OpenUW: A series of free courses presented by UW Educational Outreach
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 Part 1
Part One: Jazz Origins
 Part 2
Part Two: Jazz Styles
History of Jazz: Early Jazz*


History of Jazz: Early Jazz

Jazz is a uniquely American art form, a musical style that has had far-reaching influences on established musical cultures throughout the world. This course will give you a historical background of jazz music and musicians, as well as insights into the social and sometimes political ramifications of a forced collision of two diverse musical cultures.

You'll also learn of the contributions made by pioneering African-American artists in the world music arena. While today jazz is performed all over the world by musicians of all ethnic considerations, the music, as you will learn, was for the most part created by talented black musicians who overcame staggering racial and social inequities throughout American history.

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About this OpenUW course

In this OpenUW course, you'll examine the early history of jazz, from its roots in African-American folk and religious songs, ragtime piano music, and the brass bands of New Orleans, through the development of the first jazz bands in Storyville and the expansion of jazz from the South to the northern music centers of Chicago and New York. You'll also meet several important musicians from that time, such as Louis Armstrong, Bix Beiderbecke, and Sidney Bechet, and learn about the contributions they made to this growing art form.

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What You'll Learn

After you've completed this OpenUW course, you will be able to:

  • Discuss the cultural "collision" in the southern portion of the United States that produced the new musical elements that formed the blues and, eventually, jazz.
  • Begin to identify African-American musical elements that distinguish jazz from other musical styles.
  • Identify the basic musical roots of jazz.
  • Identify the birthplace of jazz and the cultural diversity that contributed to the establishment of the first jazz bands during the last decade of the nineteenth century.
  • Examine several early jazz musicians and their recordings and identify important musical innovations that each contributed to the development of jazz.
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Recommended Reading

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Recommended Listening

  • Jazz Classics (companion to the Gridley text).

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