Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Musical Arts (DMA)



First Advisor

William F. Grimes


Jimmie Blanton (1918--1942) is recognized today as a pivotal figure in the evolution of jazz double bass performance. His performances and recordings with the Duke Ellington Orchestra (and smaller ensembles connected with this unit) between 1939 and 1941 served to elevate the double bass from a limited role as time-keeper and "novelty" soloist in the rhythm section of the jazz orchestra to that of an identifiable solo voice, capable of supporting, contrasting, or blending with the reed, brass and percussion sections as dictated by musical needs. Blanton's approach to the instrument confounded the conventional notions of his era about almost every aspect of jazz bass performance: the clear, powerful tonal quality, superior pitch accuracy, technical freedom, and melodic inspiration that characterize his style immediately redefined the standards by which his contemporaries judged jazz bassists. His duo recordings with Duke Ellington at the piano, which featured extended improvised bass solos using both pizzicato and arco techniques, remain significant landmarks in recorded jazz. The purpose of this study is to examine various aspects of Jimmie Blanton's solo vocabulary by transcribing, analyzing, and comparing eighteen of his solo performances in their entirety. This approach identifies the melodic, harmonic and rhythmic components which comprise his vocabulary in their original context, and provides greater insight into his approach to jazz improvisation in a variety of musical settings. The monograph consists of a review of Blanton's life and career; an overview of the development of jazz bass solos up to 1939, the year Blanton began recording; analysis and discussion of various aspects of Blanton's solo vocabulary and style; and appendices containing 18 transcriptions of complete Blanton solo performances and composite scores of "Body and Soul" (three versions) and "Mr. JB Blues" (two versions).