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The History and Development of Jazz
Course Length: 1 Semester
Has Textbook: Yes
Jazz is a unique American art form considered by many to be among our nation's most important cultural contributions to the world. This course examines the development of jazz, from the sounds of Dixieland, through bebop and modern jazz, to today's popular fusions of traditional jazz with rock, hip-hop, and other emerging styles. Students will develop a full understanding of the trends, artists, and artistry that influenced the evolution of jazz, and gain a deeper appreciation of jazz's unique and prominent position in the history of music.

Course Objectives

Unit 1: Essential Content and Skills

  • Identify the most important elements of a jazz composition or performance.
  • Recognize the three basic trends that influence the continuing evolution of jazz.
  • Analyze, compare, and contrast different styles of jazz.
  • Investigate the possible African origins of jazz, and learn the similarities and differences between African music and jazz.
  • Identify the social and technological trends that fueled a jazz explosion in the 1920s.
  • Identify the social, technological, and artistic trends that shaped the swing era.

Unit 2: Essential Content and Skills

  • Explore how small groups of the 1930s paved the way for bebop.
  • Identify some of the most important bands and soloists of the 1930s.
  • Investigate the artistic, social, and technological trends that influenced the birth of bebop.
  • Explore Dizzy Gillespie’s post-bebop jazz career. 
  • Examine the effects that World War II had on big bands.
  • Discover which big bands survived this era and why.
  • Identify the artistic, social, and technological trends that affected jazz during the 1950s.

Unit 3: Essential Content and Skills

  • Examine the life of bassist and composer Charles Mingus.
  • Identify Mingus’s contributions to jazz and some of his major collaborators.
  • Discover what makes modal jazz different from the chordal-based jazz that preceded it.
  • Examine the style of music known as free jazz.
  • Identify some of the key recordings that featured free jazz compositions. 
  • Trace the history of jazz’s role in black Americans’ struggle for civil rights.
  • Identify some of the leading activists in jazz.

Unit 4: Essential Content and Skills

  • Explore the pre-fusion era in jazz.
  • Identify the artistic, social, and technological trends that influenced the birth of jazz fusion.
  • Discover what makes jazz fusion such a controversial subgenre. 
  • Discover the history of jazz’s avant-garde movement.
  • Examine the primary differences between jazz and pop music. 
  • Review jazz’s first century and its key trends.
  • Identify current trends in jazz and where those trends might lead.

Course Materials

  • Jazz: From its Origins to the Present (textbook with Jazz Collection CD)

*Available as an iText course (includes CD)