Exploration in Jazz Composition

Open Access
Vitullo, Timothy Elliott
Area of Honors:
Bachelor of Science
Document Type:
Thesis Supervisors:
  • Stephen Hopkins, Thesis Supervisor
  • Mark Edward Ballora, Honors Advisor
  • jazz
  • composition
  • bebop
  • modal
  • Latin
  • fusion
  • ballad
  • hard bop
  • guitar
  • combo
  • improvisation
  • recording
A vast majority of listeners define “jazz music” as the straight-ahead, hard bop sound characterized by the Miles Davis Quintets of the 1950s and 1960s. Since the release of pivotal records during this time period, the façade of jazz has generally remained unchanged despite the invention of many different styles. Similarly, the styles of hard bop guitarists Wes Montgomery and Kenny Burrell still significantly inform the voices of modern jazz guitarists. How does the evolution of rock and roll music (a guitar-driven genre) since the hard bop era inform modern jazz compositions? How does the thought process of a guitarist translate to arranging parts for brass, woodwinds, and the jazz rhythm section? This creative project aims to explore the aesthetics of jazz composition in the present day through the languages of hard bop, modal, fusion, and Latin jazz. Over the last year, I have researched and studied jazz styles, incorporating them into my own creative works. I have composed five jazz compositions with lead sheets, assembled a jazz combo, recorded these pieces on an EP, This is the Thing!, and performed these pieces live with the group. My narrative account of the project accompanies the EP, which is the principal “thesis” of this project.