Spring 2006

Survey of Jazz Styles


01/23/2006 - 05/06/2006
Thursday 07:00 PM - 09:30 PM

Music Studios 301

What is the difference between "cool jazz" and "hot jazz" or "bebop" and "hard bop?" What does the bass player do in a jazz group and how has that changed over time? Why is Louis Armstrong so important? If you have ever wondered about questions like these, you are not alone. Here in the 21st Century, jazz has finally started to earn the respect it deserves, but not everyone understands how it works. This course builds this understanding in a manner that is accessible to non-musicians and stimulating for those with more musical knowledge.

We will isolate specific topics and jazz devices such as improvisation, rhythm sections and jazz composition. Students will learn the roles of each member of a jazz ensemble and how these roles have evolved. We will study the distinctions (and similarities) between various sub-categories and chronological periods in jazz. We will learn about great artists including those, like Armstrong, Charlie Parker and Count Basie, who epitomized certain movements in jazz as well as restless, influential, and difficult-to-categorize innovators like Duke Ellington, Miles Davis, and Charles Mingus. One class session will include a performance of Baerman's jazz trio, to demonstrate musical distinctions discussed during the course.

Sound recordings will be the primary source material for this course, with occasional video footage. Students will be asked to purchase and download a "bundle" of recorded songs from iTunes.com that will be approximately equivalent in price to four CDs. Selected readings will be assigned and put on reserve (available at Olin Library or online).

Grades will be based on class participation, three brief listening quizzes, three essays based primarily on analyzing recordings, an essay based on a live performance and a research project that will culminate in both an essay and an oral presentation.

While musical training and vocabulary are not prerequisites for this class, students should be comfortable with the idea of listening to music analytically. The ability to aurally distinguish instruments from one another (for example, hearing the difference between a saxophone and a trumpet) will be helpful.

A syllabus for this course is available at:
Course Syllabus

Noah Baerman (B.Mus., M.M. Mason Gross School of the Arts, Rutgers University) is director of the Wesleyan jazz ensemble. He is also a jazz pianist who has recently released his fifth album, "Bliss." His best-known release is "Patch Kit," a trio album with Ben Riley and longtime Miles Davis associate Ron Carter. In March 2005 he was featured as a guest on the public radio program Marian McPartland's Piano Jazz. Alfred Publishing Company has released nine instructional books by Noah, most recently the Versatile Keyboardist, as well as a DVD, Beginning Jazz Keyboard. He is also a recent recipient of the Chamber Music America/Doris Duke Foundation "New Works" grant. Click here for more information about Noah Baerman.


Consent of Instructor Required: No

Format: Seminar

Level: GLSP Credits: 3 Enrollment Limit: 18

Texts to purchase for this course:

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