Online Thesis/Dissertation Repository

The Emergence of the Vibraphone in Jazz
by Yu Chih Cherry Chen
Master’s, Thesis New Jersey University
December 2017

Milt Jackson (1923-1999, MI), Bobby Hutcherson (1941-2016, LA), Gary Burton (1943- , IN) and Joe Locke (1959- , CA) represent several generations of jazz vibraphone. If one examines and compares the improvisational technique of these four musicians, progressive changes and innovations to the jazz vibraphone style can be observed. This is the focus of this study.

The great trumpeter Miles Davis said “I always had a curiosity about trying new things in music, a new sound, another way to do something.”[1] Although some musicians defend traditional principles of swing, song structure and blues tonality as essential prerequisites for anything calling itself jazz, they are exceptions to the rule. From its inception, jazz has always been a forward – looking and forward – thinking music. While almost all jazz musicians draw from the past, innovation and change can be observed with practically every new generation. This study will focus on the innovations from one generation of jazz vibraphone to the next, using transcriptions of improvised solos, all on the same piece of music: “Bags’ Groove.”

Following in the steps of vibraphone masters Lionel Hampton and Red Norvo, Milt Jackson’s performance of this piece is rooted in the blues and bebop. For the purpose of this study, we will use Jackson’s improvisation style as a foundation for the other soloists’ styles. Jackson was a bebop master. His melodic, harmonic and rhythmic approaches are rooted in the bebop style. The full transcription of his solo is included at the end of the study, so do other soloist’s performances.

Heavily influenced by Jackson, Bobby Hutcherson merges his pentatonic scales with blues inflection and bebop style. Burton blends chromatic elements with bebop. Locke absorbs much of the knowledge from the greats before him and includes more reharmonization. However, this kind of change in jazz doesn’t necessarily mean contemporary musicians are superior to the elders. In a recent interview with Joe Locke, he concedes that not only was he influenced by Jackson, Hutcherson and Burton, but that they are all great musicians in their own right.

In studying each musician’s interpretation of “Bags’ Groove”, we will identify the melodic, harmonic and rhythmic changes that have occurred with each new generation.


傑克森(Milt Jackson, 1923-1999, MI),赫卻森(Bobby Hutcherson, 1941-2016, LA),柏頓(Gary Burton, 1943- , IN),與拉克(Joe Locke, 1959- , CA)代表爵士鐵琴的不同世代。如果檢視與比較此四位音樂家的即興技巧,可發現漸進式的改變與革新。這是此研究的重心。

偉大的小號手戴維斯(Miles Davis)說:「我一直有在音樂裡嘗試新東西的喜好,一種新聲音或是另一種做事情的方法」。雖然一些音樂家捍衛搖擺音樂、藍調的歌曲形式與調性才是爵士樂,但這些音樂家是在此原則之外。從這個觀點,爵士樂一直是向前邁進、一種前瞻思維的音樂。大部分的爵士樂家取材自過去,所以改革和轉變能在各個新世代看見。此研究的中心為使用同一首曲子「袋之律動(Bags’ Groove)」的即興採譜,來發現爵士鐵琴各世代的革新。

跟隨鐵琴大師漢頓(Lionel Hampton, 1908-2002, KY) 和挪莫(Red Norvo, 1908-1999, IL) 的腳步,傑克森在此曲的演奏根植於藍調和咆嘯風格。為了此研究之目的,我們將以傑克森的即興風格為根基,來比較與分析其他音樂家的演奏。傑克森是咆嘯音樂大師,他對旋律、和聲和節奏的取材皆源於咆嘯風格。他的採譜將放置於此研究的最後,其他三位音樂家亦同。



[1]Ian Carr, Miles Davis: the definitive biography (New York: Thunder’s Mouth Press. 1998), 44.

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