Elements of Jazz: From Cakewalks to Fusion : The Great Courses: Fine Arts & Music

  • by The Great Courses
  • Narrated by Professor Bill Messenger
  • Series: The Great Courses: Fine Arts & Music
  • 5 hrs and 59 mins
  • Lecture

Publisher's Summary

Jazz is a uniquely American art form, one of America's great contributions to not only musical culture, but world culture, with each generation of musicians applying new levels of creativity that take the music in unexpected directions that defy definition, category, and stagnation.
Now you can learn the basics and history of this intoxicating genre in an eight-lecture series that is as free-flowing and original as the art form itself. You'll follow the evolution of jazz from its beginnings in the music and dancing of the antebellum plantations to its morphing into many shapes as its greatest innovators gave us ragtime, the blues, the swing music of the big band era, boogie-woogie, and big band blues.
You'll follow the rise of modern jazz in all of its many forms, including bebop, cool, modal, free, and fusion jazz. And you'll learn how the course of jazz was changed by key technological innovations, such as the invention of the microphone, which allowed smaller-voiced singers like Bing Crosby or Mel Torme to share a limelight once reserved for the bigger voices of stars like Bessie Smith or Al Jolson.
Beginning the story on those antebellum plantations, Professor Messenger reveals how the "cakewalks" of slave culture gave birth to a dance craze at the end of the 19th century that was ignorant of its own humble roots. And he explores the irony of the minstrel shows, which derived from Southern beliefs of black cultural inferiority yet eventually spawned a musical industry that African-American musicians would dominate for decades to come.
As a bonus, the lectures are also very entertaining, with Professor Messenger frequently turning to his piano to illustrate his musical points, often with the help of guest artists.


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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful

A Disappointingly Distorted, Myopic View Of Jazz

What could have made this a 4 or 5-star listening experience for you?

An honest presentation of the subject!The lecturer's fast forwarding through the segment on modern jazz, brushing aside or even ignoring such universally recognized Jazz Giants as: Miles Davis, John Coltrane, Lambert, Hendridks & Ross, Cannonball lAdderly, Max Roach, Oliver Nelson, J.J. Johnson, Eric Dolphy, and too many more to mention in this small space, and replacing them with time wasting mediocre and mundane musical samples and seeming shameless self promotion is unconscionable , The lecturer mentions Beat author Ferlinghetti's A Coney Island of the Mind. But he reminds me of another book popular around that time, titled Advertisements for Myself. Had I not been a life long lover of jazz - and especially modern jazz - and gotten my introduction to the subject through the lecturer's course, I would not have touched the music with a ten foot pole.

What do you think your next listen will be?

Not Bill Messenger

Who would you have cast as narrator instead of Professor Bill Messenger?

The subject material, not the narrator was the problem.

You didn’t love this book... but did it have any redeeming qualities?

Hard to tell. The author so warped the section on modern jazz, that I can not trust any of the rest of the course.

Any additional comments?

Most of the Audible books and The Great Courses material I have purchased have been excellent and well worth the money. I just ordered a DVD: Great Scientific Ideas That Changed the World course about an hour ago.

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- Parallax View

Like Jazz, this sounds improvised

Professor Messenger is truly a master of jazz. His demonstrations are entertaining and help the listener with jazz and the historical tale that weaves in and out of the demonstrations helps put the various styles into perspective.

Unfortunately, like the jazz that he is demonstrating, the eight lectures sound improvised.For example, the topics that are covered are many and the argument can be made that not enough time has been given to the topics. Professor Messenger does not deal with the time issues well. Thus we get one half a lecture dealing with one blues artist because she is available, while modern jazz, fusion, free jazz and bebop are all crammed into one lecture.

Also, many references are made to recordings that are never played. Often it seems as if these examples have just popped into Professor Messengers head.

In conclusion, a better "road map" is needed, if the time is to be utilized better. OTOH, the historical information is very good.
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- augustine

Book Details

  • Release Date: 07-08-2013
  • Publisher: The Great Courses