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Freeing Jazz Education From Schooling:  

Thoughts on the role of big band in and out of the jazz academe.

Keith T. Karns 

Note: I am trying on a more relaxed citation format. Unlike previous posts there will be no bibliography. Sources are cited in text. If you REALLY don’t like it, or think that I am wrong about a specific source, send me and email and we will get things sorted out. 

This week Camden Hughes published a blog post on advocating for less of a focus on jazz ensemble playing in high school and college and a…

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Kanye West: Not a Gospel Virtuoso 

So, a couple of thoughts about Kanye's show on SNL last night: 

You can watch the video here.

The concept is really good, however Kanye has not developed his voice well enough to execute it. 

West's shortcomings as a singer are highlighted by the sparse texture of the arrangements, and the virtuosity of his collaborators. For example, the beauty, virtuosity, and expressive quality of Kelly Price's vocals in this clip from SNL (Seriously, she crushes it!) underscore West's vocal shortcomings. Furthermore…

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Keith T. Karns 

January 2016 


            Big band jazz has been engaged in a quiet renaissance over the past several decades. A host of composers have been consistently pushing back boundaries in the field of jazz composition and arranging. Press reviews of recent big band and jazz orchestra records describe the music as possessing “extravagant…

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Current narratives on the history and development of jazz education imply that formalized jazz education is an entity beginning sometime after 1950. While this perspective captures the development of the jazz publishing industry, the expansion of collegiate jazz studies programs, and a host of camps, clinics, and other resources that have sprung up in the last sixty five years, it also seems to imply that opportunities for jazz education prior to 1950 were nonexistent. 

From a twenty-first…

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Postbop and Early Fusion

This paper will summarize the musical development and output of Miles Davis during the mid 1960s through early 1970. It will focus on the development of postbop and fusion and the various musical, personnel, business and cultural issues that led to the music’s development and reception. Live recordings will be discussed, however the primary musical documents will be drawn from the studio recordings during this period. 



Miles Davis’ output in the mid nineteen…

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Group Interaction: a new strategy for understanding the music of Woody Shaw 

            It is no secret that I am a fan of Woody Shaw. More than any other trumpet player, Shaw’s solos, compositions, his fiery aggressiveness, have always captivated me as both a listener and a trumpet player.
            While Shaw’s impact in jazz is well established in pedagogical circles, only a few writers have taken interest in deeper study of Shaw’s work (Gavin 2005), (Prouty 2004) (Richardson 2006), (O’Donnell 2009). The result is that while Shaw’s position in history is unassailable, it is…Read more

Deciphering Structure: Form and elements of the avant garde in Ambrose Akinmusire’s “Richard (Conduit)” 

     This year Ambrose Akinmusire has positioned himself as a new leader in modern jazz. His sophomore record for Blue Note “The Imagined Savior is Far Easier To Paint” has received overwhelmingly positive reviews from the jazz press (Barton 2014) (Woodard 2014, 26) (Chinen 2014). Since the release of “The Imagined Savior”, Akinmusire’s quintet has been headlining concerts and festivals across North America and Europe (Wilkins 2014). In addition, Downbeat Magazine has included “The Imagined Savior” in their…Read more

Composer Profile: Clare Fischer 

            I have long been an admirer of Clare Fischer’s music. Fischer is perhaps one of the most influential yet least well-known arrangers of the twentieth century. His influence is wide and far-reaching and he has made significant contributions not only to modern arranging techniques, but also to Latin jazz, and jazz piano harmony (Jazz Times 2012) (Martin, 4) (Farris 1964, 46).
            While his contributions to jazz are far reaching, this study will focus on his contributions as an arranger…Read more

Music History as Part of a Jazz Curriculum 

Music History. No two words seem to inspire more dread in music students than these. The battery of music history courses can often be among the most challenging and least rewarding in undergraduate and graduate curriculums alike. Among jazz students these courses are often more problematic because they require prolonged study of material only tacitly related to jazz topics. This is compounded by a general attitude among musicology professors that our music--jazz--does not deserve as close scrutiny as say…Read more

Make Me Smile: A brief look at Bob Brookmeyer and the modern big band 

            Bob Brookmeyer is an integral figure in jazz both in his role as a composer and performer as well as an educator. (Stewart 2007) (Robinson, 2002) (Argue 2009) Along with other pioneers of composition for large jazz ensembles such as Gill Evans, Brookmeyer has been integral in developing the modern jazz compositional style (Schneider 1998). Despite near universal acclaim for Brookmeyer's contributions, scholarship has been slow to recognize him and the modern big band as a viable source for…Read more