Jazz in a Nutshell 2: Trumpet, Guitar, Fusion and More (55+)

Jazz is one of the most enduring and creative art forms. As the definition of jazz has expanded, it has come to encompass styles as diverse as the blues, Latin music and even—more recently—rock.

We’ll explore the artists, instruments and styles of jazz, as well as its social context. We’ll focus on some of the best trumpet players and guitarists and consider other instruments too, such as the trombone, vibes and drums. We’ll learn about the careers of Louis Armstrong, Bix Beiderbecke, Herbie Hancock and Diana Krall, among others. This course is designed to appeal to lifelong jazz fans, reaffirming their love of the music, as well as to novices who want to discover what all the fuss is about.

Note: Back by popular demand, from spring 2014. Complemented by Jazz in a Nutshell 1: Piano, Sax, Ragtime and More. You can take either course or both.

Please note that enrollment in this course is reserved for adults 55+.

Currently not available for registration.

Learning outcomes

By the end of the course, you should be able to do the following:

  • Describe the current jazz scene, and the artists who continue to believe despite decreasing audiences
  • Give examples of several different styles of jazz
  • Describe the role of guitar, trumpet, several less common instruments, and the human voice in jazz
  • Identify new artists, seeking who touches you and leads you down the various avenues of this complex but fulfilling music.

Learning methods

You will learn through lecture and music, with time for questions and answers (may vary from class to class). For Liberal Arts Certificate for 55+students: you will write a reflective essay.


Week 1: The Trumpet

The course opens with an exploration of the cerebral spirit of jazz. The great trumpeters can reach inspiring heights particularly in the horns of Louis Armstrong, Dizzy Gillespie, Bix Beiderbecke, Roya Eldridge, Maynard Ferguson, Miles Davis, and Wynton Marsalis. Its otherworldly beauty is even evoked in the Bible.

Week 2: The Guitar from Charlie Christian to Pat Metheny

Originally considered strictly a rhythm instrument fleet fingered soloists like Charlie Christian showed that it could be much more. Stars like Les Paul, Barney Kessel, and Joe Pass kept the faith. Today it is probably the most popular instrument in jazz finding favour with an audience raised on the rock guitar and dazzled by the potential of the electrified instrument.

Week 3: Blues, Latin, and Fusion

As the definition of jazz expands, it turns out there’ s room for everybody. The blues hurt so good. Latin features a new sound lead by different rhythms often being more important than the melody. Fusion appeals to a younger audience that likes an electronic sound anchored by rock rhythms and taken in new directions by jazz stars.

Week 4: Stars of the Trombone, Violin, Vibes, Drums, and Bass

The names say it all: Jack Teagarden, J. J. Johnson, Joe Venuti, Stephane Grappelli, Lionel Hampton, Art Blakey, Ray Brown, and Charlie Haden. Musicians without enough talent and leadership to lead their own groups from their chosen instruments.

Week 5: Song Stylists

The most personal instrument in jazz is the human voice. Distinctive singers like Cliff Edwards, Ethel Waters, Lee Wiley, Bessie Smith, Shirley Horn, Tony Bennett, Johnny Hartman, Nina Simone, Nancy Wilson, and Carmen McRae all had instantly recognizable and unique approaches to delivering a lyric, which we'll explore in this session.

Week 6: Current Stars

With the death of most of the jazz greats, the field opens wide for a new generation. It's a particular challenge in a world of changing technology, problematic venues, and unreliable compensation, but jazz still finds an audience. Names like Wynton and Branford Marsalis, Diana Krall, Herbie Hancock, Chick Corea, Joshua Redman, Jessica Williams, and Norah Jones enliven the world's concert stages.

Books, materials and resources

Reading material (if applicable) will be available in class. Some course materials may be available online.

Academic integrity and student conduct

You are expected to comply with Simon Fraser University’s Academic Integrity and Student Conduct Policies.  Please click here for more details. Simon Fraser University is committed to creating a scholarly community characterized by honesty, civility, diversity, free inquiry, mutual respect, individual safety, and freedom from harassment and discrimination.

If you're 55+, you may take this course as part of

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