Jazz/Improvised Music After 1950

Apr 2016

George Lewis is a great guy. Funny, likeable, idiosyncratic... he is a maverick. That doesn't mean he's a good teacher. In fact, he's definitely not a good teacher. George Lewis does not care about this class. It's really, really far down his priorities list. That was evident from his periodical, unexplained absences, as well as the fact that we rarely spend even 1h of the 1h30 class time discussing or analysing the assigned readings. But what I also got from this class is that, if you've done the readings that he assigns, everything he says makes sense. He's a bit of a "sideman" but also kind of a big deal. He knows that, and although he might not want you to know that, it's pretty obvious from the moment he sits down. George Lewis is there because he needs to be.... this is what it has come to. But he also provides his students with absolute pearls, hilarious stories and generally a real attempt at discussion with his students. He also cares about what you have to say. Even though he knows he's better, he also has a child-like curiosity that means that his knowledge is never used against the student to overwhelm. So the class is fun. George Lewis is an excellent character. Always good-humored and he shows a real interest in what we have to say, opening up the floor for discussion throughout his classes. The only problem is that it's very unclear as to whether he wants to be there, or whether he's making jokes because he doesn't care enough about the reading to discuss them with us. Or maybe he's only there for the sake of it, to make his jokes and earn his pay-check. All of this to arrive at the real problem with George Lewis's class: his grading method. For a professor who doesn't seem to care about anything, he is certainly tough and even harsh in his grading method. Students are expected to know everything, but are taught almost nothing. Overall, I think this is the only glaring problem. He's entertaining enough that I didn't care much about not discussing the readings, and arguably that made my life easier because it was one less class to worry about throughout the semester. If you're a good writer, and love jazz, and love the maverick characters that populate the jazzual realm, then this is for you. If you're into academia and are intent on learning. STAY AWAY.

Jan 2006

This class was excellent. I've joined the George Lewis cult and y'all should, too. What others thought was disorganized (from previous reviews) I perceived as flexibility and freedom to digress in lectures. For some reason, reviewers on this site think that digressions are devoid of information from which to learn. College is a bloody digression! The material was interesting, and whether or not Lewis chose to talk about it (which is cool with me), learning occurred. Assignments were varied and somewhat open- ended. George encourages everyone to participate in class despite its designation as a lecture; he's interested in our ideas, but he's quick to challenge them if he disagrees. Class was more or less pointless when Lewis wasn't around (maybe 3 classes) and the TA had to teach. Guest lectures and performances (5?) were pretty cool. Here's the point: Lewis' teaching approach and course maximized my learning and thinking about the material. I've never learned more in an academic setting. This is the best class I've taken here.