Through Transcription and Analysis, this research report seeks to identify aspects of Mulgrew Miller’s musical language in order to gain a greater understanding of the sophisticated musical concepts he employs focusing on the solo on his recording of “If I Were a Bell” by Frank Loesser from his 2004 Maxjazz Record, “Live at Yoshi’s, Vol.1”.
Jazz music has progressed over the past century through the evolution and adaptation of musical ideas. Ideas that stem from various musical influences such as the blues, ragtime or other musicians may be adopted which creates a new expression of music that has evolved and progressed. A musician may take certain ideas that have come from various influences and innovate something new in a live setting. That concept is known as improvisation. Over the past century, improvisation has progressed through the vehicle of the jazz standard: from to bebop, post-bop and modern eras of Jazz music. One musicians approach to a Jazz Standard can be completely different to another musician’s approach. Herein lies the reason for investigation. It is commonly accepted that as musicians investigate the ideas of their musical heroes, they are able to then learn the methods of improvisation and to innovate their own ideas from the information that they have acquired. Terry says
There’s no disgrace for any kid today to copy his idol. That’s one way of getting involved. Then after a certain point you say hey I wonder why he’d make a right turn here? I wanna see what happens if I make a left turn here. And then you’re getting into innovation.
(NYPL 1993: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Gs7scf4nymU)
O’Donell (2011) elaborates on Terry’s statements by saying that the three steps to improvisation are Imitation, Assimilation and Innovation. These concepts are often universally accepted and implemented in the jazz world. However, each musician employs the use of musical approach differently which in turn gives each musician their own unique sound. It is this understanding of specific musical knowledge which in turn helps musicians become better musicians, educators and musicologists.