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Pate Brunner

To gain a better understanding of the history of his instrument and to observe the specific influences of his playing, a jazz trombonist must ask himself two questions: “How did jazz trombone style and improvisation evolve from the early swing era into the bebop era?” and “What specific influences did the creators of bebop, Charlie Parker and Dizzy Gillespie, have on the development of trombone improvisation into the bebop era, particularly that of J.J. Johnson, father of the bebop trombone?” Pate Brunner, a junior majoring in Music Performance and Economics, has set out to answer these questions. Brunner considered multiple tunes of various styles and categorized them into six groups. For each tune, Brunner transcribed a solo performance by each of the three players he studies Dizzy Gillespie (trumpet), Charlie Parker (alto saxophone), and J.J. Johnson (trombone). He then used an expanded version of David Baker’s method of improvisational analysis to examine characteristics such as melodic and harmonic pattern, chord alterations, and melody. Brunner found notable similarities in the solo styles of the three performers but was also able to notice improvisational and stylistic differences in each, due to the particular idioms of each performer’s instruments.

Brunner says that from a historical standpoint, his research experience has helped him to gain a better understanding of the origins of bebop style for the trombone and allowed him to grow noticeably in his own trombone playing. His analysis of melodic patterns and improvisational development has advanced his playing skills and his career development in performing arts. To undergraduates interested in doing research, Brunner says, “It is definitely worth it. Not only does undergraduate research offer you the more visible results of expanded professional opportunities, travel opportunities, etc. , but it also creates an enriching learning experience which will prepare you for future endeavors in your field.”

Brunner is a 2018-19 Undergraduate Research Fellow for the College of Liberal Arts and is currently being mentored by Dr. Michael Pendowski.

Last modified: March 27, 2019