CU/MS 271 - History of Jazz

Jazz is one of the most important musical innovations of the 20th century. In this course, we will proceed chronologically with an historical overview of the development of jazz styles, including New Orleans, Chicago and Kansas City styles, swing, bop and post-bob, cool, free-jazz, fusion jazz and today’s scene without forgetting what also happened in Europe. Basic structural elements and instrumental functions will be introduced, and the innovations of major jazz figures such as Louis Armstrong, Duke Ellington, Charlie Parker, Thelonious Monk, Miles Davis, John Coltrane, Ornette Coleman, Billie Holiday will also be examined. During this course, special attention will be given to the development of jazz in Europe, from its tentative beginnings, through the dark hours of WW2 and the explosion of the jazz scene in the 1950s. We will also examine the importance of free improvisation in the 1960s and 1970s and the emergence of national style in Scandinavia, former Eastern bloc countries, Germany, France and Italy.

As any music cannot be separated from its time and place, a large portion of the seminar will be dedicated to jazz’s social and cultural context, its impact on other artistic forms, on American and European cultures as well as its role as a mirror of social issues.

We will listen to classic performances, discuss/debate the different aspects of jazz, the aesthetic values of specific recordings, and the influences of jazz on other musical styles… Visit(s) to jazz club(s) are also planned.

The use of cell phone during class is strictly forbidden.

Course Information


Cultural Studies

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