Jazz Music and Social Change

UNIV 1784, section 027-1218: Freshman Honors Seminar

Jazz Music and Social Change

Fall 2021 semester
Tuesdays/Thursdays 11AM – 11:50AM (facilitator day: Tues., instructor day: Thurs.)
Classroom: STRS 303
1 Credit

Professor: Earl MacDonald
e-mail: earl.macdonald@uconn.edu (Please allow 24-48 hours for a response to emails.)
Office: MUSB 207
Office hours: TBA and by appointment

Facilitators: Jerome Jacobs (jerome.jacobs@uconn.edu) &
Mollie Nardone (mollie.nardone@uconn.edu)

Freshman Honors Seminar is an introductory course designed to acquaint freshmen honors students to the university at large through a subject-based course. Our subject is jazz music and social change.

Jazz musicians, through their music, have played an important role in promoting racial equality, shaping political consciousness, encouraging political activity, and strengthening the scope of social activism in America. An appreciation and understanding of jazz music will be fostered as we examine and discuss specific recordings and the sociopolitical circumstances which inspired these artistic statements.

Although we will consider many significant works based upon pivotal historic occurrences, this is not a jazz history course. We will not adhere to a sequential order. Rather, we will explore many broad issues, the context in which they arose, and how musicians responded.

After surveying a sampling of albums, you will have the opportunity to think creatively. Using your imagination and planning skills, you will conceive an album which addresses a contemporary sociopolitical issue of your choice. In the role of album producer, you will choose the album and song titles, and plan every conceptual detail of the recording.

[Potentially, collaborations with jazz studies majors could be facilitated by the instructor, to assist in realizing your vision. However, this would likely occur in subsequent semesters, outside of this class.]

Learning Objectives:

By the end of the semester, students will have:

  1. become acquainted with many significant jazz artists and be able to contextualize their artistic contributions historically, socially and musically.
  2. examined significant sociopolitical issues which inspired selected musical compositions and entire albums.
  3. identified contemporary sociopolitical causes to which they are personally devoted and hope to exert some influence.
  4. considered how to effectively engage in artistic social activism, in an effort to bring about public awareness and change (thereby relating the course topic to their own lives).
  5. fostered an appreciation and understanding of jazz music, social justice issues and activism – all of which could be further pursued going forward.

Assignments and Grading:

  • Individual Lecture Presentations – 15%
  • Written topical reflections/responses (4) – 20%
  • Album Conceptualization Project – 25%
  • Class Participation – 20%
    (comprising: regular attendance on Tuesdays and Thursdays, consistent engagement in classroom discussions, preparedness, promptness, and accomplishing the learning objectives articulated in the facilitators’ syllabus)
  • Concert attendance and review – 10%
    1. UConn Jazz Lab Band – Nov. 7, 3PM @ von der Mehden Recital Hall
    2. UConn Jazz Ensemble – Dec. 5, 6PM @ von der Mehden Recital Hall(due before 5 PM on the last day of classes: Friday, Dec. 10th)
  • Resumé requirement – 10%
  • There is no final exam!

Class Schedule:

Thurs., Sept. 2

Thurs., Sept. 9

Mon., Sept. 13

  • Add/Drop via Student Administration System closes. Courses added or dropped after this date require additional signatures. Dropped courses will have a “W” for the withdrawal recorded on the academic record.

Thurs., Sept. 16

Thurs., Sept. 23

Thurs., Sept. 30

Thurs., Oct. 7

Friday, Oct. 8

  • mid-semester progress reports issued to students

Thurs., Oct. 14

Thurs., Oct. 21

Thurs., Oct. 28

* Upload your completed project as a PDF to the following drop box folder by 9AM: https://drive.google.com/file/d/1NIUoAijoBYaLJj9LgnPIeXa9U2OWcGo6/view?usp=sharing

  • elevator pitches

Mon., Nov. 1

  • Last day to withdraw from a course

Thurs., Nov. 4

Thurs., Nov. 11

Thurs., Nov. 18

Thanksgiving Break: Nov 21 – 27

Thurs., Dec. 2:

Thurs., Dec. 9

  • TBA
  • Class “debriefing”

Fri., Dec. 10


* The above schedule and content is somewhat fluid and subject to change at the instructor’s discretion.

Examples of music which may be discussed [an evolving list, in no particular order]:

  • Billie Holiday: Strange Fruit
  • Charle Mingus: Fables of Faubus, Meditations on Integration, Prayer for Passive Resistance, Remember Rockefeller at Attica, Free Cell Block F ‘Tis Nazi USA
  • John Coltrane: Alabama, Reverend King (on Cosmic Music)
  • Herbie Hancock: The Prisoner (album)
  • Fred Hersch: Out Someplace
  • Max Roach: We Insist! (Freedom Now Suite), Members Don’t Git Weary, Garvey’s Ghost
  • Duke Ellington: Black, Brown and Beige, Black and Tan Fantasy
  • Miles Davis: Tutu
  • Sonny Rollins: Freedom Suite
  • Oliver Nelson: Afro/American Sketches Suite
  • Oscar Brown Jr: Baby Brown, 40 Acres and a Mule
  • Bob Brookmeyer: American Tragedy
  • Jim McNeely: We Will Not Be Silenced
  • Fats Waller: (What Did I Do To Be So) Black and Blue [also Louis Armstrong renditions]
  • Dr. Billy Taylor: I Wish I Knew How It Would Feel To Be Free
  • Lee Morgan: Mr. Kenyatta, Angela by Jimmy Merritt, Search for the New Land (and Doug and Jean Carn’s version)
  • Art Blakey: The Freedom Rider, The Core (by Freddie Hubbard)
  • Ambrose Akinmusire: Rollcall For Those Absent
  • Ryan Keberle and Catharsis: Find the Common Shine the Light
  • Freddie Hubbard: Sing Me A Song of Songmy, The Core (on Blakey’s Free for All)
  • Tom Varner: Neutron Bomb Shuffle
  • Grant Green: The Selma March
  • Les McCann: Compared To What
  • John Benson Brooks – Alabama Concerto
  • Charlie Haden and the Liberation Orchestra: Not In Our Name, and material composed by Carla Bley
  • Archie Shepp: Scag, Poem for Malcolm, Attica Blues
  • Noah Baerman: Soul Force (MLK tribute album)
  • Miguel Zenón: Identifies are Changeable
  • Christian Scott: KKPD (Ku Klux Police Department)
  • Dave Brubeck: Truth Is Fallen (a dedication to students killed at Kent State and Mississippi), The Real Ambassadors, The Gates of Justice
  • Joe Henderson: Power To The People, If You’re Not Part of the Solution You’re Part of the Problem, In Pursuit of Blackness, Black Narcissus
  • Gary Bartz: Uhuru Sasa from Harlem Bush Music, Taifa, the Drinking Song
  • Rahsaan Roland Kirk: Volunteered Slavery
  • Fabian Almazan: HUGs
  • Terence Blanchard: A Tale of God’s Will (A Requiem for Katrina), Breathless
  • Su Ra Arkestra: Nuclear War
  • Joe Sealy: Africville
  • Wynton Marsalis: Black Codes From the Underground, From the Plantation to the Penitentiary, Blood on the Fields
  • Noah Preminger: Meditations on Freedom
  • Nina Simone: Mississippi Goddamn, Baltimore
  • Gil Scott-Heron: Winter In America, Pieces of A Man, The Revolution Will Not Be Televised, It’s Your World with the Bicentennial Blues
  • Kenyon Harold’s: Mugician
  • Henry Working: Kenston
  • Fred Ho: Tomorrow Is Now!
  • Jimmy Greene: Love In Action
  • Jayne Cortez and the Firespitters date with Bern Nix
  • Darcy James Argue: Real Enemies
  • Antonio Sanchez: Bad Hombre
  • Dave Douglas: Marching Music, Strange Liberation, Witness, ENGAGE, UPLIFT
  • Kazemde George: I Insist
  • Gregg August: Dialogues on Race
  • Felipe Salles – The New Immigrant Experience
  • John Daversa –  American Dreamers
  • Curtis Steward – Of Power
  • Brad Mehldau – The Prophet Is A Fool
  • Charles McPherson – Reflection on an Election (from “Jazz Dance Suites,” a response to the 2016 elections.)

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.

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●     Academic Integrity in Undergraduate Education and Research

●     Academic Integrity in Graduate Education and Research

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●      Plagiarism: How to Recognize it and How to Avoid It

●      University of Connecticut Libraries’ Student Instruction  (includes research, citing and writing resources)

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