Summer 2009
Fully Enrolled

ARTS 627
Miles Davis and John Coltrane: The Lives and Music of Two Jazz Giants


06/29/2009 - 07/31/2009
Tuesday & Thursday 06:00 PM - 09:00 PM

Music Studios 301

Miles Davis (1926-1991) and John Coltrane (1926-1967) stand out as the most influential jazz musicians of the last fifty years. Each of them had a profound influence on the evolution of the music and each has become an enduring cultural icon at a level that transcends the world of jazz. Their music and careers evolved quite differently and their personalities could hardly have been less alike. However, their names will be forever linked in jazz lore due to their exalted status and due to the groundbreaking music they created together from 1955-1960.

In this course we will examine both musicians in depth. We will study their lives, their personalities and, most of all, their music. We will explore the full trajectory of each man's career from apprentice to innovator, learning about the elements that made up their styles as players and bandleaders at different stages along the way. Along the way we will touch on the music of numerous other jazz legends with whom their paths crossed, such as Charlie Parker, Dizzy Gillespie, Thelonious Monk, McCoy Tyner, Bill Evans and Wayne Shorter. We will also put the contributions of Davis and Coltrane into the broader context of jazz history, including an examination of how contemporary jazz has assimilated these innovations.

Sound recordings will be the primary source material for this course, with some video footage. At-home studies of recordings will include the Miles Davis album Kind of Blue and the John Coltrane album A Love Supreme (which you may buy as CDs or digital downloads), as well as 50 songs available online through iTunes (more information later in the syllabus). We will also read the books So What: The Life of Miles Davis by John Szwed and John Coltrane: His Life and His Music by Lewis Porter.

Grades will be based on class participation, weekly "reflections," comparative essays, and a final project.

Course tuition: $2022

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:
Lewis Porter, JOHN COLTRANE: HIS LIFE AND MUSIC (University of Michigan Press), Paperback

John Szwed, SO WHAT: THE LIFE OF MILES DAVIS (Simon & Schuster), Paperback


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