Date of Award

2016

Degree Type

Thesis

Degree Name

Bachelor of Music Honours

School

Western Australian Academy of Performing Arts (WAAPA)

First Advisor

Nicholas Abbey

Abstract

Larry Grenadier is a highly accomplished and acclaimed modern jazz bassist. Amongst his many collaborations with the luminaries of jazz, he is probably best known for his enduring partnership with the Brad Mehldau trio, which has been continuous since 1994.

This study focuses on Grenadier’s improvisational style, specifically aiming to contrast his approach in piano trio and drumless piano-bass duo contexts, in the late 1990s and early 2000s. Four musical transcriptions have been completed (one performance in each ensemble setting of the standards All the Things You Are and Long Ago and Far Away) and analysed for aspects such as rhythmic complexity, motivic and melodic development, harmonic approach, and adherence to the form. In tandem to the analysis, Grenadier himself was interviewed to further unpack his views on improvising. An overall comparison section discusses the similarities and differences between the performances, cross-referencing the analytical findings with Grenadier’s interview, resulting in several conclusions about how his approach appears to vary across the performances.

Through the analysis, it is found that – while the transcriptions share common techniques – it is observable that the trio improvisations are often relatively more complex, and the duo performances more foundational. Despite this empirical distinction, Grenadier asserts in the interview that he does not consciously change his approach: instead, he suggests that the presence of different musical personalities leads his improvising to alternate outcomes in the moment. Importantly, it is also noted that his overall improvisational approach is strongly informed by a blurred line between bassline and bass solo, inferring that the absence of drums might subconsciously direct him to play more foundationally.

The outcomes of this research not only provide a fascinating insight into a member of the jazz music elite, but are also highly informative for my own practice and direction for performance in these contexts, as well as any other bassists wishing to gain a deeper understanding of how to approach performing in similar ensembles.

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