The style of Roy Eldridge in 1938

Analytical study through two improvisations on ‘Body and Soul’


  • Juan Zagalaz University of Málaga



jazz, improvisation, swing, bebop, Roy Eldridge


Improvisation is one of the most defining characteristics of jazz music. In the early 1940s, the emergence of bebop led to the birth of the modern vocabulary of jazz improvisation, despite the fact other musicians contributed in the past to create and develop the aforementioned vocabulary. Roy Eldridge was one of those musicians, originally attached to the swing era but with an advanced style of playing on which contribution to the modern jazz improvisation was determinant. In this article two versions of the tune ‘Body and Soul’ performed and recorded by Roy Eldridge in 1938 have been transcribed and analysed, in order to observe the way he was playing through the changes and the decisions he made in certain situations. Eldridge’s intellectual approach to improvisation represents one of the most advanced visions of the jazz improvisatory art prior to the birth of bebop.

Author Biography

Juan Zagalaz, University of Málaga

Juan Zagalaz is a musician, researcher and teacher, currently working at Málaga University (Spain) as Vice Dean of Culture and Infrastructures in the Faculty of Education. His main research interests are jazz improvisation and the jazz-flamenco relation.


Berendt, J. E. (1962) El Jazz: su origen y desarrollo. México: Fondo de Cultura Económica.

Bradford Robinson, J., and Barry Kernfeld (2019) 'Eldridge, (David) Roy [Little Jazz]', Grove Music Online, ed. L. Macy, (accessed 10 December 2019).

Chilton, J. (1990) The Song of the Hawk: The Life and Recordings of Coleman Hawkins. London and New York: Quartet Books.

-(2002) Roy Eldridge: Little Jazz Giant. London: Continuum.

Clare, D. (1995) 'Roy Eldridge: Don Clare Surveys the Career of Little Jazz'. Jazz Journal 48/9 (September): 6-8.

Dance, S. (1974) The World of Swing. New York: Charles Scribner's Sons.

DeVeaux, Scott (1985) 'Coleman Hawkins and Howard McGhee, 1935-1945'. Doctoral dissertation. Berkeley: University of California.

-(1997) The Birth of Bebop: A Social and Musical History. ­Berkeley: University of California Press.

DeVeaux, Scott, and Gary Giddins (2009) Jazz. New York: W.W. Norton & Company.

Fox, Charles, Peter Gammond, Alun Morgan and Alexis Korner (1960) Jazz on Record: A Critical Guide. London: Grey Arrow.

Giddins, G. (1985) Rhythm-A-Ning: Jazz Tradition and Innovation in the 80's. New York: Da Capo Press.

Gioia, T. (1997) The History of Jazz. New York: Oxford University Press.

Gitler, I. (1985) Swing to Bop: An Oral History of the Transition in Jazz in the 1940s. New York: Oxford University Press.

Givan, B. (2010) 'Swing Improvisation: A Schenkerian Perspective'. Theory and Practice 35: 25-56.

Harker, B. (2003) 'Louis Armstrong and the Clarinet'. American Music 21/2 (Summer): 137-58.

Hobsbawm, E. (1998) Uncommon People: Resistance, Rebellion, and Jazz. New York: The New Press.

McClellan Jr., L. (2004) The Later Swing Era: 1942 to 1955. London: Greenwood Press.

Owens, T. (1995) Bebop: The Music and Its Players. New York: Oxford University Press.

Porter, E. (1999) '"Dizzy Atmosphere": The Challenge of Bebop'. American Music 17/4 (Winter): 422-46.

Porter, Lewis, Michael Ullman with Ed Hazell (1992) Jazz: From its Origins to the Present. Upper Saddle River, NJ: Prentice Hall.

Rutkoff, P., and W. Scott (1996) 'Bebop: Modern New York Jazz'. The Kenyon Review 18/2 (Spring): 91-121.

Schuller, G. (1989) The Swing Era: The Development of Jazz, 1935-1945. New York: Oxford University Press.

Standifer, J. A. (1986) 'Reminiscences of Black Musicians'. American Music 4/2: (Summer): 194-205.

Wilson, J. S. (1966) Jazz: The Transition Years, 1940-1960. New York: Appleton-Century-Crofts.

Woideck, C. (1996) Charlie Parker: His Music and Life. Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press.

Wright, J. R. B. (1976) 'Conversation with John Birks "Dizzy" Gillespie, Pioneer of Jazz'. The Black Perspective in Music 4/1 (Spring): 82-89.

Zagalaz, J. (2010) 'Innovaciones melódico-armónicas en la improvisación jazzística. Un recorrido a través de Body and Soul. 1935-1945'. Doctoral dissertation. Jaén: Universidad de Jaén.

-(2011) 'Una perspectiva analítica de la transición del Swing al Bebop: Roy Eldridge y Dizzy Gillespie en las Jam Sessions de 1941'. Revista Arbitrada de la Facultad Experimental de Arte de la Universidad de Zulia 6/11: 9-20.



How to Cite

Zagalaz, J. (2021). The style of Roy Eldridge in 1938: Analytical study through two improvisations on ‘Body and Soul’. Jazz Research Journal, 14(1), 27–56.