Jazz Composition/Arranging, Piano and Appreciation Classes

Posted by on Dec 11, 2017 in Education, Slider

Winter 2018 Courses


Jazz Composition/Arranging

Jazz Piano

Jazz Fan 101


 Saturdays, January 27 through March 17, 2018
Classes at :: Denver School of the Arts – 7111 Montview Blvd., Denver


We are very pleased to announce that Dave Hanson will be leading our Saturday classes this semester.

 Dave Hanson is an arranger, composer, and pianist who has written for a diverse range of artists and ensembles, including the Boston Pops, National Repertory Orchestra, Pittsburg, St. Louis, Houston, New Jersey, San Antonio, Fort Worth, Indianapolis, Utah, Colorado, Atlanta, Minnesota, Ukrainian State Symphony, Akron, and Colorado Springs Symphony Orchestras. He has done special arrangements for the Cathedral of St. John the Divine in New York City.

He is co-leader, with Al Hood, of the H2 Big Band whose 2011 release “You’re It” climbed to #10 on the Jazz Week radio chart, and was #1 on Bob Parlocha’s syndicated jazz radio show playlist.

That release was followed in 2015 by “It Could Happen” which was recorded in Los Angeles with an ‘A’list studio ensemble and the vocalist Rene Marie.  That release went to #13 on the Jazz Week radio chart.  All of the arrangements on both CD’s are by Dave Hanson.

Hanson teaches in the Jazz and Commercial Music Department at the Lamont School of Music, University of Denver. His music is published by Kendor Music, Really Good Music, and Denver Brass Publications.


Jazz Composition/Arranging :: Saturdays 10:00am-11:15am

Students will learn the basic aspects of Jazz Composition and Arranging as currently practiced, with an emphasis on the work of the great jazz masters.  At the end of the course, students will have the opportunity to hear their work performed in a live concert by a professional jazz group.

The course will cover:

  •  A continuation from Fall Semester of Melodic Paraphrase Techniques (if you weren’t on board Fall semester, not to worry: we’ll review the basic concepts)
  •  Two-Part Harmonization for two horns and rhythm section.  Using the four types of movement (Parallel, Similar, Oblique, Contrary) and Counter-melody to harmonize your own music, as well as Standard jazz tunes.
  •  Using the rhythm section creatively: notation and concepts.
  •  Reharmonization as an important tool: using the techniques of Thad Jones, Jim McNeely, Gil Evans and others.
  •  Introduction to Four-Note Voicing techniques (Oliver Nelson’s “Blues and the Abstract Truth” as a model), approach techniques, and ideas of Linear Movement as used by Gil Evans, Clare Fischer, and Duke Ellington.

The course will culminate in an end-of semester live performance of student arrangements and compositions. As the semester progresses towards performance-time, the classroom focus will move more towards one-on-one analysis and comments on student works-in-progress.


Jazz Piano :: Saturdays 11:30am-12:45pm

Students will be given a set of techniques that will present the ‘keys to the kingdom’ of great –sounding jazz piano harmonies.  The only pre-requisite to the course would be some basic knowledge of musical intervals, major scales and key signatures, then hop on board and away we go!

The course will cover:

  • Basics of chord construction, including 6ths, 7ths, 13ths, and chord symbol nomenclature (how to interpret chord symbols in a fake book).
  • Voicing and connecting chords: 3-note voicings using ‘A’ and ‘B’ types, and the easy Mark Levine melody harmonization technique.
  • Bill Evans/Ahmad Jamal/Wynton Kelly voicings: ‘A’ and ‘B’ types in major and minor keys-learn first with voicings in the right hand/bass note left hand, then with voicings in left hand with melody and improv in right hand.
  • ‘Comping’ voicings using Frank Mantooth’s techniques: Basic 5-note voicings, “So What” (‘Miracle’) and McCoy Tyner voicings, Polychord Voicings a la Herbie Hancock, and ‘The Secret Chart’ (enroll and you’ll learn the secret!).

You will learn all of these techniques and more to play songs like you’ve never played them before, with rich and beautiful harmonies you always wished you could conceive of at the piano!


Enroll in both of the above classes and receive a discount!


Jazz Fan 101 :: Saturdays 1:00pm-2:15pm

This course is a follow-up to the Fall Semester’s  introduction to jazz for non-musicians. If you are coming in fresh without having taken the Fall Semester, not to worry: we will review the main points from Fall Semester then strike out into fresh new territory together. We will continue the ‘student playlist’ idea from last semester (students bringing in a playlist of a wide range of artist’s performing the same tune).  So much is learned about the uniqueness of individual artists when focusing on a specific piece-differences as well as similarities.

New to Winter semester will be a survey of large ensemble jazz.  Ways of listening, having a style and historical context, and understanding the function of larger groupings of instruments will be explored.  We will study the different incarnations of the Count Basie Orchestra, Duke Ellington and his collaboration with Billy Strayhorn (who wrote what!), the Thad Jones Mel Lewis Jazz Orchestra, the Genius of Gil Evans (including his historic collaborations with Miles Davis) and many others, including more contemporary large ensemble writers such as Maria Schneider, Darcy James Argue, and Vince Mendoza.

An important point of discussion in studying large ensemble jazz is the relationship between improvisation and composition and arranging.  If jazz is mostly about improvisation, and big bands are mostly about composing and arranging, then is it jazz?

We will continue to study the relationship between jazz improvisation and the melody of the song/tune being performed: why do improvisors deviate from the melody? Where is the listening pleasure in that?

We will continue to test our knowledge of jazz by various listening techniques, including the “Blindfold Test”, You Tube videos, and form recognition (“is this tune based on I Got Rhythm changes or the Blues?”).

You should come through this course with a greatly enhanced sensitivity and knowledge of jazz, which will transform your experience of live (preferably) or recorded jazz music.  It will simply enhance your life!

Come be a part of an creative, educational experience with us!

(tuition is non-refundable unless the class is not held)