This Independent Study examines the emergence of an improvisatory paradigm in jazz music during the late 1950s. This paradigm, mode-based chord-scale association, was pioneered by music theorist George Russell, and is first observed in the music of jazz trumpeter and composer Miles Davis. Through historical and musical analysis of both Davis’ modal periods and earlier musical periods, the author postulates that the mode-based paradigm is rooted in earlier jazz practices, thus creating a hybrid approach. The author then analyzes the music of close contemporary jazz musicians to demonstrate the influence of this new paradigm on the jazz community. In this paper, the author seeks to address recurring issues in jazz historiography, and thus present this work as a case study for the construction of a scholarly work on jazz music.

Through evaluating historical evidence and analyzing selected musical material, the author found that that compositions and solo improvisations of Miles Davis from the late 1950s, demonstrated a clear shift away from contemporary jazz practices. This author also found that there is ample evidence to links these developments to the music theories of George Russell, as outlined his treatise The Lydian Chromatic Concept of Tonal Organization. This conceptual shift is characterized by the application of modes and their properties into the aesthetics and idioms of composed and improvised jazz, culminating in the landmark Davis album Kind of Blue. Furthermore, Davis’ approach to modal composition and solo improvisation was not limited to the works of this period, but rather had a significant long-term impact over many jazz styles. Finally, this author demonstrates the presence of mode-based chord-scale association in the compositions and solo improvisations of several musicians who were contemporary to Davis, namely John Coltrane, Horace Silver, Wayne Shorter and Herbie Hancock.


Wright, Joesphine




Musicology | Music Theory | Other History

Publication Date


Degree Granted

Bachelor of Arts

Document Type

Senior Independent Study Thesis



© Copyright 2017 Alexander P. Chabraja