Role and Development of the Rhythm Section from the 1930’s to the Modern Day


Each Trimester is an 8-week course
Cost: $390
Contact us for date info

The history of jazz is a century long history of individuals exchanging ideas and pushing artistic boundaries as their ears and times allowed them to. We are excited to bring you a course examining the rhythm section’s role and development in the jazz group from the big band era to 2015. Though framed in a historical perspective with a short lecture each week, this will also be a hands on course, involving playing in different styles and teaching students how to perform all the fundamentals of rhythm section work within varying styles and conceptions. The course will also extend beyond the classroom with a listening repertoire and analysis homework; critical listening is an essential skill for any musician! The fundamentals of groove, time, hookup will be examined within the framework of various rhythm sections and how they approached their supportive roles as a rhythm section, from Count Basie to Ornette Coleman to Brad Mehldau. The performing musician of today requires a firsthand knowledge of many styles and we are going to help you acquire and solidify the skills needed to navigate the artistic world of today!

Trimester 1 | Level 1

Trimester 1: Role and Development of the Rhythm Section from the 1930’s to the 1950’srhythmFIRSTtrimester

The first trimester of the course will examine the advent of 4/4 swing with Count Basie in Kansas City the bebop revolution of 52nd St New York City. We will examine how rhythmic vocabulary develops through this time period, influenced by melodic phrasing, tempo and more.   With the liberation of melody from typical lyrical constraints, how does the role of the rhythm section adapt itself in terms of instrument independence, virtuosity, support, and interaction? Meanwhile small groups like Ahmad Jamal and Oscar Peterson transformed the harmonic sophistication and arrangements of big band composition into a small group format.


Trimester 2 | Level 2

Trimester 2: The 1960’s: Miles Davis, Coltrane and the Liberation of Musical FormRhythmLEVEL2trimester

The second trimester picks up from the beginnings of modal music with Miles Davis famous quintet with Paul Chambers and Philly Joe, and the exploration of modal jazz with John Coltrane and others. A few years later, Tony Williams, Ron Carter and Herbie Hancock push the boundaries of harmony and rhythm within form itself, pushing the jazz language in a much different direction. And in contrast to bebop and hardbop, modal music is pushed to its rhythmic, harmonic, and kinetic limits with Coltrane’s mid 60’s rhythm section of Elvin Jones and Jimmy Garrison.   Meanwhile, within traditional standards, Bill Evans explores the piano trio as a more contrapuntal format.

Trimester 3 | Level 3

Trimester 3: Ornette to the present: Free Jazz, Fusion, World Music and moreRhythmLEVEL3trimester

Ornette Coleman’s groups of the 60’s start as a departure point for us, as form becomes determined by melody itself and the rhythm section continues to transform itself with new textural ideas of energy, density, kinetics, as opposed to strict timekeeping. Keith Jarrett helps to mold the “ECM” sound and aesthetic, drawing from the freedom of Ornette Coleman and Paul Bley and a focus on lyricism and breath. The world music scene explodes, creating as many styles as there are artists. Rock, Bossa Nova, Balkan influences, Indian music, and more add to the fusion development of the 70’s, not to mention the rhythmic explorations of contemporary artists like Steve Coleman and Vijay Ayer. On the swing front, modern pianists like Mulgrew Miller and Kenny Kirkland maintain their deep jazz roots while still pushing the boundaries of harmony and technical virtuosity. As a contrasting example, Brad Mehldau incorporates a contrapuntal and classical sensibility to the trio aesthetic, while also drawing upon contemporary music of bands like Radiohead and Bjork.

About the Faculty

Vito Lesczak- Jazz drummer, Vito Lesczak, has been part of the international jazz scene for more than 20 years and is one of the foremost working jazz drummers in New York City today. Since moving there in 1992, Lesczak has appeared on over 70 records and his performances can be charted from Jazz at Lincoln Center to the Blue Note. He is recognized for his ability to seamlessly transition from standards to highly modern arrangements. His technique flawless, Lesczak’s drum solos have been categorized as “creative and with brushing to knock your socks off” by many critics. Lesczak has had the opportunity to perform and record with many jazz greats including Art Farmer, Clark Terry, Frank Wess, Ernie Wilkins, Steve Grossman, Mark Murphy, Jay Clayton, Don Braden, Bucky Pizzarelli, Gene Bertoncini, Bob Cranshaw, Eric Alexander, Larry Goldings, Keith Ganz , Kate McGarry, and Eric Comstock, Barbara Fasano, John Proulx, Sean Smith, Bill Charlap, Brad Leali. Read More

Thomson Kneeland– Acoustic bassist and composer Thomson Kneeland has established himself as a formidable sideman and leader since moving to New York City in 2003. He quickly found himself working with such established musicians as Ted Rosenthal, Kenny Werner, Billy Drummond, Lynne Arriale, Paul Bollenback, Peter Leitch, Jed Levy, and many others, as well as leading his own groups. Kneeland has established himself as an in demand bassist with a rock solid swing feel and a unique virtuousic and rhythmic voice; but while delving deep into the jazz history, Kneeland also brings a variety of musical interests to the table from classical counterpoint and 20th century chamber music, to Indian Karnatic music, Indonesian gamelan, Balkan folk music, electronica, heavy metal, and more. Kneeland has released 5 albums as a leader, most recently “Mazurka for a Modern Man” and “The Voice of Silence”, featuring a quintet of his peers making their mark on the NYC scene. Read More