Today's post is the last in this series. I do have a big announcement for next week, so stay tuned. Here are links for each segment of Conceptualizing the Jazz Piano Trio: Introduction, Question #1, Question #2, Question #3, Question #4, Question #5, Question #6, Question #7, and Question #8.
CONCLUSIONS AND SUGGESTIONS FOR FUTURE RESEARCH
After analyzing individual questions, there are some larger themes and observations. Except for when previously noted, there are no easily recognized correlations between the instruments the interviewees play and the responses given. In fact, the shear diversity of answers and frameworks musicians use is intriguing. Most use multiple frameworks to answer single questions. For example, in question #5, Jeff Hamilton answered using the Aesthetics, Functional, Knowledge, and Relational frameworks. It was common for there to be allusions to historical models. These models appear to be useful for articulating complex musical ideas. Also common is the structural and functional frameworks that describe musical ideas through external happenings. Perhaps less common are the more cerebral frameworks, which range from aesthetic values to seemingly non-musical concepts like attitude or intuition. Also intriguing is the phenomenon in which musicians describe similar practices, recordings, or events, but characterize them with differing and sometimes contradictory conceptual frameworks.
There are several open doors that this study leaves for future researchers. Having musicians read each other's responses and then analyzing their reactions may provide another layer of understanding of the topic. Additionally, observing conversations amongst leaders in the field might be fruitful. There appears to be a research void dealing with Ahmad Jamal’s trio and its use of space. Considering both the frequency and length of comments given by interviewees about Jamal, it seems like fertile ground for research. Scholars seem to have had a myopic affinity for Bill Evans. In a suggestion for further research, Wilner writes, “…Stylistic studies in improvisation interaction intended to benefit drummers and pianists are needed due to the severe lack of literature on this subject.” Nearly absent from Wilner’s analysis is drummer Paul Motian’s contribution in the Evan’s trio. Since many interviewees used contrasting language about Motian’s functional role, it seems fitting to investigate this further. Also, at the time of this writing, Motian is still actively performing music. His personal insights would be invaluable.
Another topic that emerged from this study is beat-placement. Researchers have had a fondness for this subject, perhaps because of its elusive nature. Research by Reinholdsson indicates a conscious control of beat-placement by jazz musicians. Some musicians seemed to acknowledge the concept more than others. Ballard mentioned that it was a learned skill upon which he no longer focused. Hamilton strongly opposed the concept saying, “I don’t think there is a middle and a front or a behind the beat. I think that’s education analysis.” Despite the opposition, it is my belief that the concept warrants future research if, for nothing else, to dispel myths surrounding it. Both quantitative and qualitative research would be appropriate methods of inquiry. Another interesting concept that emerged during this study is the straight-man—a trio member performing a more conventional rhythmic and/or harmonic accompaniment role, allowing other members of the group to play with less restraint. Israels commented:
It doesn’t have to be the same person from the beginning to the end the whole time. But having a straight man, you know, also sometimes it’s that silent straight man, what you talked about before. But at some point it’s got to be clear. There’s got to be some agreements.
Peter Erskine points toward Paul Motian as a type of straight-man. He said, “…I mean, listen to Paul Motian on those [recordings] like the “Vanguard.” Paul’s just playing time. He’s not bashing it out.” Perhaps asking interviewees to respond to this straight-man concept would be fruitful, as would an attempt to find an external substantiation through either transcription or aural analyses.
One last area for future research rests in one of the study’s delimitations. Unlike Monson, my limited training in social theory precludes me from sociolinguistic analysis of the data, as well as from addressing the relevant larger issues of race, gender, and African American culture, etc. Certainly the field is open wide to those better equipped both to review the data from my research with an eye for broad social connotations as well as to launch new investigations into the influence of social dynamics upon conceptualizing the jazz piano trio.
 Donald L. Wilner, “Interactive Jazz Improvisation in the Bill Evans Trio (1959-61): A Stylistic Study for Advanced Double Bass Performance” (DMA diss., University of Miami, 1996) 102.
Joseph A. Progler, “Searching for Swing: Participatory Discrepancies in the Jazz Rhythm Section.” Ethnomusicology Vol. 39, No. 1, (1995): 27.