Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Bachelor of Music (Honours)


Western Australian Academy of Performing Arts (WAAPA)

First Advisor

Jeremy Greig


This dissertation compares the improvisational style of notable tenor saxophonist Walter Smith III when performing a jazz standard, as well as an original composition. As with other contemporary artists, there is little to no pre-existing literature discussing Smith despite his frequent collaboration with jazz luminaries such as Terence Blanchard, Eric Harland, Roy Haynes, Jason Moran, and Christian McBride, as well as contemporaries Christian Scott, Ambrose Akinmusire and Kendrick Scott. The primary aim of this dissertation is to transcribe, examine and compare Smith’s improvisations on July (2014) and Stablemates (2009). The harmonic, melodic and phrasing elements of Smith’s improvisation will be identified and discussed in terms of where and how they are being used. Common elements that comprise his unique improvisational style are examined to determine how their usage differs between these settings in terms of frequency and application. This research process has provided insight into how techniques already familiar to modern improvisers, from their study and practice of standard jazz repertoire, can be applied to the form and foreign harmonic landscapes conceived by contemporary composers. This investigation found that the phrasing and melodic elements of Smith’s improvisations are consistent in terms of frequency despite being applied in new ways. There is extensive evidence of a harmonic approach on Stablemates, whilst this approach is practically non-existent on July. Careful study of these techniques will inform how these improvisational devices can be used across both standard jazz and foreign harmonic settings, with the aim of improving my own and the performance practice of other modern improvisers.

Included in

Music Commons