Database Glossary

In this glossary all relevant pre-defined field values for the various solo metadata as contained in the Weimar Jazz Database (WJazzD) are explained for quick reference.

Style

“Style” refers to the overall (historical) musical style of a solo, sometimes named “Genre” by other people (but see Genre below). This field is part of Table: solo_info (WJD).

Value Explanation
Bebop See Bebop.
Cool See Cool jazz.
Free This category is used also in a rather comprehensive sense, i.e., comprising Free jazz, avant-garde jazz and derivates. Cf. Free jazz, Avant-garde jazz, Loft jazz.
Fusion See Jazz fusion.
Hard bop See Hard bop.
Mix This category is used when two or more styles are mixed but no style is clearly prevalent.
Other The (in)famous category of styles that are not covered by the categories above. Includes, amongst others, Folk jazz, Soul jazz, Smooth Jazz, Nu Jazz, Ethno-Jazz.
Post-bop Postbop is not a generally accepted style category, but seems nevertheless useful in our context. Besides a more narrow definition, Post-bop is also used for all contemporary modern jazz styles that are rooted in bebop, hard-bop or post-bop proper.
Swing See Swing.
Traditional This category refers to all traditional jazz styles, mainly Dixieland/New Orleans, Ragtime and revivals thereof.

Genre

The genre of a composition is a rather rough qualifier, thought merely for a first quick orientation. This field is part of Table: composition_info (WJD).

Value Explanation
Blues This category is self-evident. Older blues tunes might be often also classified as “Traditional”, which is preferable, as it is the more distinctive category.
Great American Songbook From Wikipedia: “The Great American Songbook is a term used to denote the canon of the most important and most influential American popular songs of the 20th century – principally from Broadway theatre, musical theatre, and Hollywood musical film. These enduring songs are from the 1920s through the 1950s, and include dozens of songs of enduring popularity.” (Great American Songbook). A very large share of so-called jazz standards belong to this category.
Original This catch-all category is thought to contain composition written by jazz men themselves, and which do not fall in the Worms or Riff category. Some of these, like certain Duke Ellington songs, became also part of the Great American Songbook. Again, if one than more category applies, the most distinctive category is preferable.
Riff This category refers to compositions which are based on more riff-like structures as in contrast to more “cantabile”, song-like tunes. These kind of tunes became popular in the Hard bop era and continue to strive in modal jazz, post bop, free jazz and notably fusion.
Traditional This category comprises traditional compositions/tunes such as gospels, spirituals, folk songs, ragtimes and the like, which are mostly used in traditional jazz forms.
Worms This figuratively named category refers to the class of typical bebop compositions (Parker, Gillespie etc.) where the melody seems to be taken from a solo improvisation and contains mostly “worm”-like fast and angular lines.

Rhythm Feel

Rhythm feel describes the basic groove organization in a solo. This field is part of Table: solo_info (WJD).

Value Explanation
Ballad Ballad is not an rhythm style in itself since it is basically Two-beat and Swing applied to slow tempos. However, it has certain easily recognizable characteristics such as snare drums played with brushes, hi-hat on 2+4 and half-note level bass notes.
Funk The term “funk” is also used here as an umbrella term for any grooves based on funk and rock. Typical elements are non-swung 8ths or 16th notes on closed hi-hat or ride cymbal as well as snare accents on 2+4 but often with heavy variation. In contrast to actual rock music, rock grooves in jazz context are often played more flexible, with a “softer” drum sound, frequent use of ghost notes and inclusion of Latin elements. The bass is principally deliberated in its rhythmic role, but often syncopated, riff-like figures (with a lot of variation) can be heard.
Latin Latin is meant here as very wide umbrella term for grooves that are rooted in Latin American rhythms, which in turn are derived from African timelines. The presence of such a timeline (also dubbed “clave”) is the least common denominator for all this styles. The clave is often played on the cymbal and can also be found in the harmonical rhythm instruments, which have a slight preference for regular rhythm patterns. Bass figures are often based on a derivate of the dotted quarter/eighth note rhythm, while emphasing root and fifth of the underlying harmony. Occasionally, Latin American percussion instruments are added to the rhythm section.
Swing Swing became the most ubiqious groove in jazz since the late 1930s, beginning of 1940s. Its main characteristics are the famous “ring-ding-a-ding” cymbal pattern, hi-hat beats on 2+4 and the walking bass. Moreover, 8th notes are typically played unevenly (“swung”), which swing ratios differing with players and tempo. The drummer typically adds (nore or less irregular) kick and snare accents, as do the harmonical rhythm instruments, who generally avoid regular rhythm patterns since the advent of bebop. Hence, the rhythmic feel of swing is determined by a firm but at the same time rather loose and varying character.
Two-Beat This is the rhythmic style of traditional jazz (1920s plus several New Orleans, Dixieland and Chicago jazz revivals, “Trad Jazz”). Although lead sheets often are written in four beat bars, the prevailing units are two beats played as kind of a “oom pah” rhythm. Two-beat is a precursor to the swing feel since walking bass and “ring-ding-a-ding” cymbal pattern were not yet invented. Often there are accentuations on the 2nd beat by the harmonical rhythm instruments (banjo, guitar, piano etc.). The bass or tuba player often plays root and fifth-based polka-style figures. Moreover, the drum kit was not fully developed at those times, so ride cymbals and hi-hat are mostly absent.

Tonality Type

Tonality type describes the general approach of composition (or a solo, resp.) towards the employment of harmonies. This field is part of Table: composition_info (WJD).

Value Explanation
Blues Blues harmonies bear similarity to functional harmony but show some significant differences, mostly the use of dominant-seventh chords in a tonical fashion, the importance of subdominant relationships (as opposed to dominant relationships in functional harmony) and a strong codification of harmonic form (Twelve-bar blues progression). These differences and the high importance of the Blues for jazz history justifies a separate category.
Color “Colored” tonality is hybrid between modality and functionality. “Colored” tonality employs the faster harmonical pace of functional tonality, but chord transitions do not follow cadential patterns anymore. Hence, chord root movement in fifth, as well as dominant-seventh, diminished or half-diminshed chords are mostly avoided, whereas major-seventh, minor-seventh or quartal chords are preferred. Furthermore, fifth, sixth of seven-note harmonies are often prescribed and used, giving a rather impressionistic effect.
Free Free tonality here comprises mostly atonal approaches, but includes also others constructive systems (such as 12-tone music) that give no rise to a discernable vertical organisation of the music.
Functional Functional harmony as employed in jazz tunes is deeply rooted in Western tradition, mainly (light) classical music, with a preference for added chord colors (tensions, upper structure). Hence, the four-note-chord has become the norm as compared to the triads in Classical and Romantic music, reflecting later developments in late Romantic, impressionistic and expresionistic styles. Functional pieces have harmonical rhythms of about one bar, half bar or two bar units, rarely any longer or shorter. Chord transitions follow mostly cadential patterns, e.g., II-V(-I) sequences or, more generally, chord root movement in fifths (mostly downwards).
Jazz-Blues Jazz-Blues became popular during the Bebop era as a hybrid between blues and functional harmonic approaches. This was achieved by enriching the simple Twelve-bar-blues scheme with various intermediate II-V-connections and other harmonic excursions. This went sometimes so far (e.g., “Good By Pork Pie”, “Israel”, “Blues for Alice”), that the underlying Blues progression became nearly unrecognizable.
Modal In modal tunes, harmonies (or modes) do not change at all, at least not often, typically only every 8 or 16 bars. The root movement of the changes seldom follows cadential patterns (although the famous half-tone-shift-up and half-tone-shift-down of “So What” and “Impressions” still bears some traces of cadential thinking). The overall approach is not so much that of harmonies as vertical units but a thinkig in modes as more horizontal entities.

Key

Keys either refers to the functional-harmonic key (major or minor) of a composition, a clear modality (e.g. for modal jazz) or a tonal center without further specification. This field is part of Table: solo_info (WJD). Keys are coded in the form “<NOTENAME>[-<MODE>]”, where <MODE> is optional. If <MODE> is missing, then key is merely a tonal center. Allowed values are:

MODE Meaning
maj Major
min Minor
ion Ionian
dor Dorian
phr Phrygian
lyd Lydian
mix Mixolydian
aeol Aeolian
lok Lokrian

Tempo Classes

This field is part of Table: solo_info (WJD).

Tempo Class Range
SLOW <60 bpm
MEDIUM SLOW 60-100 bpm
MEDIUM 100-140 bpm
MEDIUM UP 140-180 bpm
UP >180bpm