First Advisor

George Colligan

Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Bachelor of Music (B.M.) in Music: Jazz and University Honors




Kenny Wheeler, Jazz musicians -- Canada, Composition (Music), Arrangement (Music)




Since its birth in the beginning of the twentieth century, jazz music has had an immense impact on the world. As jazz began to grow, many sub-genres developed within jazz, incorporating elements of blues, funk, rock, free music, and complex harmony. As a jazz musician myself, something always fascinates me is the diversity within the genre. With the development of steaming platforms such as Spotify, it has never been easier to discover the immense amount of jazz that musicians have gifted to this world. The popularity of jazz music has been in steady decline since the 1960s. This has resulted in many of the lesser-known jazz musicians to go unrecognized by the public as a “jazz greats,” unlike names everyone knows, such as Miles Davis, Duke Ellington, and John Coltrane.

The Canadian born trumpet and flugelhorn player Kenny Wheeler has always stood out to me as an incredibly versatile and original composer, who has stretched the boundaries of jazz music. Wheeler has had an enormous impact on my musical studies–pushing me to compose more than I have ever before, and making me question the limits of jazz composition, like he did in his career. Studying Wheeler’s life and composing is a vehicle for me to work on my own composing and musicianship. Thorough analysis of Wheeler’s music has led me to many ideas that I transfer into my own music, and has given me context into what Wheeler was possibly thinking when he sat down to write his inventive music.

As the last portion of this project, I have prepared a performance of five original Kenny Wheeler songs for jazz ensembles of varying size, from trio to septet. I personally transcribed and arranged all of the music for the concert and presentation on Kenny Wheeler. Doing this allowed me to get inside the mind of the great composer, and get a deeper look at the possible inspiration for his writing style. For one of my arrangements, I decided to broaden my own arranging skills by creating a sound that was unlike what Wheeler composed, while still using his melodic and harmonic ideas as scaffolding. This was no simple task, because Wheeler’s music is already so individual to him and him only; it is a great challenge to arrange his music to sound different than the iconic recordings he released decades ago.


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