Jazz in the Sixties
The 1960s were a turbulent but stimulating time for the world of jazz. The R&B based soul jazz movement was at its peak and often at odds with the still developing avant-garde aesthetic. Certain other influences, such as those of Brazilian and African music were becoming widespread in jazz for the first time. Older forms of jazz like bebop, big band music and traditional jazz (or “Dixieland”) were struggling to remain viable and relevant. Rock & Roll’s surge in popularity was threatening the commercial solvency of jazz while acting as a musical and cultural force to which all jazz musicians had to react in some manner. Meanwhile the jazz of this decade is inexorably linked to the political and social upheaval of the era, particularly those aspects relating to African-Americans’ sense of identity and struggles for equality.
In this course, we will broadly explore the various movements that made up the jazz of this decade. We will delve more deeply into the music of some of the most important figures in jazz during this time, such as Art Blakey, John Coltrane, Miles Davis, Ornette Coleman, Charles Mingus, Stan Getz, Rahsaan Roland Kirk, Jimmy Smith, Yusef Lateef and Sun Ra. We will study musicians who typified a particular movement, those who assimilated several into a personal style and those who moved freely from one faction to another. All the while, we will be contextualizing the music within the social and political climate of the decade and the broader artistic and commercial landscape of music at the time.
Sound recordings (including 52 songs available online through ITunes) will be the primary source material for this course, with occasional video footage. We will read most of the book “Notes and Tones,” compiled by Arthur Taylor, as well as a number of other articles and excerpts.
Class Participation: 10%
|You are strongly encouraged to attend every class. While there are no specific penalties for missing class (aside from “zero” grades for that day’s class participation), it is unlikely that any student who misses class with any frequency will be able to succeed. With significant emphasis on listening to recordings (including many not available on ITunes), the information and perspective presented in class will be very important. If you must miss class, it is your responsibility to hand in that week’s assignment on time (emailing me a paper is usually an acceptable solution) and to catch up on any missed information. You are encouraged to find at least one “buddy” who can share notes with you and/or record the class if you should miss one.|
Note that all assignments are due on the class dates under which they are listed. For more information about specific assignments, including the week’s listening selections, see the separate Assignment Addendum.
|September 20||Introduction to Course; How Jazz Works; Jazz Until 1959|
Mainstream Jazz in the Sixties: Yesteryear’s Stars Keep On Truckin’
Work out the kinks of using “e-res” (electronic reserve); optional non-graded essay
Hard Bop and Soul Jazz
John Coltrane from 1960 to 1967
Comparative Essay #1: Compare Dave Brubeck’s “It’s a Raggy Waltz” to Art Blakey’s “Backstage Sally”
Miles Davis from 1960 to 1969
Initial Final Project Proposal (can be submitted in person or via email)
Comparative Essay #2: Compare the Miles Davis recordings “Pfrancing” and “Footprints”
Revised Final Project Proposal (can be submitted in person or via email)
Jazz and Rock: the Birth of “Fusion”
Comparative Essay #3: Compare the Ornette Coleman recording of “Humpty Dumpty” with the Booker Little recording of “Moods in Free Time”
|November 15||Live Performance/demo|
|November 22||NO CLASS (Thanksgiving Break)|
Comparative Essay #4: Compare the Tony Williams Lifetime recording of “Vashkar” with the Eddie Harris recording of “Listen Here”
Live Performance review
Final Project Presentation (first group)
Final Project Presentation (second group)
Essay component of Final Project due for all students.
Note: with paper, please include instructions for
return of paper. Options include:
|Listening to Music|
Jazz is primarily an aural tradition. As such, the ability to hear things is the foremost tool we use in understanding the music. Most of our class time will be devoted to listening.
Some notes about listening assignments:
- Absorbing and understanding music can’t be “crammed,” whether you are playing it or listening to it. It is a process that must take place over a period of time. Please take that into consideration when pacing your studying and listening – a little bit every day is much better than a concentrated “cramming session” the night before a paper is due, and your work will bear witness to this fact.
- As with reading, it is useful to be sensitive to your lucidity level when you begin a session of listening. Just as, when tired, one can read the same paragraph over and over without absorbing its content, listening to music without concentrating will have limited study value. If you are simply looking for a general impression of a song, this can be fine. Just don’t mistake that sort of listening for the sort of studying necessary to get the most out of the listening for a course like this.
This is especially relevant if music typically functions in your life as “background sound.” There is nothing wrong with that, it is simply important to realize that greater levels of attentiveness and concentration are necessary in this context. Just as you would not expect to get much out of reading a chapter from a book while checking your email or cooking dinner, this music warrants your undivided attention when the time comes to really study it.
- Recognize that even under the best of circumstances you can only absorb a limited amount of information in a single listening to a piece of music. Try “zoning in” and listening to more specific elements with each successive listening session. For example:
Listening #1: Get a general feel for the music.
Listening #2: Determine the overall structure to the piece (for example, introduction, melody, trumpet solo, piano solo, repeat of melody with the last melody phrase repeated three times).
Listening #3: Focus on the way the song’s melody (if it has one) is played and on the playing of each soloist.
Listening #4: Focus on the rhythm section.
Listening #5: Focus on the soloists’ interaction with the rhythm section.
This could go on ad infinitum, exploring different
elements of a particular musician’s performance and the interactions between
different combinations of musicians. Your own levels of experience,
perceptiveness, seriousness and curiosity may lead you to give a particular
piece more or fewer “spins.”
- Whether you are preparing to write a Comparative Essay or simply doing your weekly listening assignment, look for significant similarities and differences between musicians and recordings. Doing this will give you a deeper understanding of the common elements that define a sub-genre or “movement” and of the divergent elements that define the styles of more individualistic musicians.
As you gain more experience, you will become better able to judge what constitutes a “significant” similarity or difference. For example, “song #1 was 4 minutes long, while song #2 was only 3 minutes and 55 seconds” probably does not qualify as a significant difference, nor does “both songs sound jazzy” qualify as a noteworthy similarity.
- While a listening assignment may pertain to the specific unit to be covered in the upcoming week’s class, you are encouraged to revisit that music following the class. What you have learned in class will likely impact your perception of the music and your ability to hear things within it. Consider this to be another form of reviewing your notes or readings after a class has taken place.
The 52 listening examples you will be expected to study for class assignments can be downloaded from ITunes ( www.itunes.com ). With the right computer equipment, downloading this music is quite simple. Each song costs $1.00 (99 cents plus tax) and can be downloaded quickly on a high-speed connection, thus providing an inexpensive alternative to purchasing the entire album for each a piece of music assigned (the latter approach is, of course, fine for those students with unlimited time and music budgets).
If you do not already have ITunes software on your computer, it can be downloaded for free at http://www.apple.com/itunes/download/ for either Mac or Windows. See that website as well for system requirements. If your computer does not meet these minimum requirements, you are asked to use your networking (in the traditional sense, not the computer sense) skills. That is, if you have a cooperative and computer-savvy friend, relative or co-worker, please take advantage of this! If someone can help you download the songs and burn them to a CD, you will at that point no longer need to use ITunes (unless you choose to use it as one of your sources of material, in addition to or instead of libraries, when conducting research).
The tunes you will need to download can be found by clicking on this link, which in turn will load the “IMix” in ITunes (assuming you have ITunes on your computer). If typing this is too arduous, send me an email and I will email you the link (or find the syllabus online on the GLSP website).http://phobos.apple.com/WebObjects/MZStore.woa/wa/viewIMix?id=261302369
If you click on “Buy All Songs,” then the downloading process will be simple and streamlined. It is highly recommended that you acquire the songs in this manner. If you already own some of these songs and/or wish to acquire them another way (thus downloading only the “missing pieces” from this IMix), make sure you have and/or get the correct versions. In many cases, multiple versions of a song exist, even if the song title and artist are the same. Using the IMix referenced above is an easy and reliable method that will guarantee that you have the correct versions of the songs. You will be responsible for studying the same music that your classmates are studying, so it is important that you pay close attention to finding the correct versions if you choose to use another method of acquiring the songs.All of these songs will also be available on a series of compilation CDs, on reserve at the Scores and Recordings Library, on the third floor of Olin Library. If you choose to eschew ITunes altogether, this will be your means of accessing the recordings, though it will require that you do all of your listening at the library.
Assigned readings will be available through Wesleyan Electronic Reserve. Once you’ve done this once or twice, it should be pretty intuitive.
Go to the Wesleyan library system homepage at
For this project you will be expected to find an original topic to research through both reading and listening. The idea is to explore a specific and creative topic in depth. The end result of this project will be a 25-30 minute oral presentation with supportive listening examples accompanied by a written paper (approximately 3-4 pages). Note that while research will be required (particularly if your topic involves social, political or historical components), this is not a “research paper” per se. You are expected to be thorough and critical in your listening and research and come to your own conclusions about the music you have studied, rather than simply reporting what has already been written by critics and historians. If your conclusions either echo or diverge from the existing critical consensus, by all means note that, but do not make it your primary concern. For example, the topic “Wayne Shorter is a good saxophone player” would not be a very effective topic, as it lacks objective substance. Meanwhile, “the music of John Coltrane” would be far too broad a topic to allow you to really “dig in” the way you should. Exploring the evolution of a particular musician is more likely to be effective, as is a compare-and-contrast between two related musicians during a particular period of time or multiple musicians’ varied interpretations of a particular song.
You will receive thorough comments and suggestions on your proposals and are encouraged to seek help or insight whenever you need it, regardless of whether a formal proposal is due that week. Finding an effective topic is the most important part of the process, and it should actually be a lot of fun.
Being able to find the music you need for your chosen topic will be vital. In fact, you should not definitively choose a topic until you have determined that you will be able to do this. In addition to Olin’s Scores and Recordings library and the libraries you find in your “Library Visits” assignment, you can use the “ReQuest” database (www.iconn.org/request) to check the catalogs of all the state’s public libraries at once. In this case you will also want to visit the websites of the individual libraries to make sure that the titles you seek are actually available. Depending on your budget, you can also purchase music as necessary (beware of Amazon’s “Super Saver Shipping” which can take a long time to receive, a problematic scenario when a due date is approaching). CD Connection (www.cdconnection.com) is another good online resource – there are shipping costs, but the prices are generally lower than on Amazon and they ship very promptly. Downloading music (through ITunes, etc.) is also a viable option. However you acquire your music, be careful that you get the right stuff. If you are not meticulous, there is the practical danger of winding up with something other than the exact recording you intend to hear and/or analyze. For example, there are many recordings of Miles Davis playing “So What.” If you are not careful, you could easily wind up with the wrong one and come up with something other that what you intend to analyze. As with other things, feel free to ask if you are unsure.
For these essays, you will be given two recorded examples. You will be asked to compare and contrast, noting similarities and differences. You will be expected to put your observations in the context of the relevant topics covered in class up until that point.
Sample Excerpt of Comparative Essay
A COMPARISON: GREEN SALADS at McDONALD’S and MY HOUSE
I will be examining two green salads, one from McDonald’s and one from my own kitchen. Each of these salads contains lettuce as its primary ingredient. The lettuce in the McDonald’s salad appears to be some sort of genetically engineered strain of iceberg, whereas my salad’s lettuce is a locally grown red leaf. As such, the McDonald’s lettuce is crunchier than mine. Mine, however, has a pleasing, fresh flavor, a significant contrast to the flavorless iceberg in the McDonald’s salad. Another difference can be found in the color. The ironically named red leaf lettuce is both vibrant in its shade of green and varied in color throughout each leaf. The iceberg is a light, washed-out shade of green that could as accurately be called off-white. The red leaf, overall, is much better suited to my palate than the iceberg.
Both salads also contain carrots, though these carrots
both look and taste different. In the McDonald’s salad, the carrots are
evenly shredded and look neater than the julienned carrots in my salad …
(Hopefully you get the idea)
Don’t get bogged down in peripheral information …
Ronald Percival McDonald was born in Decatur, Georgia on January 4, 1913 to Mordecai (“Big Mac”) and Ethel (“Shakes”) McDonald. Ron’s father was a retired potato farmer.
The McDonald’s salad dressing contains 4% of the RDA of potassium. As such, one need only consume 25 packets daily to eliminate the need for bananas in one’s diet.
… and be careful with opinions that aren’t backed up with concrete observations
The most noteworthy difference between the salad dressings is that my dressing is awesome and the McDonald’s one is gross and makes me want to barf.
SOME CRITERIA THAT MAY BE USEFUL (Think of others? Go for it!)
Tone/timbre (sound of instrument)
Length (of solo[s], of tune, etc., as relevant)
Dynamics (loud? soft? varied? gradually becoming louder or softer?)
Density of notes (are there notes being played constantly or are there moments of silence?)
Speed of notes (are the notes whipping by or following one another slowly?)
Intensity (including changes in intensity)
Emotive qualities (emotionally restrained? passionate?)
Note choices (predictable? pleasing? dissonant? weird? grating?)
Rhythm (swinging? stiff? flowing? unpredictable?)
Interaction (direct interaction/conversation among musicians? musicians interacting in more subtle ways? musicians not relating to one another at all?)
Development (are ideas developed over time? is it just a stream of consciousness?)
Register (where is the solo played relative to the usual register of the instrument? does it sound particularly high or low for that instrument, or normal?)
Range (how large is the range of notes [high to low]? is it a wide range, or does the solo stay in a more limited area?)
Articulation (sustained notes? sharply articulated notes? a variety?)
Intangibles (is this unique or exceptional in some way?)
SOME HELPFUL HINTS
Describe what you hear. That is, don’t be too swayed by what you think you should be hearing (based on what I’ve said, what you’ve read, etc.). Focus on describing what you actually do hear.
Use your own words and observations to describe what you hear. Don’t try to use bits of musical “lingo” or even the adjectives above unless they’re the most appropriate way to describe the stuff and you fully understand what they mean.
Be aware that many criteria for comparison (including those above) are not cut-and-dried. There’s plenty of room for gray areas.
Use only relevant criteria and ones for which you understand their relationships to the musical examples you are using. You should cite a variety of things, but using more criteria won’t automatically make the paper better, especially if you’re not confident about their relevance or meanings. Work to pinpoint the elements that are significant, either as differences or as common threads.
Be specific about moments that support or epitomize your comments. For example, “3:38 into ‘Beat It,’ Michael Jackson lets loose an inspired yelp” is more effective than a vague reference to that moment.
Feel free to cite other music you have heard to help illustrate your points and provide context.Feel free to include your own reactions and opinions. Just make sure to back them up. Remember that the primary goal is to observe, not judge.
For this 2-4 page essay, you will attend a live jazz performance and analyze it. If attending a relevant performance is not plausible, students must contact the instructor well in advance to make alternative arrangements. Discuss the instrumentation, the style(s), the tunes played, the solos, and so on. Put your observations in the context of the music and musicians we have studied in class. Also explore the extra-musical elements. What is the setting? What is the crowd like? How is the music presented (stage patter, musicians’ dress, etc.)? Note that for you to use your tools of jazz analysis, the performance you review must be a jazz performance (not blues, not polka, not thrash metal) and be relevant to the 1960s (either an artist active then or a group devoted to playing that music). If you have any doubts, ask me. To find live performances, there are many resources ranging from local newspapers and radio stations to the internet (the Hartford Jazz Society – www.hartfordjazzsociety.com – keeps a jazz calendar of Connecticut events) and word of mouth (I, for example, will periodically recommend performances). If plausible, students are encouraged to hear the living masters and/or to visit renowned jazz clubs such as those in New York. New York is the jazz center of the universe and frequently provides a correspondingly “authentic” experience. There is also the benefit of choosing a convenient evening (insofar as it is ever convenient to go to New York) and knowing that you will have multiple noteworthy events from which to choose. If you are thinking of going this route and would like some advice or guidance about where to go or who to see, please let me know.
The following sample is just that, a sample. Your format and examples do not need to be the same (and shouldn’t be unless you attended the concert described below!)
Don’t try to make this paper flashy, like a magazine or newspaper concert review, at least not at the expense of content, detail and clarity. The goal is to be thorough, observant and informative.
If you don’t have a detailed play-by-play of each tune or don’t know the names of all the tunes or who wrote them, that’s okay. However, that doesn’t let you off the hook from making a broad range and substantial number of observations – you’ll just have to pick up the slack elsewhere. As always, do this while sticking to the observations and terminology with which you are comfortable – notice that the example below does not make heavy use of jazz jargon beyond basic terms that you will learn in class early on.
Look for a balance between general observations of the group and/or the show and specific observations of the minutiae of what the musicians did.
Keep in mind that, unlike the papers that analyze recordings, you can probably assume that I will not have heard the music about which you are writing. That takes off some of the pressure to make the “correct” observations (if you’re inclined to feel such pressure in the first place, that is). At the same time, it means that even if you land upon the most “correct” observations, they need to be explained in a way that will convince me, rather than banking on their inherent “correctness.” Observations like “he sounded good” or “he knew what he was doing” or “he screwed this tune up” will be meaningless unless they are explained more deeply.
Sample Excerpt of Live Performance Review
Note: The names have been changed to protect the innocent. You shouldn’t do the same.
On Wednesday, September 26, bassist Sheldon Jackson and his quartet performed a concert in the Joe Shmoe Auditorium at Northern East Haven College. In the concert’s advertisements, Jackson’s group was billed as being purveyors of a classic “cool jazz” sound, reminiscent of Lee Konitz. The venue was small for an auditorium, perhaps 100 seats, but was filled to capacity. The audience was comprised of mostly seniors and was very polite, neither talking through the music nor reacting much as it happened. Whether or not this politeness was a direct result of the “cool” sounds, it made for a fairly compatible match of artist and venue.
After a long-winded spoken introduction by the host of the concert series, Jackson introduced his band, which included Morton Allen on alto saxophone, Gerald Kiefer on guitar and Michael Russell on drums. Jackson also pointed out that in addition to being a bassist, he is a composer, thus preparing the audience for a program of mostly original compositions. All of the musicians were wearing suits, underscoring the dignified nature of the music.
The first tune, Jackson’s “Hook, Line and Sinker” was a medium tempo number with tightly arranged interplay among the musicians. The first solo was by Allen. While I was prepared for a Lee Konitz clone, Allen’s sound seemed more animated and a bit whinier than Konitz’s. His solo was fairly reserved and stayed within a narrow emotional range throughout. A guitar solo followed. Kiefer was playing an acoustic guitar, like you might expect to see a folksinger playing. However, the guitar was amplified in such a way that its sound was usually indistinguishable from other straight-ahead electric guitar sounds I have heard. Unlike the saxophone solo, this guitar solo began slowly and sparsely, building gradually to a much greater density and range of notes. The greater variety made for a more emotionally compelling solo as well. Jackson soloed next, taking a shorter solo than the others. After this, the alto and guitar traded off phrases with the drums, providing an interesting chance to hear Russell, who had been selflessly keeping to the background until that point. Russell was swinging in his statements, but very controlled, in keeping with the overall vibe of the tune. Overall, the rhythm section did not inspire me to snap my fingers or tap my toes on this tune. This was not because the rhythms were too complicated, but rather because they never really let loose with the groove, choosing to keep things polite and controlled. This was another way that the music made sense for the venue. The tune ended with a re-statement of the initial melody.
The next tune, Jackson’s “Lilacs,” was a mellow Latin-tinged tune. The guitar soloed first. Because Kiefer was the only chord-playing instrument in the band, and thus had nobody to “comp” for him on his solos, there was an open sound to this and all of the guitar solos, though that openness was tempered somewhat by the fairly active playing of the bass. As with the previous tune, the solo built from sparse, slow lines to faster, denser ones. Interestingly, though, the rest of the band did not seem to get louder or more intense as the guitar solo did so. However, as soon as the alto began soloing, the drums immediately switched from brushes to sticks, increasing the volume significantly, and the groove became more active as well. The solo itself was not much more varied or passionate than the one Allen played on the previous tune, but the rhythm section’s gradual changes in intensity created a more varied effect overall. The audience, by this point, was applauding for individual soloists fairly consistently at the end of each solo. The volume came back down again for the melody on the way out, eventually fading out to silence.
This week-by week guide will help you narrow your focus as you listen and to put your listening in the context of the reading and the major topics covered in class.
September 27 – Mainstream Jazz in the Sixties: Yesteryear’s Stars Keep On Truckin’
Duke Ellington and Louis Armstrong – “Duke’s Place”
2 of the all-time giants of jazz collaborate here, pianist/composer/bandleader Ellington and trumpeter/vocalist Armstrong. Both at this point were fairly popular and enjoying respected elder statesman status in the jazz community.
Dave Brubeck – “It’s a Raggy Waltz”
Pianist/composer Brubeck has been one of the more popular acoustic jazz musicians in the modern jazz era. He is best known for producing music with unusual and quirky rhythms. This recording documents one such tune and features his popular quartet with drummer Joe Morello, bassist Eugene Wright and alto saxophonist Paul Desmond, who became quite popular in his own right.
Ella Fitzgerald – “Mack the Knife”
Vocalist Fitzgerald ranks among the upper echelon of jazz vocalists, and exuded a joy when performing probably matched only by Louis Armstrong. On this classic performance she purportedly forgets the lyrics and has to improvise. Whether it is shtick or a sincerely spontaneous moment is mostly beside the point, as the results are the same.
Stan Getz and Charlie Byrd – “Desafinado”
“Cool-toned” saxophonist Getz had been a major, influential figure in jazz since the 1940s. His greatest fame, though, came in the 1960s when he began exploring Brazilian music. This track, composed by the great Antonio Carlos Jobim and ostensibly led by guitarist Charlie Byrd, was a top-20 song on the pop charts, and the album went all the way to #1.
Modern Jazz Quartet – “Skating in Central Park”
The Modern Jazz Quartet revolved around pianist/composer John Lewis (who wrote this tune) and vibraphonist Milt Jackson, the dominant player in modern jazz on that instrument. The group was one of the first to be accepted in more “polite” society, largely due to the use of many classical devices and a generally very “sophisticated” presentation – music, dress, stage patter and so on.
Erroll Garner – “Our Love Is Here to Stay”
Erroll Garner’s playful, quirky sound made him a popular figure in the jazz mainstream, and this is one of his more popular numbers.
Dexter Gordon – “Our Love Is Here to Stay”
Dexter Gordon was an important figure in the early days of bebop, and he had a huge resurgence in the 1960s, displaying some more modern influences as well. He also was one of the most significant musicians to establish full-time residence in Europe. This live recording was made in Paris, and the pianist is Bud Powell, one of bebop’s central figures and another expatriate.
Dizzy Gillespie – “Bebop”
Trumpeter and composer Gillespie was one of the giants of the bebop movement that began in the 1940s. This is a 1960s remake of one of that movement’s most important tunes, first recorded by Gillespie in 1945.
Thelonious Monk – “Bolivar Blues”
Thelonious Monk’s quirky compositions and piano style
(sometimes playful, sometimes very complicated) made him a huge influence to
modern jazz musicians. By the 1960s he had emerged from obscurity to become
quite successful, even landing on the cover of Time magazine. This tune,
featuring Charlie Rouse on tenor saxophone, demonstrates Monk’s style. He
is a quirky as ever here, but with a more playful and energetic sound than
he displayed in previous decades.
October 4 – Hard Bop and Soul Jazz
Hampton Hawes – “Black Forest”
Hawes was difficult to categorize. In musical terms, he was a soulful hard bop player with some modern leanings. However, living on the West coast led many to ignore him or to misguidedly categorize him as more of a “cool” player. This recording, made during a sojourn to Europe, features Art Taylor (compiler of Notes and Tones) on drums.
Sonny Rollins – “Alfie’s Theme Differently”
Sonny Rollins was an important post-bebop figure in the 1950s. As of that point, he was probably ahead of John Coltrane on the list of most influential saxophonists of the era. In the early 1960s, though, he went into a period of seclusion; he emerged still great and still important if not groundbreaking on the level of Coltrane. This 1966 recording features an arrangement by the great arranger/composer Oliver Nelson.
Art Blakey – “Backstage Sally”
Art Blakey is quite possibly the most important figure in the history of hard bop. From 1954 to 1990 (with a brief interruption in the early 1970s) he led the Jazz Messengers, one of the great hard bop groups and an incubator for dozens of up-and-coming hard boppers. This often-recorded incarnation of the group from the early-to-mid 1960s features several of these up-and-comers, along with bassist Jymie Merritt, who was an asset to the group, although he did not go on to a high level of subsequent success. The soon-to-be-giants in the group included trumpeter Freddie Hubbard (one of the dominant modern jazz influences on that instrument), saxophonist Wayne Shorter (who wrote this tune and who we will study in greater depth in the context of his tenure in Miles Davis’ group), trombonist Curtis Fuller and pianist Cedar Walton. All 4 of these gentlemen are still living and are revered elder statesmen of jazz.
Horace Silver – “The Jody Grind”
Pianist/composer Silver helped write the book on hard bop, first with his mid-1950s collaborations with Art Blakey’s Jazz Messengers (a group he initially co-led) and then with a very influential group of his own. His gospel-flavored compositions and funky playing helped define the hard bop sound.
Lee Morgan – “Eclipso”
Lee Morgan was perhaps the quintessential hard bop trumpet virtuoso. His playing generally encompassed bravura high and fast passages as well as raw, soulful blues phrasing. Also featured here is tenor saxophonist Joe Henderson, who would become better known as a “postmodernist.” Notice the similarity of the groove here to that of “the Jody Grind” by Horace Silver. This sort of modified boogaloo was very popular in the 1960.
Jimmy Smith and Wes Montgomery – “Baby, It’s Cold Outside”
The sound of the organ is very strongly associated with hard bop and soul jazz, and Jimmy Smith ranks as the preeminent organist in jazz history. His guitar collaborator here is Wes Montgomery, who was an important hard bopper, though one with a very personal (and subsequently widely imitated style).
Kenny Burrell – “Chitlins Con Carne”
This funky tune features two important hard boppers, guitarist Burrell and tenor saxophonist Stanley Turrentine. Both of them spent years in Jimmy Smith’s band and subsequently became important bandleaders on their own.
Ramsey Lewis – “The In Crowd”
Pianist Lewis is known for his funky sound and for interpreting pop material in an acoustic jazz context. That began with this version of a Dobie Gray R&B tune – Lewis’ version was a huge hit, eclipsing the popularity of the original.
Cannonball Adderley – “Mercy, Mercy, Mercy”
Saxophonist Adderley was an extremely influential hard
bopper, but had his greatest commercial success with this song, on which he
does not even solo (unless you count his stage patter). Interestingly for a
classic gospel-styled tune, this tune features and was composed by the
Austrian pianist Joe Zawinul. Zawinul, who died in September, 2007, would
become best known in the 1970s for founding the fusion band Weather Report.
October 11 – John Coltrane from 1960 to 1967
John Coltrane – “Equinox”
This is an early recording (1960) of Coltrane’s classic quartet, featuring pianist McCoy Tyner and drummer Elvin Jones, both essential contributors to the classic Coltrane sound. The bassist on this track is Steve Davis. Coltrane’s playing is certainly intense, but is more rooted in bebop than his subsequent music would be. The rhythm section, meanwhile, plays in a fairly tame manner, never departing far from the rhythmic figure that underpins the whole song.
John Coltrane (and Johnny Hartman) – “Lush Life”
This is an example of Coltrane’s gentle side, in a landmark collaboration between his quartet and crooner Johnny Hartman. Jimmy Garrison, who would subsequently join the faculty at Wesleyan, is on bass here and on the remainder of these tracks.
John Coltrane – “Your Lady”
Coltrane is heard here on soprano saxophone; he wasn’t the first to use it as a modern jazz instrument, but he was the most influential. The wailing, yearning sound of the soprano added a significant new dimension to his musical palette. Notice McCoy Tyner’s dense, intense comping, and then notice how the piano stops playing from about 2:15 until the closing melody statement. Normally taking the piano away would represent a noticeable dip in intensity, but in this case it’s easy not to even notice that the piano is missing, because the drums are playing so busily that the sound is still very full.
John Coltrane – “Impressions”
This is a version of one of Coltrane’s best-known composition, a variation on “So What,” a groundbreaking modal tune that Coltrane recorded as a part of Miles Davis’ group. This is an example of the group’s playing on a tune with a very fast tempo and an open, modal sound that allows for a great deal of leeway in his note choices as he improvises. As with “Your Lady,” the piano begins with intense comping and then drops out, letting the bass keep the chords together while the drums provide the fullness and intensity that continue to propel the tune forward.
John Coltrane – “Welcome”
Here is Coltrane’s lyrical side again, but this time in a more modern and intense context. This type of “spiritual ballad” would become a signature of Coltrane’s quartet. The band plays an open, lush wash of sounds without any set tempo, while Coltrane plays simple, emotionally raw music over the top.
John Coltrane – “Compassion”
Coltrane is heard here in a larger, transitional
group. Tyner, Jones and Garrison are still present, but with the addition
of an additional saxophonist and drummer (Pharoah Sanders and Rashied Ali,
respectively). The opening passage (which is really a continuation of the
previous tune) quickly shows the additional level of intensity and
dissonance. Soon after, frustration with the new direction led to the
departure of Tyner and Jones, leaving the group a quintet with Garrison,
Ali, Sanders and Coltrane’s wife Alice on piano. This track is also a good
example of Tyner’s intense soloing style; notice how much that style evolved
in the five years since “Equinox.”
October 18 – Miles Davis from 1960 to 1969
Miles Davis – “Pfrancing”
The early 60s marked the waning days of Miles Davis’ career playing hard bop, a style in which he was a dominant influence (having already been a prominent figure in bebop and cool jazz). His group here features the swinging pianist Wynton Kelly, the important hard bop saxophonist Hank Mobley, bassist Paul Chambers (a carry-over from Davis’ 1950s hard bop unit with John Coltrane) and drummer Jimmy Cobb. The rhythm section sound here and Davis’ soloing are both examples of what made this group tremendously influential.
Miles Davis – “Once Upon a Summertime”
One of Davis’ most significant collaborators in the 1950s was the arranger Gil Evans, who worked with Davis on several groundbreaking albums that put his trumpet at the forefront of a lush, large ensemble with textures and instruments more closely associated with classical music (harp, French horns, etc.). This track from 1962 represents the last of these collaborations.
Miles Davis – “Fall”
This tune represents the “classic” Davis quintet of the mid-to-late 1960s. Wayne Shorter, who composed this tune, is featured on tenor saxophone. The rhythm section includes pianist Herbie Hancock, bassist Ron Carter and drummer Tony Williams. Each of these players subsequently became an important bandleader in his own right, and together they had a profound impact on jazz composition and on taking Bill Evans’ innovations in group interplay to another level. All of the sidemen in this group contributed compositions, but it is Shorter’s music that has had the most enduring influence, perhaps even overshadowing his impressionistic playing, which has also been very influential. The rhythm section, meanwhile, thrived on mixing groove-based playing with a great deal of risk-taking and elasticity. Notice in particular the way the drums skillfully and unpredictably morph from groove-based to busily impressionistic and from loud and prominent to virtually inaudible. Listen from roughly 3:00-4:20 for a good, focused example of these contrasts.
Miles Davis – “Footprints”
This is the same quintet, and this is another Shorter composition, perhaps his most famous and often-played. Often the group would latch onto something that would hold things together while other elements of the tune’s performance would go in different directions. Notice how Carter’s bass line serves that function here.
Miles Davis – “Frelon Brun”
This recording represents a couple of transitions.
From a personnel standpoint, Shorter and Williams remain, while Dave Holland
takes over bass duties and Chick Corea replaces Herbie Hancock. From a
musical standpoint, what we are hearing is a step towards “fusion” a style
we will explore more in a few weeks and in which Davis was once again the
towering figure. The bass is still acoustic, but Corea is playing a
primitive electric piano. Williams, meanwhile, is playing a drum groove
that is clearly more rock than jazz. Not Ringo Starr rock, mind you, but
October 25 – The Avant-Garde
Cecil Taylor – “O.P.”
Taylor, represented also as the author of this week’s poem, was a controversial figure for his wild, dissonant playing. Like it or not, this is unprecedentedly intense piano playing. Legendary concert pianist Glen Gould heard this tune and called it “the most formidable pianism these ears have heard: This is the great divide of American piano playing”
Ornette Coleman – “Humpty Dumpty”
The central figure in avant-garde jazz history, Coleman moved into the sixties still displaying a remarkable knack for free yet coherent playing and composition. This tune features trumpeter Don Cherry, bassist Charlie Haden and the late Ed Blackwell (for many years a Wesleyan faculty member) on drums.
Sun Ra – “Cosmos”
In keeping with his quirky personality, Sun Ra’s music is at times catchy, at times lyrical, at times dissonant, at times wildly chaotic and almost always at least somewhat demented. This performance covers all those bases.
Archie Shepp – “Rufus (Swung His Face At Last To The Wind, Then His Neck Snapped)”
Tenor saxophonist Shepp, a collaborator of Cecil Taylor’s in the early 1960s, created a lot of music that was raw and experimental, while also steeped in previous jazz traditions. This piano-less track is a good example of that; the beat is swinging, the tune itself is dissonant but straightforward, and a lot of edgy and passionate playing occurs in that context. Dutch alto saxophonist John Tchicai solos first, followed by Shepp. Notice the transition from 1:40 until 2:20; Shepp periodically interjects while Tchicai’s solo is still occurring. Also notice the level of interactivity of the rhythm section, featuring Jimmy Garrison (of Coltrane fame) on bass and Charles Moffett (best known as an Ornette Coleman collaborator) on drums.
Art Ensemble of Chicago – “Get In Line”
The Art Ensemble of Chicago would become a dominant
force in avant-garde music in the 1970s and beyond, and their late 60s work
shows many of the elements that would define their sound moving forward:
wild and passionate yet often very precise playing mixed with earthiness,
playfulness and sometimes jarring surprises.
November 1 – Postmodern Assimilation
Yusef Lateef – “Blues for the Orient”
Lateef first came to prominence as a tenor saxophonist in such bands as Cannonball Adderley’s. He eventually began playing more flute and even oboe, a very unusual instrument for jazz and the one he plays on this tune. While steeped in the jazz tradition, Lateef was one of the very first jazz musicians to take a serious interest in different ethnic musics.
Roland Kirk – “Three for the Festival”
Roland Kirk (a.k.a. Rahsaan Roland Kirk) was a unique musician. As a tenor saxophonist, he would have gone down as an exceptional player with a lot of passion and a mastery of the jazz tradition, and he also was a great player of the manzello and stritch (instruments virtually indistinguishable in sound from soprano and alto and saxophones, respectively). He became best known, however, for a couple of quirks, both represented here. One was his ability to play two or even three saxophones at once. The 3-horn melody passages that begin and end this performance are played entirely by him with no overdubs. Another was his unique (though since widely imitated) flute style, which involved singing into the instrument while playing.
Booker Little – “Moods in Free Time”
Trumpeter and composer Little was on his way to becoming a major figure in jazz when uremia took his life at the age of 23. This 1961 track is a good example of his trumpet style and of the cliché-free melancholy of his composing. Also featured are two of his frequent collaborators, the great multi-reed player Eric Dolphy, heard here on alto saxophone, and drummer Max Roach, along with trombonist Julian Priester, pianist Don Friedman and bassist Ron Carter (who in 1961 was still a few years away from joining Miles Davis).
Jackie McLean – “Floogeh”
Alto saxophonist McLean, who passed away in 2006, is known by many Connecticut residents as the founder of Hartford’s Artists Collective and of the jazz program at the University of Hartford. Elsewhere he is known as one of the great postmodern artists in jazz. He had been a hands-on disciple of Charlie Parker’s and had apprenticed in the bands of Charles Mingus, Art Blakey and Miles Davis, and by the 1960s he was incorporating elements of free jazz and other modern devices into his music. This recording demonstrates his melding of all these elements and features the great trumpeter Woody Shaw, who was heralded for his translation of John Coltrane’s improvisational devices to the trumpet.
Pharoah Sanders – “Colors”
Husky-toned saxophonist Sanders had been a latter-day member of John Coltrane’s group, and he subsequently achieved success on his own with music that tended to be spiritual and moody, reminiscent of Coltrane’s more arrhythmic work (such as “Welcome”). He had some cross-over success in the hippie world, especially with his collaborations (such as this one) with vocalist Leon Thomas.
Betty Carter – “Spring Can Really Hang You Up the Most”
Betty Carter was the most influential vocalist of the modern jazz era, showing that the postmodern innovations of the era were not the exclusive domain of instrumentalists. Some people find the results off-putting, while others find her risk-taking and vulnerability to be refreshing and emotionally resonant.
Charles Mingus – “Track A – Solo Dancer”
Charles Mingus – “Original Faubus Fables”
Bassist, composer and bandleader Charles Mingus was a singular figure in jazz, one of the art form’s true giants, and a really weird guy (as evidenced by the excerpt from his semi-fictional autobiography). His music at different times encompassed lush classical elements (he had initially been a classical cellist), bebop, avant-garde devices and down-home blues and gospel elements, all executed with a striking lack of inhibition. “Track A – Solo Dancer” represents his more classically-influenced side (though with rawness not typically heard in classical music), while “Original Faubus Fables” (to be discussed again in the context of political music) shows some of his more angular music, represented here in a piano-less quartet, again featuring the saxophone of Eric Dolphy, who we heard on Booker Little’s track as well.
Bill Evans – “Gloria’s Step”
Pianist Evans is probably the most significant influence on modern jazz pianists. Additionally, his work with this trio (featuring the still-active Paul Motian on drums and bassist Scott LaFaro who died in a car crash days after this recording) had a radical approach to rhythm and to trio interplay. There was a constant process of interaction (including the liberation of the bass from the role of timekeeper) and a much more impressionistic relationship to the beat. This had a huge effect on many rhythm sections, including Miles Davis’ classic Hancock/Carter/Williams rhythm section.
Chick Corea – “Matrix”
Pianist Corea, who would subsequently replace Herbie
Hancock in Miles Davis’ group, emerged in the late 1960s as an heir to the
jazz piano thrones of Bill Evans and McCoy Tyner. One can hear his
integration of Evans’ rhythmic flexibility and Tyner’s drive.
November 8 – Jazz and Rock: the Birth of “Fusion”
Cannonball Adderley – “Mercy, Mercy, Mercy”
Ramsey Lewis – “The In Crowd”
We have listened to both of these tracks already in the context of “soul jazz” and they are worth re-visiting briefly to explore the grey area in distinguishing that style from early fusion. In both of these tunes the rock/R&B backbeat replaces the typical jazz swing rhythm, and in both cases there is an emphasis on funky, blues-based solos. One could call these tunes “proto-fusion.”
Eddie Harris – “Listen Here”
Saxophonist Harris, also one of the great, underrated “postmodernists” in 1960s jazz, claimed to have invented fusion with this tune. That’s probably an overstatement, but it did serve as an important tune in the transition that led to fusion’s emergence. His band at the time consists of mostly unheralded players: Jodie Christian on piano, Melvin Jackson on bass and Richard Smith on drums, augmented on this time by Ray Barretto on congas (the one sideman here who was well-known in his own right) and Joe Wohletz on additional percussion. If you notice a strange quality to Harris’ saxophone at times, you are not hallucinating, as he is playing “electric saxophone,” which simply means that he is running the horn through an amplifier and sometimes processing that sound with effects, much as a guitarist might.
Herbie Mann – “Hold On, I’m Comin’”
Flutist Mann pushed the boundaries between rock/R&B and jazz a bit further with this popular album. The rhythm section consists of Memphis session players who were known for working with artists like Aretha Franklin; they were not by any definition jazz musicians, and the tune (popularized by Sam and Dave) is by no means a jazz tune. Meanwhile, Mann’s own band members and featured soloists each had a different approach to this combination of elements. In addition to Mann, the soloists are guitarist Larry Coryell, vibraphonist Roy Ayers and guitarist Sonny Sharrock. Ayers would become a very prominent fusion artist in the 1970s. Meanwhile, the contrast between Coryell and Sharrock is stark. Coryell, who takes the first guitar solo here, is considered by some to be the greatest of the early fusion guitarist (though John McLaughlin is a more mainstream choice for that title) because of his equal mastery of the jazz and rock languages. He could rock out like Hendrix or Clapton, but could also play complex and authentic jazz a la Wes Montgomery or Kenny Burrell, and on tracks like this he combined these elements organically. Sharrock, meanwhile, was best known as an avant-gardist, perhaps the most important avant-garde guitarist in jazz. The contrast of his furious, dissonant playing and the happy-go-lucky groove of the song is fascinating.
Steve Marcus – “Eight Miles High”
Saxophonist Steve Marcus was a crucial though underrated figure in the early development of fusion (though it didn’t have that name yet). His ensemble, “The Count’s Rock Band” was a group of jazz musicians who were open minded about contemporary rock and would play that repertoire in a manner that incorporated their jazz skills. Aside from their musical contributions, the group was significant in that they approached the rock elements and songs with sincerity and appreciation, while others who previously attempted such crossovers were often doing so for purely commercial reasons. The result, unfortunately, was not a great deal of commercial success, but their music had a large impact on other musicians.
Miles Davis – “Frelon Brun”
We will briefly re-examine this Miles Davis performance. Like the previous tunes in this week’s unit, this song incorporates some rock elements, particularly the groove and the electric piano. Unlike the previous tunes in this week’s unit, however, this song maintains its edginess with the other elements. The song itself has a quirky set of chords and the solos are as experimental as on the Davis material that preceded this transition. That Davis would ultimately achieve great commercial success for fusion music that was in no way “dumbed down” is quite significant and even somewhat surprising.
Tony Williams – “Vashkar”
After leaving Miles Davis’ group, drummer Williams
formed his own group, Tony Williams Lifetime, a group that was hugely
influential in the development of fusion, even if not nearly as popular as
Davis’ groups. The group was a trio with organist Larry Young (the major
figure to translate modern jazz elements to the organ) and guitarist John
McLaughlin (who would become a noteworthy figure in fusion through his work
with Davis around the same time and in the 1970s with his own Mahavishnu
Orchestra). The music is clearly electric and has the energy and some of
the sounds of rock, yet one can still hear the experimental nature of
Williams’ work with Davis in his music with Lifetime.
November 15 – Political Statements
Nina Simone – “Mississippi Goddam”
Nina Simone was a pianist, vocalist, occasional songwriter and social activist. Musically, she is very difficult to categorize, but she is important enough and frequently enough cited as a jazz performer to warrant her inclusion here. The song is a fairly self-explanatory commentary on the goings-on in the South in the 1960s.
Oscar Brown, Jr. – “Brown Baby”
Brown fits a bit more neatly into the jazz category than Nina Simone, but was a similarly diverse and often underappreciated artist. He was a playwright, actor and television personality in addition to being a vocalist and composer. His own compositions were at times very witty and at other times chillingly serious (as with this tune and his lyrical contributions to the Max Roach project discussed below).
Charlie Haden – “Circus ’68 ‘69”
We heard Haden already, in the context of Ornette Coleman’s groundbreaking quartet. This is Haden’s first of many recordings as a leader, and it features the Liberation Music Orchestra, a group he formed specifically to play music centered on causes of political unrest and uprising. Haden’s bass playing is in the forefront for the first portion of this tune. The band then enters gradually and by the time the song hits full force there are actually two portions of the ensemble playing simultaneously. This is intended to depict an incident at the 1968 Democratic National Convention during which the convention orchestra was playing patriotic songs in an attempt to drown out the sound of Vietnam protesters singing “We Shall Overcome.”
Charles Mingus – “Original Faubus Fables”
Mingus was an extremely outspoken man and his music often reflected this. He had already recorded this song as “Fables of Faubus” on a major-label release (Mingus Ah Um), but the record label did not allow him to use the lyrics. That is where the “Original” part comes in the title of this performance. The subject of the tune is Arkansas governor Orval Faubus, who had in 1957 famously refused to allow Little Rock schools to be integrated.
Archie Shepp - “Rufus (Swung His Face At Last To The Wind, Then His Neck Snapped)”
Shepp’s music was often overtly political, sometimes with spoken-word reflections on the topic at hand. At other times, as with this performance, the political references were found in the titles and in the often angry tone of the compositions.
Max Roach – “Driva’man”
This tune is a centerpiece of one of the most significant album-length political statements in jazz history, the civil rights album We Insist: Freedom Now Suite. The tune was co-written by Roach and Oscar Brown, Jr., and it is sung by Roach’s wife at the time, the innovative and emotionally powerful vocalist Abbey Lincoln. The saxophonist featured here is Coleman Hawkins, whose career as a prominent saxophonist dates back to the 1920s and who was (along with Lester Young) one of the two most significant saxophonists of the swing era. Roach, who died in August of 2007, remained committed to political and social justice throughout his career.