Session Chair: Joon Park, University of Illinois Chicago
Location:Grand Ballroom I
Grouping Against the Groove: Metrical Dissonance in Hiromi’s “Voice”
Eastman School of Music
Simon Phillips, the drummer in Japanese-jazz pianist/composer Hiromi Uehara’s “Trio Project,” remarked that when playing in irregular meters—such as 7/8, 15/8, and 5/4—performers ideally should make them sound like they are “in four.” But how do jazz musicians create a sense of metrical dissonance and groove in jazz works where the metric grid itself is irregular?
Although studies relating theories of rhythm and meter to jazz are not new, previous scholarship has mostly focused on quadruple-metered tunes in standard 32-bar AABA (Love 2011) and 12-bar blues forms (Waters 1996), highlighting how soloists play in and out of the meter to add rhythmic variety to their phrasing. Only recently have studies examined these and other issues in irregular-metered compositions (Boyle 2021; Schumann 2021). My presentation extends concepts of metrical dissonance and groove in jazz by exploring how they may be manifested in irregular-metered compositions, analyzing Hiromi’s tune “Voice” (the titular track of her 2011 album) as an exemplar.
As I shall argue, the techniques Hiromi employs in playing outside of the groove not only demonstrate how one might go about improvising in an irregular meter, but also show that although in an irregular meter, the metrical dissonances in “Voice” are similar to those found in quadruple-metered jazz works. Through such means, I not only give insight into Hiromi’s artistry, but also shed light on how we can analyze, highlight, and discuss similar principles in other irregular-metered jazz compositions.
Henry Martin1, Keith Waters2
1Rutgers University-Newark; 2University of Colorado
The compositions of Thelonious Monk challenged the metric and harmonic conventions of their era—innovations previously acknowledged (Solis 2008). Less often noticed, however, are the ingenuities of Monk’s bridges. Saxophonist Steve Lacy recalled Monk once remarking, “The inside of the tune (the bridge) is the part that makes the outside sound good.” Our talk begins with a comprehensive table that shows the importance of bridges in Monk’s pieces: of his 66 non-blues compositions, 47 have bridges. Then, taking Lacy’s comment into consideration, we proceed to show that Monk’s bridges often recompose A section material. This practice likely influenced postbop composers, many of whom moved to single-section compositions using melodic recomposition (Waters 2019). Our talk elaborates in general on this idea as well as work on bridges by Larson and Newton-Bruno, and then we turn our focus to two Monk compositions with intriguing relationships between the A- and B-section material: “Ruby, My Dear” and “Humph.” In our view, the bridges of these pieces recompose and, through both similarity and contrast, enhance the A-section material. Of particular significance among the processes we note are motivic relatedness, metrical reversals in harmony, and contrasting interactions between melody and hyperbeats at various levels. In sum, our talk ultimately reaffirms the importance of Monk’s work to the evolution of jazz composition, confirms Lacy’s recollection of Monk’s own opinion of bridges, and underlines Coltrane’s view of the composer as “a musical architect of the highest order” (Coltrane-DeMicheal).