Mike Sakash-jazz history

Mike Sakash’s popular seven-week summer jazz history series, “Big Bands of the 1950s and ’60s” gets underway June 30 as a real-time, interactive, online Zoom class. (COURTESY PHOTO)

Mike Sakash will present his popular jazz history course, focused this year on the “Big Bands of the 1950s and ‘60s,” on Tuesdays, 5:15 to 6:30 pm, as a real-time, interactive, online Zoom class through Mountain Top Music.

Each class will explore successful swing-era bands that survived the challenging years following World War II, and the new bands that were later created in the midst of what is now known as a “musical revolution.”

The classes start on June 30 with Woody Herman’s Second Herd, followed by Count Basie’s “New Testament Band” on July 7, Duke Ellington’s 1956 Revival at Newport on July 14, Stan Kenton on July 21, Gil Evans on July 25, Dizzy Gillespie’s Big Band and Afro Cuban jazz on Aug. 4 and Big Band off-shoots, including Phil Woods, Jimmy Giuffre and Thad Jones on Aug. 11.

Large jazz ensembles, known as “Big Bands,” toured regularly and were central to American popular music throughout the 1930s and early 1940s.

In the early 1940s a number of factors, including the war, rationing, amusement taxes and the draft, led to the demise of many such big bands, creating a “new normal” for musicians who were forced to readjust to changing times and fortunes, not unlike those faced today.

Through musical demonstrations, class discussion, and guided listening, class members will discover the unique character of each band, the hard decisions its members made, and the impact it had on subsequent generations of jazz musicians.

Saxophonist Sakash currently performs locally and with the 18-member Portland Jazz Orchestra, and teaches jazz on both saxophone and clarinet at Fryeburg Academy and Mountain Top Music. He holds a degree from the University of Massachusetts in saxophone performance, African-American jazz studies, and music education and a master’s degree in jazz studies and contemporary media from the Eastman School of Music.

Before coming to the valley, he was an associate professor at Washington and Jefferson College in Pennsylvania. He is currently chairman of the award-winning arts department at Fryeburg Academy.

The course is $85 per person for all seven classes. Each live class will also be recorded and available for registered participants to watch through Aug. 28, so no one has to miss a class.

For more information and to register, go to mountaintopmusic.org/group-registration or call (603) 447-4737.

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