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Elements of Jazz: From Cakewalks to Fusion

Follow the story of jazz in its many shapes, including ragtime, the blues, swing music, boogie-woogie, and the rise of modern forms such as bebop and fusion.
Elements of Jazz: From Cakewalks to Fusion is rated 4.4 out of 5 by 141.
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Rated 2 out of 5 by from a disappointment Found this course in a secondhand store. Mr. Messenger spends an inordinate amount of time on the origins of jazz up to 1950. One lesson (out of 8) is spent on 1950-1990. He mentions great jazz musicians such as Thelonious Monk, John Coltrane, Miles Davis, without playing any examples of their music, and gives them virtually no credit. Obviously, no fusion era musicians are even mentioned. He plays with a couple of musicians who I've never heard of. From his remarks, he seems to have a rather inflated opinion of himself as a jazz authority. As a jazz drummer and percussionist, I found the course very lacking except for some mildly interesting info on very early jazz origins. The last lesson (#8) features several so-called "jazz improvisations" which are very uninteresting and actually kind of sloppy.
Date published: 2024-03-21
Rated 1 out of 5 by from Refers to visuals that can't exist in audio! It's rather annoying that the instructor often refers to visual aids that would certainly make many of the technical theory stuff much easier to understand. Especially since this appears to be an audio-only course. I'm confused as to why they would release a course that does this. It's very annoying, and I really can't suggest purchasing this as-is. I'm rather disappointed and a a bit miffed.
Date published: 2022-08-15
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Knowledgeable professor. Interesting info. Great, interesting topics. So far, so good . Very enjoyable presentation.
Date published: 2022-01-28
Rated 5 out of 5 by from This was a fun time! I love jazz, but knew nothing about it, at all. Completely uneducated about the topic, but loved listening to it. I never realized how much learning the history of the genre would enhance the listening experience. Thanks for a great course.
Date published: 2021-12-29
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Great The background given to how jazz was developed was very interesting. I enjoyed listening to the musical examples provided so that you can pick up on how the music changed over time
Date published: 2021-08-12
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Highly entertaining and informative The lecturer was excellent. I got a broad introduction to the jazz scene. The musical examples, mostly played by the lecturer, were very good.Entertaining and highly recommended.
Date published: 2021-06-21
Rated 1 out of 5 by from Too Little That jazz can be reflected in 8-30 minute courses is absurd. I'm not really sure what I was expecting, but I certainly didn't get anything out of it. I was fortunate that I could listen to "Jazz with OT" on public radio, and learned SO MUCH from him. Oscar Treadwell was extremely knowledgeable, and TTC would do everyone a service if they could put together a course of some of his shows. One knows one is respected when friends (Monk, Charlie Parker and Wardell Gray) write a song for you.
Date published: 2020-10-25
Rated 5 out of 5 by from History of Jazz is a great beginning. This is a thoroughly enjoyable quick history of jazz. The discussion of the earliest years is especially helpful in understanding the roots and evolution of this amazing genre of music. There is just enough info to satisfy the novice and it is sufficiently detailed to encourage deeper study. The accompanying written material coupled with the audio lecture makes this a great introduction to jazz. Serious aficionados may find the course too elementary and the coverage of some artists insufficient to detailed but it is still a good basic course. The lecturer’s delivery was very good and he paced himself well.
Date published: 2020-08-12
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Learn the basics of jazz and its history in Elements of Jazz: From Cakewalks to Fusion, a course as free-flowing and original as jazz itself. Taught by Professor Bill Messenger of the Peabody Institute, these lectures are a must for music lovers. Follow the story of jazz in its many shapes, including ragtime, the blues, swing music, boogie-woogie, and the rise of modern forms such as bebop and fusion. Thorough and enjoyable, this course is a rich mixture of jazz, its elements, its era, and its most famous practitioners.


Bill Messenger

Personal research into the stories behind several hundred timeless songs has led me to conclude that the birth of every great theater song begins with some basic emotion.


The Peabody Institute

Professor Bill Messenger studied musical composition, on scholarship, at The Peabody Institute of Johns Hopkins University under Louis Cheslock. He attended a master’s class in 1963 with Nadia Boulanger, the teacher of Roy Harris, Virgil Thompson, and Aaron Copland. Professor Messenger has two master’s degrees, both from Johns Hopkins University. He has done additional graduate work in musicology at the University of Maryland.

Professor Messenger has taught composition, music history, and music theory at Goucher College in Baltimore and a number of community colleges. He regularly lectures on American music at The Peabody Institute and Towson State University Elderhostels.

Professor Messenger is the author of several books, including The Power of Music: A Complete Music Activities Program for Older Adults, which has been called "a landmark in music activities."

His musical career includes studio work on many early rock 'n' roll recordings. He has accompanied many nationally known performers during his years in the music business, including Lou Rawls and Cass Elliot, and he worked as an opener for Bill Haley and the Comets. He was also a pianist with the acrobatic rock'n'roll group, The Rockin’ Maniacs. As a jazz pianist, he has played in ragtime ensembles, swing bands, Dixieland bands, and modern jazz groups. In 1983 he was voted Baltimore’s best piano player by Baltimore magazine.

Plantation Beginnings

01: Plantation Beginnings

In this introductory lecture we discuss the birth of jazz: where and how it came into existence. This distant music has had profound effect on the music of today, and specifically on Mick Jagger. The lecture concludes with the origin of minstrel shows.

45 min
The Rise and Fall of Ragtime

02: The Rise and Fall of Ragtime

The emergence of ragtime in the 1890s can be compared to the emergence of rock 'n' roll in the 1950s. Ragtime has many variations; it's not restricted to the piano. Are certain melodies prone to being "ragged?" America's greatest ragtime composer strenuously resisted the genre he would later come to love.

45 min
The Jazz Age

03: The Jazz Age

In general, jazz is syncopated music with more improvisation than there is in ragtime. Understand the difference between modern and traditional jazz. A technological advance made a huge impact on the development of jazz from its very beginnings.

43 min

04: Blues

We've all heard the blues, perhaps even hummed along. Ever wonder why it has such profound effect on its listeners? This vital style is at the core of all jazz performance. Whenever jazz becomes complex to the point of inaccessibility, jazz musicians inevitably return to the blues.

47 min
The Swing Era

05: The Swing Era

Swing was for the youth of the Depression what jazz was for the previous generation and what ragtime was for the generation that preceded that one. In its time, swing seemed modern, rebellious, and tailored for a younger generation. In this genre, bands swing together as if they were one instrument, antiphonal section playing and arranged background riffs behind improvised solos.

45 min
Boogie, Big Band Blues, and Bop

06: Boogie, Big Band Blues, and Bop

We cover the distinctions between boogie-woogie and ragtime, and find out why each was commercialized to death. Also, see the relationship of early rock 'n' roll to boogie-woogie. Find out what effect electricity had on boogie-woogie. Following the chronological trend of this music, we look at 1940s modern jazz. With the emergence of bop, we see things get more complex.

45 min
Modern Jazz

07: Modern Jazz

During the 20th century, all the arts broke away from established rules to explore new territory. Modern jazz used extended chords and frequent chord changes, among other things. We discuss the "Cool School" of the early 1950s, modal jazz, free jazz, fusion, and funky jazz. Which of these schools was most influenced by rock?

44 min
The ABC's of Jazz Improvisation

08: The ABC's of Jazz Improvisation

How can 10 musicians get together, have no idea what any of the others will play, start at the same time, and make wonderful music? This lecture explains how this is done. And, with our explanation, we discover that the musicians are perhaps not as free as they appear. Bill Messenger and friends demonstrate jazz improvisation on our sound stage.

45 min