Lifelong Learning (formerly Short Courses)

Music Short Courses: The Icons of Jazz

Dick Lee, Short Courses Music Teaching Fellow, looks at iconic figures from the history of jazz and encourages you to enjoy Scotland’s thriving jazz scene.

Hello, I'm Dick Lee and, I’ve been playing and composing jazz in Scotland for the last half a century and presenting short courses about it for the University of Edinburgh for the last couple of decades. You can see some of my own music on my YouTube channel.

You can view 'Dick Lee’s Lockdown Meltdown' here.

The original meaning of 'icon' is a sacred image used in religious devotion, and within the jazz world, there is indeed a tendency to worship. Drummers for instance go weak at the knees when Steve Gadd or Tony Williams are mentioned. Tenor sax players often worship John Coltrane, appropriate since San Francisco’s Church of St John Coltrane viewed him as Christ incarnated (with Charlie Parker as John the Baptist) although he was later demoted to saint. As a clarinettist, I must confess to a great fondness for Acker Bilk – maybe not to worship but definitely to go for a drink with! 

Dick Lee, Teaching Fellow COL - Music

There’s never been a better time to explore the whole history of jazz and its seminal figures because it’s all on YouTube which makes it even easier. Recordings and films from the very beginnings of jazz through to the present day are all at your fingertips. It’s a remarkable resource and I use it a lot in my refreshed Term 1 Icons of Jazz short course – treating the class and myself to some wonderful performances, analysing the music and describing sometimes their tumultuous lives. I heartily recommend doing your own research, and I also recommend a good sound system or headphones while exploring (florin sized computer speakers just don’t hack it!)

But of course, there is no substitute for live music and this applies to jazz more than most, so the best advice I can give is to look out for live gigs in your area.

In Edinburgh we’re lucky enough to have the Jazz Bar in Chambers Street, offering three or four gigs of all styles of jazz 364 days a year, and the Friday night Jazz ‘n’ Jive Club at Heriots Rugby Club in Goldenacre, offering traditional jazz for dancing. You can see visiting jazz icons at both these venues from time to time, and of course in July, there’s the Edinburgh Jazz and Blues Festival and the city is full of jazz artists.

Before I finish, I’d like to draw your attention to a couple of world famous Scottish jazz icons that we are lucky enough to be able to see performing in Scotland. See what they're up to below:

  • Tommy Smith
  • Brian Kellock 
  • There's also an Edinburgh Fringe Show with Brian Kellock (and myself) happening in August if you want to listen first hand. 

Find out more here

If the history of jazz is a passion of yours, or you simply want to learn more about jazz icons (past and present), we have a number of in-person music courses kicking off in September that are now available to book.

Book a Short Course in Music

Book the Icons of Jazz Short Course