• Metro Academic and Classical High School

    Jazz History

    Marquita Reef, Instructor

    Period 2 & 5

    Room 241




    Music History Seminar:  Jazz History


    This class is designed to introduce students to the historic and cultural contexts of jazz and blues music. The music classified as the blues emerged at the turn of the century as a unique genre of African-American musical expression. Jazz and blues have developed through the twentieth century as complementary musical art forms, the former more instrumental and  lyrical, although both are described as vocal in some circumstances. In jazz, instrumentation was favored over the lyrical expression of the blues.This course will place jazz and blues music in a cultural/historical context with an emphasis on the blues as an oral poetic genre. Over the past century,the blues form  has undergone periods of popularity and revival in traditional communities, as well as in the mass market place. What once was an almost exclusively African-American art form has become a globally transformed musical genre adapted to a multitude of performance styles and contexts. The blues have woven its way into the aesthetics of diverse groups of people to be reinvented as rhythm and blues, rock and roll,and electric blues.

     The course will develop chronologically, moving from the roots of blues music in nineteenth century spirituals and traditional West African musical and narrative forms, through the twentieth century and the advent of recording technology, radio programs, an d their representation in print media such as books, artist interviews, fan magazines such as Living Blues, and electronic media such as the internet. The course requires no previous musical experience.

     The development of jazz in New Orleans will also be examined from a historical perspective. Contributions of such key figures as Jelly Roll Morton and Louis Armstrong will be studied.The growth of jazz and blues music, and its geographic spread across the western hemisphere, will be followed and discussed as a function of economics,social and legal ramification, as well as the historical elements that pertain to the era. The spread of jazz and its evolution will be discussed in relationship to the rise of the recording industry.


    The course is designed to:


    • Use appropriate methods of critical thinking and quantitative reasoning to examine issues and to identify solutions.
    • Analyze the values, cultural context, and aesthetic qualities of artistic, literary, philosophic, and/or religious works.
    • Distinguish the methods that underlie the search for knowledge in the arts, humanities, natural sciences, history, and social and behavioral sciences.
    • Integrate knowledge that will deepen student understanding of, and will inform their own choices about, issues of personal and public importance.

    Throughout the course, students will discuss and write about jazz music and musicians using critical listening skills to analyze pieces of music. Students will experience jazz music through the CDs/MP3s/DVDs, supplemental study materials, in-class listening activities, and live jazz performances. They will employ techniques of active listening (vs. passive listening) to identify and analyze multiple aspects of the musical piece. Students listen to many significant pieces in the jazz repertoire and determine the musical, cultural,and social influences on the composer or performer of each work through readings and lecture provided. Students integrate knowledge from critical listening methods and score analysis with knowledge of cultural/social issues to communicate their personal aesthetic values.


    Specific Course Learning Goals and Learner Outcomes/Objectives:


    Goal 1 - To use critical listening skills to identify key performers,composers, and pieces in the history of jazz.

    • Students will discriminate between significant jazz pieces by title, genre/style period, and performer or composer (whichever is relevant), when presented with an audio sample of a work.

    Goal 2. To identify various musical elements of the key genres/styles in the history of jazz, including Ragtime, Blues, Swing, Bebop and its derivatives,Avant-Garde and Free Jazz, Fusion, and contemporary styles.

    • Students will determine common attributes in works of the same genre and recognize differences between works of differing genres.
    • Upon hearing a new piece, students will deduce the era in which the work was performed and make informed suggestions about the performer or composer of the piece.
    • Students will differentiate between major styles, performance practices, and structural elements in jazz.

    Goal 3. To analyze the musical and the social/historic processes by which jazz came to be and has continued to develop.

    • Students will relate the implications of a performance practice based on improvisation in addition to (or in place of) reading music notation.
    • Students will evaluate the importance of many of the leading figures in jazz history, knowing essential biographical information about them, associating them with significant recordings and performances, and being able to discuss their contribution to the development of jazz.
    • Students will relate the social context of the 20th century to the development of the jazz idiom

    The course is an elective for upperclassmen,and will require a high level of reading and writing.  It is intended for college-bound students who are prepared to participate in in-depth discussion and analysis in music.



    Grading: Students are responsible for all assigned readings and listening assignments. Grades will be based on two exams(Midterm and Final), three listening/writing assignments and class participation. Class attendance is mandatory. Test material will be drawn from assigned readings, lectures and videos.

     Grade Scale

    Class Participation:
    Mid Term Exam:
    Final Exam:
    Listening/Writing Assignments:



    90% - 100%
    80% - 89%
    70% - 79%
    Below 69%





    • Blues
    • Ragtime
      • James P. Johnson
      • Fats Waller
    • Early Jazz
      • New Orleans
      • Chicago
    • Swing
      • Fletcher Henderson
      • Chick Webb
      • Benny Goodman
    • Edward Kennedy "Duke" Ellington
    • Kansas City
      • William "Count" Basie
    • Be-bop
      • Charlie Parker
      • Dizzy Gillespie
      • Thelonious Monk
    • Hard-Bop
      • Art Blakey
      • Clifford Brown
      • Julian "Cannonball" Adderley
    • Cool
      • Miles Davis
      • Chet Baker
      • Gerry Mulligan
      • Lee Konitz
    • Avant-Garde
      • John Coltrane
      • Ornette Coleman
      • Charles Mingus
    • Fusion
      • Herbie Hancock
      • Joe Zawinul
      • Weather Report
    • Contemporary and Eclectic Styles
      • Grover Washington