Week 1: The Roots: From New Orleans to Paul Whiteman
Jazz became a new music for a new country. Combining European and African traditions, the form was supported by an exciting street life and pleasure palaces. Scott Joplin, religious music, the riverboats, and virtuosic superstars contributed to the form’s success.
Week 2: Piano: From Boogie Woogie to Bill Evans
Stride and ragtime piano became popular as every club and sporting house had a piano, providing work for the talented professors of the instrument. It later became the lead instrument in combos and groups led by extraordinary stylists like Errol Garner, George Shearing, and Bill Evans.
Week 3: The Big Bands
Jazz hit the pop charts for the first and only time. Starting in the 1930s, big bands led by Duke Ellington, Count Basie, Benny Goodman, Artie Shaw, Chick Webb, Fletcher Henderson, and many others attracted crowds to dance, buy records, or just enjoy being part of the “swing” era.
Week 4: Big Band Singers
The big bands were not only the breeding ground for great soloists, but also produced the greatest vocalists. Bing Crosby, Mildred Bailey, Ella Fitzgerald, Billie Holiday, Peggy Lee, and Frank Sinatra all did their time with big bands. Because they were just featured performers, they often spent more time on stage listening than actually singing.
Week 5: Saxophone: The Soul of Jazz and the Art of Improv
The saxophone is probably the instrument most strongly identified with jazz. The greatest practitioners could fill the horn with their personalities, which were often tortured and emotive. The greats we'll cover include Frankie Trumbauer, Coleman Hawkins, Johnny Hodges, Paul Desmond, Stan Getz, John Coltrane, Gerry Mulligan, and Sonny Stitt.
Week 6: Bebop and The Cool School
Jazz took two different directions after the Second World War: The big bands declined and musicians played in smaller groups centered around improvised solos. Bebop was fueled by giants who wanted to take the music where it had never been before. The Cool School preferred a more leisurely, less frenetic pace.