues.


Most jazz has tonal harmonic organization, synthetic scales, and blues scales for melodic material.


Most jazz has special performance practice techniques, attack/decay characteristics, phrasing.


Most jazz is performer oriented or performer/composer oriented.


Swing: Accurate timing of notes


Specific type of accentuation and inflection with which the notes are played or sung.


Continuity with which the notes are linked.

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The two together -- improvisation and swing --

  • create an equilibrium between two aspects of music; 

  • create a cognitive tension out of which great musicians create a sense of swing.

The "Great Person Theory"

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