WEEK ONE (October 3) – Introduction to the Course and Evolution of the Wind Sections (1920s-1930s)
In our opening week, we’ll take a look at the overview of the course and of the big bands in Jazz. We’ll then dive into looking at the woodwind sections of the bands. What is the role of this section historically? Why did it get constructed as it did, and how did it develop and change? We’ll also listen to some of the great saxophone sections of big bands like Fletcher Henderson, Paul Whiteman, Benny Carter, and more.
WEEK TWO (October 17) – EVOLUTION OF THE RHYTHM SECTION (1920s-30s)
This music became synonymous with the ballroom dancing craze in America during the early 20th century. How did the rhythm sections of the bands evolve, and how did they develop that unique rhythmic drive that kept dancers on their feet? During this class, we’ll examine the swinging styles of the rhythm sections of Count Basie, Chick Webb, Tommy Dorsey, and many more.
WEEK THREE (October 24) – SWING ERA MODERNISM (1930s)
By the 1930s, the big bands had become the popular music of the day, and innovative composers, arrangers, and bandleaders continued to experiment with the format and the presentation, creating new and exciting ways of performing the music. Trailblazing figures like Jimmie Lunceford and Benny Goodman helped to expand the style further, while artists like Louis Armstrong began to re-tool their own music to fit into the new mold.
WEEK FOUR (October 31) – MORE SWING ERA: EXPANDING THE TOOLS (1940s)
In the 1940s, the big bands grew in size, and became more ambitious in scope, not only playing for dancers but also for concert-goers as well. Duke Ellington, Artie Shaw, Claude Thornhill, and many others strove to expand the form beyond its dance-based roots, and helped to create a uniquely American form of concert music.
WEEK FIVE (November 7) – BEBOP/AFRO-CUBAN/COOL/PROGRESSIVE (1940s-50s)
As Jazz changed styles following the BeBop revolution, the big bands sought to incorporate the new sounds. Dizzy Gillespie, Gerry Mulligan, and Stan Kenton all worked to incorporate Afro-Cuban musical elements, Cool Jazz aesthetics, or modernist sensibilities, while artists like Tito Puente sought to incorporate big band models into the thriving Latin Jazz scene.
WEEK SIX (November 14) – THE BASIE/ELLINGTON SCHOOLS AND BEYOND (1960s+)
While the heyday of big bands ended with the 1940s, many big bands continued or even formed in the 1960s and beyond. Some artists, like Woody Herman, found ways to refresh their big bands’ sounds to the changing times, while other artists like Gil Evans established new big bands with updated musical aesthetics.