This is just too cool.
Recently, I came across a reference to a dissertation by Thomas Owens, “Charlie Parker: Techniques of Improvisation. Although obscure, it is considered by some to be the most comprehensive and in-depth analysis of Charlie Parker’s style. Owens transcribes 250 solos and extracts out 100 of the most used licks.
I just had to have it. I searched everywhere but it was not for sale. Finally, I found it at WorldCat and ordered it through inter-library loan. The thick two volume set (almost 900 pages long) set on my desk for a week while I created the new Madison jazz calendar. When I’d caught up on my sleep I grabbed volume one and glanced inside. This is a remarkable document! My first impression is this book would be considered the bible of bebop if it had been published.
Here’s the dissertation abstract: Abstract of T. Owens, “Charlie Parker: Techniques of Improvisation”
I don’t plan to study and learn all the motives listed here but it does have me pondering the merits of memorizing a bunch of licks. If it worked for Charlie Parker why not for me?
Anyway, the cool part is I found a way to buy the book. There is a service called UMI dissertation services that claims to be the only central source for accessing almost every doctoral dissertation accepted in North America since 1861. After calling UMI a friendly woman guided me through the process of ordering a PDF copy via their web site. Minutes later it was in my computer. Ah, the wonders of technology!
To order this or any other dissertation go to this Proquest page and follow the instructions.