Jazz Combos

The jazz combos class is described within the University’s Undergraduate Catalog as:

engagement in the artistic process of performing improvised jazz combo music as a unique, cultural form of human expression.

Course #: MUSI 1120; multiple sections.
Spring Semester, 2021
Credits:
 one credit each semester. May be repeated for credit.
Three semesters of MUSI 1120 fulfill one 3-credit Arts and Humanities Gen Ed requirement. CA1.

Prerequisite: open only with consent of instructor.

Rehearsals: 1-hour laboratory periods per week.
Tuesdays, 1 – 2 p.m. via ZOOM

Instructor: Earl MacDonald, Professor and Director of Jazz Studies, UCONN

Office Hours: By appointment. Professor MacDonald will be working remotely this semester.

Under the guidance and direction of their instructor, students will work together to develop proficiency in the art of jazz improvisation and small group jazz ensemble playing. Collectively and individually, students will concentrate on rhythmic feel, harmonic and melodic language, phrasing, style and learning repertoire. In contrast to conventional Western music ensembles, where interpreting musical notation is emphasized, jazz is learned through becoming acquainted with its extensive aural tradition. Careful examination of recordings is of paramount importance to the musical development of novice, aspiring jazz musicians.

Whether students or professionals, progressive jazz musicians examine the past, write and play in the present, and aim for the future. In keeping with this philosophy, students in jazz combos will prepare and perform a combination of Great American Songbook “standards,” pieces associated with historically significant jazz groups/artists and original music. The instructor will suggest recorded examples for investigation, and will address conceptual, interpretive, and improvisational methods directly pertaining to the repertoire at hand.

The memorization of selected jazz standards will be required, as these are common vehicles for improvisation. Professional jazz musicians are expected to have hundreds of songs and harmonic progressions memorized, and at their disposal.

Jazz Combos Performances:

Due to the COVID-19 pandemic and the challenges of meeting online, the Jazz Showcase Concert and Jazz Combo Concert have been canceled.

Grading, Assignment Breakdown & Due Dates:

During typical semester, concerts serve as a principal means for judging musical development, progression and accomplishment over a period of time within jazz combos. With the uncertainty surrounding publicly presented concerts this semester, we will adopt the following modified system of assessment:

Rehearsal preparedness, participation and weekly assignments — 30%

For all class meetings, students are expected to: have practiced & prepared the assigned music (including listening to preexisting recordings, if applicable), be in attendance and on time, bring the necessary equipment, act responsibly & professionally, contribute to discussions, and participate in musical exercises.

Prior to each rehearsal, students will video record themselves playing the week’s songs and/or exercises. Accompaniment tracks will be used when appropriate and specified. Be prepared to share your videos with the class. Recorded performances with be critiqued collectively.


Listening Reports — 30%

Students will listen to three albums, selected from a list provided from the instructor. For each of the three albums, a questionnaire form will be completed to convey what was heard and how it relates to common day artistic jazz practices.

Download your listening report questions using the following link: Jazz Combo Listening (MS-Word document).

Albums can be chosen from the following linked list of “top jazz albums of all time”: https://rateyourmusic.com/list/erikfish/best_jazz_albums_of_all_time___22_lists_combined/

Due dates:

  • Tuesday, Feb. 16 @ 12 noon
  • Tuesday, March 9 @ 12 noon
  • Tuesday, April 20 @ 12 noon

Midterm Repertoire Assignment —20%

Songs: Billie’s Bounce, Yardbird Suite.

For each song, video record yourself performing the above listed tunes, utilizing accompaniment from learnjazzstandards.com. Include the following:

  1. Play or sing the head
  2. Improvise two choruses, outlining the form
  3. Rhythm section players must comp (playing in an accompaniment style) for one chorus
    Drummers will make a recording of themselves playing along with a specified recording.
  4. Play or sing the out-head

Due Date:

  • Tuesday, March 2, @ 12 noon

End-of-Semester Repertoire Assignment —20%

Songs: [select 2 of 3:] Dewey Square, Scrapple From the Apple, Red Cross/Thriving from a Riff (rhythm changes)

For each song, video record yourself performing, utilizing accompaniment from learnjazzstandards.com. Include the following:

  1. Play or sing the head
  2. Improvise two choruses, outlining the form
  3. Rhythm section players must comp (playing in an accompaniment style) for one chorus.
    Drummers will make a recording of themselves playing along with a specified recording.
  4. Play or sing the out-head

Due Date:

  • Tuesday, April 20 @ 12 noon

*The course content, schedule and grading scheme are subject to change at the instructor’s discretion.


Copyright:

My lectures, notes, handouts, and displays are protected by state common law and federal copyright law. They are my own original expression and I’ve recorded them prior or during my lecture in order to ensure that I obtain copyright protection. Students are authorized to take notes in my class; however, this authorization extends only to making one set of notes for your own personal use and no other use. I will inform you as to whether you are authorized to record my lectures at the beginning of each semester. If you are so authorized to record my lectures, you may not copy this recording or any other material, provide copies of either to anyone else, or make a commercial use of them without prior permission from me.

Policies:

Federal guidelines require authenticating student identity in distance education classes. This stipulation is met by having students log in to class materials (syllabus, links to online discussions, any other materials) through HuskyCT. https://huskyct.uconn.edu

University-wide policies (from the University Senate, the Office of Institutional Equity, the Office of the Provost, and Community Standards) pertaining to absences from final exams, class attendance, credit hours, students with disabilities, discrimination, harassment and related interpersonal violence, and the student code, may be accessed at: http://provost.uconn.edu/syllabi-references.

 

Some useful telephone numbers:

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