Swing University Jazz 101 Syllabus

Jazz 101 Week One – The Building Blocks of Jazz
Swing University’s Jazz 101 opens with a short overview of the development of Jazz, and its progression. We’ll also go into the building blocks of Jazz: what is Swing, what are the Blues, and what is Improvisation? In this class, we’ll help you to hear song form, and also help you hear how Jazz musicians approach their solos! Closing out, we’ll begin on the history of the music and cultural movements that helped create the conditions necessary to engender Jazz’s birth in New Orleans.

Jazz 101 Week Two – New Orleans and The Great Migration
We say that Jazz was born in New Orleans, but why? What was special about that city, and the people in it? During this class, we will explore the cultural make-up, the unique diversity, and the interplay of cultures you find in New Orleans. We’ll also listen to some of the earliest musical styles to come out of there, and we’ll give you insight into what the very earliest forms of Jazz might have sounded like. As we move along, we’ll get into the era of recordings, and hear some of the first jazz records, and trace the development of Jazz’s solos and structures.

Jazz 101 Week Three – The Jazz Age
Jazz may have been born in New Orleans, but it quickly moves into cities around the nation and takes root. In its earliest days, one of the most crucial cities for Jazz’s development was Chicago, as masters like King Oliver and Louis Armstrong set up shop in the Windy City and set the world alight with their music. At the same time, Jazz musicians see the rising ballroom dance craze, and get on the bandwagon by form dance orchestras heralding the birth of the big bands! Join us as we explore this crucial turning point in Jazz’s history.

Jazz 101 Week Four – The Swing Era
The Swing Era heralded Jazz’s place as the pop music of the day, and some of its finest artists—Benny Goodman, Duke Ellington, Count Basie, Woody Herman, and more—were also its megastars. But what was the music they were creating? How was it different from earlier styles of Jazz? And how did it change throughout the 1930s? In this class, we’ll explore the greatest artists of the day and listen to how they changed the music.

Jazz 101 Week Five – BeBop
Charlie Parker, Dizzy Gillespie, Bud Powell, and more built up a new style called BeBop, bringing a new rhythmic vitality and virtuosity to the music. As the big band wave was just beginning to break, BeBop arrived on the scene as an exciting and controversial new approach to Jazz. Its performance style would radically alter the face of the music, and would fundamentally change the way we play it, hear it, and think about it.

Jazz 101 Week Six – Cool Jazz, Hard Bop, Modal Jazz, Free Jazz
As the 1940s gave way to the 1950s, Jazz developed many new offshoot styles. Cool Jazz arrived, seeking a marriage of BeBop and Swing Era music. Hard Bop sought to infuse bop with Blues and Gospel roots. Modal Jazz wanted to rebuild the music’s harmonic system completely, while Free Jazz sought to uproot many (and sometimes all!) of our preconceptions of what this music should sound like! Join us as we explore these many styles, and the innovators who created them.

Jazz 101 Week Seven – Fusions: Latin Jazz, Third Stream, and Jazz-Rock Fusion
From its very beginnings, Jazz was always a fusion of musical styles. However, as the century progressed, Jazz began to work even more closely with other genres, giving birth to many new and exciting styles. Latin Jazz emerged, fusing Jazz vocabulary with Afro-Cuban musical traditions. Third Stream sought to marry Jazz and Classical music, while Fusion looked to the burgeoning rock scene for inspiration. In this class, we’ll cover how these styles emerged, and how they came to reshape Jazz.

Jazz 101 Week Eight – Jazz Today: How the Music Reached the 21st Century
As the 1970s gave way to the 1980s and beyond, many styles recycled and re-emerged, while other styles sprung onto the scene in new and exciting ways. At the cusp of the 21st Century, artists like Wynton Marsalis, James Carter, Amina Claudine Myers, John Scofield, and more were offering unique visions for the future of Jazz, while stalwarts like Wayne Shorter and Herbie Hancock continued a tradition of relentless questing and innovation in music. In our final Jazz 101 session, we’ll examine how styles continued to develop and evolve in the decades leading up to the 2000s.