Journey into Jazz with Bennett Friedman

jazz101With its rich history, vivid personalities and exponential expansion of schools and styles, jazz can be an intimidating art form for curious but uninitiated music fans. Veteran saxophonist and esteemed educator Bennett Friedman teaches a free four-part course that demystifies jazz, offering an historical overview and musical insight into compositional forms, improvisation and the nature of jazz’s essential pulse, swing.

It’s the perfect introduction for casual listeners looking to understand how jazz works and how the music evolved throughout the 20th century.

The goal of this class is to make jazz music accessible so that anyone can relate to it. The classes will outline the history and introduce ways of listening to the music and the great artists that shaped the art form. By using recordings and live demonstrations this class will be an enjoyable journey into the world of jazz.

There will be four 2-hour classes, on consecutive Wednesdays from 6 – 8 pm. They will be held at the Healdsburg High School Band Room, on the HHS campus (1024 Prince St. at Powell Ave). Admission is FREE. If you plan on attending please RSVP to

Class schedule is as follows:

armstrong-hotfiveJune 22: Foundations
This class starts at the beginning, exploring jazz’s origins in the blues, funeral marches, and popular songs of the early 20th century. Friedman explores early jazz styles that develop in New Orleans and Chicago, and the emergence of the music’s most influential star, Louis Armstrong, who radically shifted jazz’s focus from group improvisation to a soloist’s art form. By close listening to classic recordings, Friedman illustrates what sets jazz apart, and how to follow an improvised solo.

June 29: Swing to Bop
ellington-cottonBy the end of the 1920s, jazz had already undergone a startlingly rapid evolution, from the group improvisation of traditional New Orleans ensembles to the rise of swing orchestras. Friedman focuses on the most influential jazz orchestras of the era, from Fletcher Henderson and Duke Ellington in the late 1920s to the rise of Count Basie and bluesy swagger of the Kansas City sound in the mid 1930s. By the end of the decade, the most advanced improvisers were paving the way for the rise of bebop, a style forged in small groups, mostly quartets, quintets and sextets, which replaced the jazz orchestra as the music’s fundamental setting.

miles-davis-blueJuly 6: The 1950s
In the years after World War II, the jazz scene became increasingly diverse, as various musical factions pursued their own concepts and developed new forms and instrumental settings. The regional divide between the East and West Coast is easy to overstate, but there was a loose association between cool jazz and California and hard bop and New York City. Friedman shows how Miles Davis complicates and exemplifies these stylistic developments.

July 13: Coltrane and Beyond
shapeofthingsJazz’s diversification gathered speed in the 1960s, as John Coltrane, Ornette Coleman and Cecil Taylor introduced new approaches to improvisation (free jazz) in which swing, compositional structures and harmonic centers opened up. While free jazz’s foundational figures all came of age in the 1950s, the style became strongly associated with the raucous politics of the 1960s. Jazz’s most controversial movement, free jazz never attained mainstream status, though elements continue to influence today’s jazz scene.

Bennett FriedmanAbout Bennett Friedman: A Berkeley native, Friedman has been performing, writing and teaching music in the San Francisco Bay Area since the early 1960’s. He attended Berklee College of Music in Boston and San Francisco State University, where he received a master’s degree in music (performance) in 1971, Friedman has performed with Frank Sinatra, Ella Fitzgerald, Sarah Vaughan, The Temptations and Michael Jackson among many others. He directed the jazz ensembles at San Francisco State University for 8 years, and since 1977 has been a full-time instructor at SRJC teaching jazz courses and conducting the Santa Rosa Wind Symphony.