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Elements of Jazz: From Cakewalks to Fusion Lecture
Elements of Jazz: From Cakewalks to Fusion
Written by: 
The Great Courses
Narrated by: 
Professor Bill Messenger
Elements of Jazz: From Cakewalks to Fusion Lecture

Elements of Jazz: From Cakewalks to Fusion

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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.

PLEASE NOTE: When you purchase this title, the accompanying reference material will be available in your Library section along with the audio.

©1995 The Teaching Company, LLC (P)1995 The Great Courses

What Members Say

Average Customer Rating

4.2 (156 )
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Performance
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  •  
    Joseph 08-18-13
    Joseph 08-18-13 Member Since 2016
    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "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.

    10 of 11 people found this review helpful
  •  
    augustine 08-19-13
    augustine 08-19-13
    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "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.

    6 of 7 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Deep Reader 02-27-14
    Deep Reader 02-27-14

    Learn, understand, then decide whether you accept or reject.

    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "Get a video course"

    This course points out charts the professor was displaying on a white board or a projector, which lost me after 3 lectures.

    Interesting topic, not so good presentation.

    6 of 8 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Corey 04-02-16
    Corey 04-02-16 Member Since 2016
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    "good for jazz history basics"

    It was great, a well balanced but somewhat topical course. Definitely good for non jazzers. No in-depth theory, though.

    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Kristi Richardson Milwaukie, OR, United States 07-30-15
    Kristi Richardson Milwaukie, OR, United States 07-30-15

    An old broad that enjoys books of all types. Would rather read than write reviews though. I know what I like, and won't be bothered by crap.

    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "“Life is a lot like jazz. it's best when ..."

    “Life is a lot like jazz... it's best when you improvise.” George Gershwin


    1. Plantation Beginnings
    2. The Rise and Fall of Ragtime
    3. The Jazz Age
    4. Blues
    5. The Swing Era
    6. Boogie, Big Band Blues and Bop
    7. Modern Jazz
    8. The ABC’s of Jazz Improvisation

    I really enjoyed this class as I have always liked Ragtime and Dixieland Bands and as I grew I, loved going to a place in Portland, Oregon called Jazz de Opus where they would have a trio playing or just some classic records that the owner had. Alas, it is no longer in existence so I have to listen at home. Disneyland introduced me to the Dixieland music because they always had a great band playing at one of their restaurants near Frontierland.

    Professor Bill Messenger is a musician who opened for Bill Haley and the Comets, played with Cass Elliott and many other musicians over the years before becoming a professor for The Peabody Institute.

    Each class is forty-five minutes in length. Prof. Messenger always includes many musical examples, played by him or guests or sometimes pre-recorded. The class is lively and easy for a non-musical person to follow along.

    Every class flows by so fast that I began looking for examples of music he talked about so I could continue my education. The only Jazz variant I wasn’t wild about was fusion, which from some of the examples he played seemed just like a lot of noise. No beat, no rhythm and no blues.

    I highly recommend this class for anyone that wants to learn more about Jazz and the different versions it has undergone. The Professor makes his class fun and begging for more.

    4 of 6 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Lois Thompson Portland, ME USA 07-15-16
    Lois Thompson Portland, ME USA 07-15-16 Member Since 2010
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    "Very Good Shew"

    I recommend this course to anyone with an interest in music history who doesn't happen to be a musician. A basic knowledge of music helps, but this class is over my head there at times. What I enjoyed the most was learning how the music of a time reflected everything else that was going on in that time. Sometimes the recording was too...quiet, muted sounding, a technical issue?

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    george c. ellison 07-07-16 Member Since 2015
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    "Not in depth enough"
    Would you try another book from The Great Courses and/or Professor Bill Messenger?

    Probably not


    What was one of the most memorable moments of Elements of Jazz: From Cakewalks to Fusion?

    The origin of the Cakewalk was interesting but not really a smooth tie in to jazz


    Did Professor Bill Messenger do a good job differentiating all the characters? How?

    He did OK. His speaking tone is monotone. He really didn't spend a lot of time on jazz greats like Stan Getz and his covering of jazz from Getz to present was skimpy. He played the piano great and illustrated certain points well with his playing.


    Did Elements of Jazz: From Cakewalks to Fusion inspire you to do anything?

    No


    Any additional comments?

    Most people wanting to learn more about jazz would be interested in jazz that they know, i.e. from the 1940's to present. Professor Bill didn't spend enough time on that era and he spent too much time on the cakewalk times.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    R. J. Steele 06-30-16 Member Since 2008
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    "It's too short!"

    I enjoyed the course very much but the whole course is too short. In particular the more modern elements were really short changed as well as Latin elements.

    This was recorded in the 1990s and could Stan updating.

    All that said I learned a lot about the history of jazz.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    eag 02-03-16
    eag 02-03-16
    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "Needed a few more lectures"

    I enjoyed the course and got stuff out of it, but it would have been improved with a couple more lectures.

    An introduction was most seriously lacking, something to set the tone and provide an overview to fasten the rest of the lectures to. A lecture about pre-cake walk music, covering African music and maybe spirituals and gospel would have been helpful.

    Maybe it would also have helped to have 2 blues lectures, one in the origins and one on its development and influence on other styles. But because the blues is one lecture with a guest, all of blues is covered in about 20 minutes.

    And then breaking up modern jazz into 3 instead of 2, and spending more time on, say, Latin Jazz, or presenting the development in a bit more detail. The final lecture also has guest musicians, but it would have been more helpful and interesting if they would have talked a bit more about what we were hearing.

    This is the first great courses music course I listened to that wasn't done by Robert Greenberg, and while it was interesting, it wasn't nearly as good as the Greenberg lectures. I wish I could give it 3.5.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Daniel 01-24-16
    Daniel 01-24-16 Member Since 2010
    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "Wish it were longer!"

    Great especially for the musical examples. My only problem is that he had to cover a lot of ground in too short a time.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful

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