The casual music listener often thinks of jazz as academic music. Dense, technical and often based on complex harmonic and rhythmic concepts, it may feel impenetrable without a degree in music theory. But with "MUSC 145: Introduction to Jazz," UNC professor Stephen Anderson is looking to bring jazz to the typical student — and with it, a greater appreciation for music as a whole.
Anderson’s not your traditional jazzman. His career has been marked by influence from academia, Latin music and the avant-garde. He’s an accomplished classical composer as well — his oratorio Isaiah, first performed at UNC, is premiering in Spain this October.
Pulling out a typical jazz chord chart — a version of sheet music specifically for jazz musicians — Anderson noted its relative simplicity.
"Jazz musicians tend to like fewer details, usually, so they can be free to interpret broadly,” Anderson said. “And I love that as a player, but my charts — here’s a composition of mine, it’s got slash chords in it, unusual chords that you wouldn’t normally put — I’m trying to stretch the envelope.”
Anderson takes inspiration from his travels throughout Latin America as much as from his classical training. There, he developed a fascination with the rhythms of Latin music, its tumbling piano montuno patterns and clave-based beats — and met his best friends and bandmates in the Dominican Jazz Project. Rather than simply play their music, however, Anderson seeks to fuse it with his own.