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
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.
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.
Not Bill Messenger
The subject material, not the narrator was the problem.
Hard to tell. The author so warped the section on modern jazz, that I can not trust any of the rest of the course.
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.
Learn, understand, then decide whether you accept or reject.
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.
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.
“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
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.
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.
This is a journey that will help you understand the origins and styles of jazz and blues. It gives great insights into exactly what and why the stules are. It is done as a lecture series that can be enjoyed by musicians and non musicians. Highly recommended.
Estate planning lawyer and mom to two boys. My older son liked audiobooks as an infant, and I've listened to a lot since then.
I thought this was an excellent introduction to jazz and related genres. I felt it started slow, but fairly soon into the recording I was hooked. The lecturer is one of the better Great Courses professors; I enjoyed listening to him. Contrary to one of the other reviewers, I thought this one was perfect on audio. I never had any confusion because this wasn’t in video form. And I find I make much more progress on Great Courses that are in audio since I’m not tethered to the TV.
I’m surprised to see the negative reviews, because I really enjoyed this. I’m sure it is aimed at a listener like me who lacks a deep knowledge of jazz and jazz history. Given the length, it was more a sampler of topics in jazz history, including ragtime, blues, and swing. I think some of the negative reviewers may have been looking for a comprehensive survey.
A very nice survey of jazz history by an accomplished and very capable performer. Unfortunately, references to visuals, and too little time spent on modern jazz detract from the lecture series. It would have benefited from being longer and being in video form.
Report Inappropriate Content
If you find this review inappropriate and think it should be removed from our site, let us know. This report will be reviewed by Audible and we will take appropriate action.