Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Bachelor of Music (Honours)


Western Australian Academy of Performing Arts (WAAPA)

First Advisor

Tom O'Halloran


Pianist Lennie Tristano is regarded as one of the most original voices in jazz history. His uncompromising adherence to artistic ideals led to both great innovation and obscurity, limiting his impact on future generations of musicians. Until recently, his music has been largely overlooked by musicians and academics alike. Coinciding with a revival in interest in Tristano and his music by modern jazz musicians, this dissertation seeks to investigate the transferability of several aspects of Tristano’s rhythmic, harmonic and phrasing vocabulary to modern jazz improvisation. Building upon existing literature concerning his pedagogy and musical analysis, this research emphasises Tristano’s relevance to modern jazz musicians. Through transcription analysis of two of Tristano’s compositions, Lennie’s Pennies and 317 East 32nd Street as well as Line Up, an improvisation from the 1955 self-titled album, Tristano’s approach to rhythm, harmony and phrasing is discussed and several idiosyncratic devices are drawn out for use in the following section of the thesis. These devices include diminution/augmentation, polyrhythm, asymmetrical rhythmic grouping, manipulation of harmonic rhythm, chromaticism, reharmonisation, asymmetrical phrasing, and extended phrase length within an improvised line. Following on from the analysis, the final chapter investigates the transferability of the devices to modern jazz improvisation. A systematic approach to practicing selected devices with the intention of applying them in modern jazz improvisation is developed. These strategies are designed to allow modern jazz musicians to see the relevance of Tristano’s style and facilitate the incorporation of his rhythmic, harmonic and phrasing devices in new settings. Approaching Tristano’s music in this way sustains a model of recontextualising the music of the past to bring innovation in the music of the present.

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