Six Monday nights, 7:30 - 9:10 p.m., October 15, 2018 - November 19, 2018
INSTRUCTOR BIO Len Lyons earned his PhD in Philosophy at Brown University. He is the author of three books on jazz, including The 101 Best Jazz Albums, The Great Jazz Pianists, and Jazz Portraits -- all pub. by William Morrow & Co.). He lives in the Boston area, but he has taught “Exploring Jazz” for ten years at various sites in the Bay Area. Len is also a jazz pianist who has performed in Boston and in the San Francisco Bay area. His interests are not limited to jazz, for example, his most recent book, The Ethiopian Jews of Israel: Personal Stories of Life in the Promised Land, examines the challenges of African Jews integrating into Israeli society.
Class Handouts and Supplementary materials. There will be supplementary material, class notes, and recommended listening which will be posted on this web site after each class.) An example: jazz_timeline.pdf (historical graphic)
Exploring Jazz; A General Introduction Jazz, a uniquely American music, is among our nation’s greatest contribution to the arts. Prized and played around the world, it evolved and reached its highest expression here, within, and because of, our own social and cultural landscape. This course explores jazz through the music of its foundational artists -- Louis Armstrong, Duke Ellington, Miles Davis, Charlie Parker, Thelonious Monk, John Coltrane, Charles Mingus and many more -- but also through the events and attitudes that have shaped America from the early 20th Century to the present.. Through multimedia class experiences, Exploring Jazz traces the lives and artistic development of the music’s innovative players and emphasizes active listening to their recordings. Each class will include guided, purposeful listening and will encourage students to be aware of their own responses to the music and to develop a critical vocabulary for appreciating it. We will focus on hearing the "meaning" in the music and understanding (as well as hearing) the role of improvisation, syncopation, dissonance, the blues and so on. The class time includes close listening to great recordings, excerpts from videos that enable the students to witness the music being made, and some demonstrations by the instructor on the piano. Beyond the musical and biographical elements, the instructor will present the social, economic, and "race-related" conditions that the musicians were responding to and addressing in and through their music. Recording technology itself influenced how jazz musicians were able to project and preserve their music. Today, technology also opens up access to music through the Internet (iTunes, Youtube, Spotify, Pandora, and so on). The instructor will encourage students to take advantage of the vast and relatively inexpensive access to jazz online.
Comments from participants from this community: “Len Lyons makes the language, history, and evolution of jazz surprisingly accessible. Only basic musical knowledge is required to come away from this course able to recognize and understand what you are hearing and where it fits in the universe of jazz.” - David Flad
Len Lyons' jazz class is a masterpiece. He is a lover of jazz, and brings that enthusiasm to the class along with a deep well of both historical and musical knowledge. He expertly combines social history, musical history, and explanations of the music itself, all richly illustrated by lots of listening. Listening to music I have loved all my adult life has become a new, and richer, experience. - Jonathan Klein
" Len gives a great class. He helps the casual listener understand what the musicians are up to, and how to listen with greater understanding and appreciation of jazz's structure and evolution. Perhaps the best part is listening to Len's demonstrations on the piano.” - Dahlia Rudavsky
Len’s passion, knowledge, and personality made this class really enjoyable and I would highly recommend it to any music lover who has a yearning to learn about the history of Jazz - Steven Siagel
I absolutely loved Len Lyons’ “Exploring Jazz” class! He is extremely knowledgeable, articulate, and passionate about his subject. He gave us a sense of several styles that make up jazz, making the subject come alive through his well-considered selections of audios, videos, and demonstrations at the piano. I especially appreciated hearing about the intersection of the music and the socio-historical context in which they were born. - Heather Zacker
(***The class notes listed below were relevant to the class that met in Oct./Nov. 2018. The notes for the class that meets in May / June 2019 are not available yet. These notes are related to topics discussed in the class and if you are consulting them and not part of a class, these notes and links will be less clear and useful.