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Jazz: The American Art Form
Format: seminar, 2 hours; graded
Place: 111
Time: MON 16-17.40
Tutor: Gabor TURI
Office Hours: MON 15-16, and by appointment ([email protected] or 512-900/23108)
Description of Course
Jazz originated in the United States through the confrontation of Afro-Americans with European
music. During its hundred years of history, jazz, serving for dance and entertainment in its first
decades, has evolved into an art form characterized by a flow of creative energies and inventiveness.
Music of vital and forward motion, jazz is a symbol of an improvisational process, guided by the
instinct for freedom. Jazz has become a genuine contribution to the cultural history of the United
States and a special component of America’s consciousness as well as a means of artistic expression
that, in various forms incorporating all sorts of elements, is being performed all over the world. The
course, which is based on open ears and minds rather than on pre-existing knowledge of music theory,
examines jazz in a broad cultural and sociological context.
Course Goals
Through weekly lectures, readings, oral presentations, discussion and listening to music samples, the
students will develop a better understanding of the history and the nature of rhythmic improvised
music in the US. Since this is predominantly a seminar course, emphasis will be on analyzing the
characteristics, styles, human conditions and the environment of this indigenous American
phenomenon. Language skills in reading, writing, listening and speaking (including musical terms) are
expected to be improved. Students will be asked to prepare an internet discography on selected
musicians by the end of the course.
Class Attendance and Participation
Students may not miss more than three classes under any circumstances. As sources on jazz are hardly
obtainable from the department’s library, it is of primary interest for everyone to attend classes to gain
all necessary information to pass the in-class written exam at the end of the course, which may not be
missed or rescheduled. Students are expected to keep up with the readings and the music samples to
participate in the discussion.
Oral Presentation
The five to ten-minute oral presentations will supplement the required readings and music samples and
should highlight different aspects of the issue under discussion. These oral presentations will have to
start discussion. Students are asked to hand out a one-page outline of their presentation to each
member of the class before the session starts. In grading, both the content and the presentation
(handout, lecturing skills) will be taken into consideration.
Attendance and participation in class discussion: 20%
Oral presentation: 20%
Internet research: 20%
In-class exam: 40%
A=91-100; B=81-90; C=71-80; D=61-70; F is 60 or below. In case of borderline grades, participation
in class discussion and the individual student’s pattern of work (progress) will be considered. No extra
credits are available. Grades and grading policy will only be discussed in person.
Power point presentations on each class can be downlowded at the department’s library.
A set of annotated CDs containing music samples presented during the course are available at the
same library.
Books on jazz, jazz CDs and DVDs are available at the Music Collection of the University Library.
Recommended web sites on styles, musicians, and recordings:
WEEK 1, February 9.: How to Recognize Jazz
Jazz as a separate and distinct art form. The elements of jazz: the blues, spiritual and gospel song,
sound and phrasing, rhythm. harmony, melody, arrangement, improvisation. The instruments of
jazz. A definition of jazz in terms of its origins and characteristics.
WEEK 2, February 16.: The Birthplace: New Orleans
The early backgrounds. The roles of the slave, the free Negro, and the Creoles of Color. Encounter
of cultures. The musical melting pot: Protestant hymns, German and French Marches, ’Latin’ and
West Indian rhythms, European melodies. Ragtime. Pioneering jazzmen in the transitional era of
minstrelsy, and their early travels.The process of blending; the emergence of patterns, forms, and
styles. Second line. Storyville, the hothouse.
Oral presentation:
Way Down Yonder in New Orleans (in: Nat Shapiro and Nat Hentoff, ed: Hear Me Talkin’ to Ya. Dover
Publications, 1955) 3-25.
WEEK 3, February 23.: North to Chicago and New York
World War I, and the Jazz Age. The migration North to Chicago by land or riverboats: King
Oliver, Jimmy Noone, Johnny Dodds and others. The rise of the soloist: Louis Armstrong. The
white response: Bix Beiderbecke, and the Austin High Gang. The effect of the new environment
on music. Race records. Stride piano/boogie-woogie/barrelhouse The Harlem renaissance.
Oral presentation:
W. H. Kenney: White Chicago Jazz: Cultural Context (in: Chocago Jazz. A Cultural History, 19041930.) 87-111.
WEEK 4, March 2.: Great Individuals: Louis Armstrong and Duke Ellington
Armstrong: the first soloist in jazz. Introducing swing. Popular appeal: Ambassador of jazz.
Ellington: the orchestra as a musical instrument. Personal touch. The greatest oeuvre of all.
Oral presentation:
Gary Giddins: Louis Arsmtrong (in: Visions of Jazz. Oxford University Press, 1998) 83-101.
Rex Stewart: The Duke and His Man (in: Boy Meets Horn, The University of Michigan Press, 1991) 163179
WEEK 5, March 9.: The Swing Era
The Depression and its effect on jazz in the late twenties and early thirties. New York becoming
the focal point of the sheet music, radio, recording, and booking business. The evolution of big
bands in Harlem. Jazzmen in big commercial bands and radio studios. Social dance. The
beginnings of swing: Benny Goodman, Artie Shaw, the Dorsey Brothers. Territory bands. Kansas
City and environs in the Pendergast era. Prosperity in Prohibition as a magnet for musicians:
Count Basie.
Oral presentation:
The Big Bands (in: Ted Goia: The History of Jazz. Oxford University Press, 1997.) 145-157.
WEEK 6, March 16.: Modern Jazz: The Bebop Revolution
The socio-economic background. The recording ban, World War II, and the developments in
technology. Death of the big band era. The evolution of bop: Dizzy Gillespie, Charlie Parker,
Thelonious Monk, Kenny Clarke and others at Minton’s. Further developments in the musical
language. A psychological shift. The jazz musician as artist. Junkie and Hipster.
Oral presentation:
Ross Russell: Bird at Work (in: Bird Lives! Quartet Books, 1973.) 255-268.
WEEK 7, March 23.: Cool/West Coast, Third Stream
Birth of the cool: its origins and definiton. The Miles Davis recordings of 1949. White intellectualism: the new school of Lennie Tristano. West Coast directions: Dave Brubeck, Shorty Rogers,
Chet Baker, Gerry Mulligan. An attempt to mix jazz with classical music: Third Stream Music.
Oral Presentation:
James Lincoln Collier: The Old-World Cool of Tristano, Mulligan, and Brubeck (in: The Making of Jazz.
Delta Book, 1978.) 408-420.
WEEK 8, March 30.: Hard bop, Soul, Latin
Black vitality gains new expression in hard bop: Art Blakey, Horace Silver, Clifford Brown,
Sonny Rollins. The advent of long play recordings: improvisation extended. Blue Note Records.
Return to an earthy way of expression: soul jazz. The influence of world music: Afro-cuban jazz,
the Latin ’tinge’, bossa nova. A flourishing decade.
Richard Cook: Seven (in: Blue Note Records.Justin, Charles and Co., 2001.) 117-136.
WEEK 9, April 6.: Spring Break
WEEK 10, April 13.: Easter Monday
WEEK 11, April 20.: Great Individuals: Miles Davis and John Coltrane
Davis: the pioneer. Stylistic progress from bebop to fusion. Great bands and historic recordings.
Coltrane: quest for new artistic territories. Freedom of expression. Cosmic spirituality.
Oral presentation:
Nat Hentoff: John Coltrane (in: Robert Gottlieb, ed.: Reading Jazz. Pantheon Books, 1996.) 620-628.
Miles Davis Speaks His Mind (in: Robert Walser, ed.: Keeping Time. Readings on Jazz History. Oxford
University Press, 1999.) 365-376.
WEEK 12, April 27.: The New Thing
The racial element: segregation and its consequences on black ideology. Music and politics. The
process of liberation: energy, intensity, atonality, and the opening of musical sounds into the realm
of noise. The new type of avant-garde jazzmen. The pioneers of free jazz: Ornette Coleman, Cecil
Taylor, Albert Ayler. Chicago revisited: the Association for the Advancement of Creative
Musicians. The New York loft scene. Towards a new definition: contemporary improvised music.
Oral presentation:
Valerie Wilmer: Ornette Coleman – The Art of the Improviser (in: As Serious As Your Life. The Story of
the New Jazz. Quartet Books, 1977.) 60-74.
WEEK 13, May 4.: Fusion
Popular culture, beat music and their impact on jazz. New devices for sound production and the
electronization of intsruments. The integration of jazz and rock: Weather Report, Return to
Forever, Mahavishnu Orchestra. African and Indian influences.
Oral Presentation:
Stuart Nicholson: Ticket to Ride (in: Jazz-Rock. A History. Schirmer Books, 1998.) 1-13.
WEEK 14, May11.: Jazz in the New Millennium
A new conservative agenda: Wynton Marsalis. The New York scene. Influential personalities: Keith
Jarrett, Herbie Hancock, Chick Corea. Jazz becomes world music. Considering the future of jazz.
Oral Presentation:
Wynton Marsalis and Herbie Hancock: Soul, Craft and Cultural Hierarchy (in: Robert Walser, ed.:
Keeping Time. Readings in Jazz History. Oxford University Press, 1999.) 339-350.
WEEK 14, May 18.: The Profession of Jazz
The appeal of jazz. The morality of jazz. The Musicians of jazz. The language of jazz. The
preservation of jazz. Jazz and business. Jazz education. The jazz public. Jazz criticism.
Oral Presentation:
Frances Newton: The Musical Achievement (in: The Jazz Scene. MacGibbon and Kee, 1959) 136-147.
In-class exam (test + essays)
Ben Sidran: Oral Culture and Musical Tradition: Prehistory and Early History (Black Talk. Da Capo,
1983) 1-29.
Duke Ellington Explains Swing (in: Robert Walser, ed.: Keeping Time. Readings on Jazz History. Oxford
University Press, 1999.) 106-110.
Nat Hentoff: Junk (in: The Jazz Life. Da Capo, 1961.) 75-97.
Michael J. Budds: Extra- Musical Connotations: New Perspectives (in: Jazz in the Sixties. University of
Iowa Press. 1990.) 97-127.
(A one page summary of the recording career and a list of the most important CDs by one of these
artists to be submitted by May 11.)
Benny Goodman
Count Basie
Billie Holiday
Charlie Parker
Dizzy Gillespie
Thelonious Monk
Charles Mingus
Dave Brubeck
Lee Konitz
Sonny Rollins
Art Blakey
Sarah Vaughan
Albert Ayler
Art Ensemble of Chicago
Chick Corea
Keith Jarrett
Herbie Hancock
Wynton Marsalis
Arrangement. A new version of a previously written piece. Jazz arrangements often include
new chords for the piece as well as new material to be played during and between solos, and
so on.
Avant-garde. Jazz (usually atonal) not based on preconceived chord changes; jazz played in a
freely improvised nature (but which is not entirely "free" as it generally shows evidence of a
structure or blueprint); the term first came into widespread use in the 1960s to describe some
of the more freely improvised music of artists.
Bebop. Virtuosic jazz style with irregularly accented, long phrases and sophisticated
harmonies. Most prominent between 1944 and 1950. Also called “rebop,” or “bop.”
Block chords. A series of big chords played with the hands moving in parallel (c.f. locked
Big band. A jazz ensemble of 12 to 20 members, consisting of a rhythm section plus sections
of trumpets, trombones and saxophones.
Black & Tan. A night club with customers of all races.
Blue note. The lowered 3rd, 5th, and 7th degrees of a key.
Blues. Frequently used song form in jazz. Also a separate tradition of African-American
music. Usually a twelve-bar form. Blues songs have a fairly standardized chord progression.
The notes are found "between" the keys of the piano; the lowered 3rd, 5th, and 7th notes of a
major scale are often referred to as blue notes, having a "bluesy" sound common in blues
compositions and performances.
Boogie woogie. A piano blues style based on a driving repeated left hand part, playing eight
notes to the measure in an exaggerated swing style. Became very popular from late 1930’s on.
Bossa nova. A fusion of the harmonies and languid approach of cool jazz with several
ostinato patterns (two slow beats to the measure) derived from the Brazilian samba.
Originated around 1960, soon became hugely popular.
Break. A momentary pause in the rhythm section, usually just one or two measures, which a
band member will “fill,” usually with an improvised phrase.
Bridge. The B section of an AABA form, generally eight bars long. Also called “channel” or
Call and response. A means whereby instruments or sections of instruments in a band or
combo play a passage which is in turn responded to by another instrument or section; a
musical conversation: one musician or section will play a short melodic idea and is answered
by another musician or section.
Changes. Jazz terminology for chords (e.g., the changes of a tune = the chords of tune); a
tune's chord progression.
Chord progression. A sequence of chords that underlies a composition, often twelve or
thirty-two bars in length. The progression is repeated over and over during improvised solos.
Chorus. The form of a song, often twelve or thirty-two bars in length. In jazz the chord
progression (q.v.) of the chorus, but not its melody, is repeated over and over during
Collective improvisation. Concurrent improvisation by the musicians in a combo; two or
more musicians improvising at the same time.
Combo. Same as small band or small ensemble (duo to nonet); an assemblage of musicians
with a common purpose.
Comping. Syncopated chording which provides improvised accompaniment for
simultaneously improvise solos, flexibly complementing the rhythms and implied harmonies
of the solo line.
Congo Square. The area in New Orleans where musicians met for social activities and to
play music.
Cool jazz. A jazz style using a mellow tonal quality and smooth, flowing melodic lines partly
inspired by Lester Young. Often classical instruments and techniques were used. Most
prominent throughout the 1950’s. Sometimes called “West Coast jazz.”
Creole. Louisiana residents with African heritage mixed with Spanish or French ancestry.
Cutting contest. Musical game of one-upmanship, a competitive jam session, where the
performers attempt to outdo each other.
Dixieland. Early instrumental jazz band music. The name given to New Orleans style jazz
when it began to be played in Northern cities. This style of jazz is also known as New Orleans
style jazz, Chicago style jazz or traditional jazz.
Double time playing. Playing twice as fast as the other members of the band. It also refers to
the whole band going into a tempo twice as fast as what preceded it.
Embellishment. Musical decoration of a note or a phrase.
Extramusical devices. Sounds not normally associated with the instrument, like squeaks,
vocal yelps, electronic feedback.
Free jazz. A name often used throughout the 1960’s for jazz performances that do not follow
a repeating chord progression, and in some cases do not have a steady beat. Also, the name of
an influential album by Ornette Coleman.
Funky. 1. Earthy or dirty. 2. mean, „low down” or sexy. 3. Bluesy. 4. Gospel-flavored.
Fusion. A combination or “fusing” of jazz with other types of music, especially soul music
and rock. Amplified and electronic instruments are used. Prominent since around 1970.
Growl style. A methord used by some trumpeters and trombonists in which by unorthodox
use of mutes, lips, mouth and blowing techniques a sound is produced that resembles the
growl of an animal.
Hard bop. An aggressive, exuberant style that grew naturally out of bebop. Prominent
beginning in the early 1950’s.
Harlem. The best known African American neighborhood in the United States, located in
Manhattan, north of Central Park. It has been a center for black business and cultural activities
for more than sixty years.
Head. The melody statement of the tune; usually played as the first and last chorus.
Head arrangement. A band arrangement that was extemporaneously by the musicians and is
not written down.
Improvisation. The spontaneous creating of an original piece of music. It requires a great
deal of practice and an intimate knowledge of the style of music in which one desires to
Jam session. Informal performance where musicians improvise at their leisure, often without
an audience but just for the benefit of the musicians themselves.
Jazz-rock. A variety of tsyles beginning in the late 60s that used electric instruments, funk
rhythm and accompaniment and jazz improvisation. Also known as fusion music.
Jukebox. An automatic phonograph that plays recordings when money is inserted into a coin
Lick. A little melodic idea that a musician uses frequently. Jazz players can be identified by
their characteristic licks. In classical analysis licks are called “formulas.”
Mainstream. Originally a term that embraced certain music (particularly small bands) which
extended the swing jazz tradition into the present; an umbrella term that includes all postbebop acoustic jazz except that which is considered free or avant garde jazz; jazz reflecting
hard bop sensibilities.
Measure. The space between vertical bar-lines in notated music. The bar-lines group beats
together in specific, consistent numbers. For example, in common 4/4 time, each measure has
four beats.
Modal jazz. A repertoire of jazz pieces, as opposed to a particular style of improvising.
Modal pieces stay on each mode (and thus each scale and chord as well) for a long time,
usually at least four bars per mode, in contrast with standard repertory which changes chords
at least once per measure. Modal pieces often employ modes other than the familiar major and
minor, such as the dorian (q.v.). Prominent since the late 1950’s.
Motive. A short musical idea that the musician develops by creating some variations of it. A
typical jazz solo will have several short stretches during which the artist becomes involved in
developing a particular motive.
Mute. An attachment which reduces an instrument’s loudness and alters its tone color.
Piano roll. A roll of paper with holes cut into it while a pianist plays. When played back on a
specially designed player piano, the original performance can be reproduced. Most prominent
in the early 1900’s.
Playing in/out. Improvisation in which all notes selected are contained within the given
chord/improvisation in which few, if any, of the selected notes are contained in the given
chord or scale.
Polymetric. The simultaneous occurrence of two or more time signatures (meters).
Polyphony. The simultaneous sounding of two or more melodies of equal importance; also
known in jazz as "collective improvisation;" the simultaneous expression of two or more
instruments improvising with equal individual melodic and counter-melodic significance
(e.g., polyphony is a key element in Dixieland jazz.).
Polyrhythm. Two or more contrasting rhythms played simultaneously; two or more rhythms
Ragtime. A non-improvised, notated late 19th-early 20th century style of piano-based music
characterized by its syncopated, distinctive so-called "ragged" right hand movement on the
keyboard; an influence on and direct precursor of early jazz; a piano style with stride left hand
and highly syncopated right hand; ragtime was composed music.
Rent party. A gathering in one's home for which an admission fee is charged in order to raise
money to pay the rent or other bills.
Rhythm and blues. A driving, riff-based, urban blues style relying on jazz instrumentation,
especially tenor saxophone. Also called “r&b” for short. Most prominent during the middle
1940’s through the 1950’s.
Rhythm section. The musicians in the band whose primary function is to provide and
maintain the pulse, rhythm, and feel of the music as well as its underlying chord structure; the
rhythm section consists of piano, bass, guitar, and drums.
Riff. A little melodic idea that is repeated over and over again even though the chords are
changing underneath, creating a great deal of rhythmic momentum. The riff must be
compatible with the underlying chords, or else one or two notes of the riff may be changed to
accomodate the chords as they change.
Ring shout. An African-American dance and music, originally described in religious settings
during the 1800’s, in which dancers move in a circle, making short shuffling steps. Music
accompanying the dance consisted of short repeated melodies.
Scat singing. A vocalist's improvisatory device whereby he/she sings in nonsense syllables
rather than lyrics, often in imitation of an instrumental jazz solo.
Sideman. A musician who is not the leader of a band or recording session. Also called
Solo. A featured improvisation in a jazz piece. Also a verb, to solo. In jazz it is not truly
“solo” because the rhythm section usually continues to provide accompaniment.
Soul jazz. Jazz based on the style and rhythms of African-American popular music of the late
1950’s and early 1960’s.
Speakeasy. A nightclub which operated illegally during Prohibition. Many musicians found
employment in speakeasies.
Standards. Familiar, well-established popular or jazz tunes; those songs which through
widely repeated performance have become part of the standard jazz repertoire.
Straight ahead. Term used to suggest a manner of playing which adheres closely to the
tradition of jazz, as in played straight, moving in a straight forward manner; also used as a
stylistic designation related to mainstream (see mainstream) playing; acoustic jazz based on
the hard bop tradition and sensibilities.
Stride. A style of piano playing named for its left hand figures, with a characteristic “oompah” sound, made by striking a single note low in the bass on the first and third beats of a
measure, and filling in with a chord in midrange on beats two and four. Differs from ragtime
in the swing feeling and the right hand improvisation.
Swing. The feeling projected by a jazz performance which succesfully combines constant
tempo, syncopation, swing eighth notes, rhythmic lilt, liveliness and rhythmically cohesive
group playing. It appears to result partly from the push and pull between layers of syncopated
rhythms and the constant underlying beat.
Syncopation. The accenting of a normally weak beat or weak part of a beat; the accenting of
"upbeats;" placement of accents in unexpected places; placement of notes between the steady
Third Stream. A repertoire of music consciously combining jazz and classical music in
various degrees. The composers are usually, but not always, from jazz backgrounds. The term
was coined by Gunther Schuller in 1957.
Timbre. Tone quality.
Time signature. A numerical symbol of the number of beats in a measure and the value of
the note that will receive one beat of duration.
Vibrato. A regulated wavering of pitch on a sustained note, warming its sound. It closely
resembles the tremolo, which is a regulated wavering of amplitude (volume).
Walking bass. A bass line that moves like a scale, four notes per bar.
Work song. A song sung in the same rhythm as a task being done. Groups would sometimes
sing together to keep the workers moving at a steady pace.