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Groovin' to Jazz (ages 8-13)

We Be Doinit by Quincy Jones with Take Six, Bobby McFerrin, Ella Fitzgerald,
Sarah Vaughan, and Al Jarreau

Quincy Jones

Text What happens when a bunch of great jazz singers get together? You might call it an acappella party. Acappella means singing with no instruments. The singers are making all the music in this recording. You can hear sounds like drums and percussion and bass along with singing. Listen for the scat (singing “nonsense” words) solos by Bobby McFerrin, Ella Fitzgerald, Al Jarreau, and Sarah Vaughan.

Listen:

audio Windows Media


Handful of Keys by Fats Waller

Fats Waller playing piano

Text There were lots of great jazz musicians who could play fast. Stride piano player Fats Waller was one of the best. Stride piano was a style that meant the left hand of the piano player would stride up and down the keyboard: listen for a “boom-chuck” sound in the left hand. This tune, called Handful of Keys, was just that: it seemed like he was playing big handfuls of keys. To get an idea of how amazing he was, try to see if you can play the stride piano beat in your left hand with Fats. Once you get that, see if you can keep that going while moving your fingers in your right hand as fast as he does in the recording.

Listen:

audio Windows Media


Summertime by Miles Davis

Miles Davis

Text Imagine a really hot day. So hot you can’t stand to play in the sun, so you find yourself a spot under a shady tree and a popsicle to eat. What is the perfect music to go with your popsicle? How about a tune played by the coolest jazz cat of all, Miles Davis? Listen to his recording from the opera Porgy and Bess of the song Summertime. Close your eyes and imagine yourself under the tree with your popsicle grooving to the cool sounds of Miles.

Listen:

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Scratchin' in the Gravel by Andy Kirk & Mary Lou Williams

Andy Kirk

Text A woman jazz piano player? No big deal today, but in 1936 it was practically unheard of. Women, some said, couldn’t play jazz! But Mary Lou Williams could, and she could compose jazz, too! They called her “The Lady That Swings the Band” because she wrote most of the music for the Andy Kirk band and played the best solos, too. Listen to Mary Lou swinging the band and see if you can swing with the band. Try saying “doo-dle DAH, doo-dle DAH” with the band. Try playing “doo-dle DAH” with the band by slapping your left thigh on the “doo” and your right thigh on the “dle” and clap on “DAH.” The “DAH” should be the loudest to really swing the best. Try it!

Listen:

audio Windows Media


April in Paris by Count Basie Orchestra

Count Basie

Text Jazz musicians liked to name their favorite musicians after royalty. There was “Duke” Ellington, “Lady” Day (singer Billie Holiday), the “King of Swing” (Benny Goodman), and “Count” Basie. The Count Basie band was famous for being one of the most swinging bands of all time. April in Paris was one of his theme songs. Can you hear what instruments play the part that sounds like the words “April in Paris”? Listen for the funny ending that Count Basie became famous for. People just couldn’t get enough of that song, and it was his way of giving the audience just a little bit extra of the song.

Listen:

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April in Paris by Tito Puente

Tito Puente

Text Tito Puente liked to play great jazz songs with an Afro-Cuban groove. This is his version of Count Basie’s April in Paris. Listen to the Count Basie version first and then compare it with the Tito Puente version and see how many things you can identify as similar and how many things that are different in each version. Do you think people could dance to both versions?

Listen:

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Just A Closer Walk With Thee by The Dirty Dozen Brass Band

The Dirty Dozen Brass Band

Text Jazz started in New Orleans, Louisiana. If you go there today you might still hear a brass band that plays jazz. “Brass band” doesn’t really mean only brass instruments, but there usually are trumpets, trombones, and a tuba—which are all brass instruments. The brass band marches in parades because everyone plays instruments that can be carried. Brass bands also play for funerals. They follow the coffin to the graveyard and play slow hymns, but after the funeral they lead the mourners back home in a parade that celebrates the life of the person. The brass band plays the same hymns but this time they play them faster and improvise, or “jazz them up.” The Dirty Dozen Brass Band is a band from New Orleans that plays music that you can still hear at some funerals in New Orleans.

Listen:

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Now's The Time by Charlie Parker

Charlie Parker

Text One of the most amazing jazz musicians of all time was alto saxophonist Charlie Parker. He could improvise very fast and never seemed to run out of great ideas. Musicians such as Miles Davis wanted to learn to play like him and many people copied him but there was only one Charlie Parker. Parker died young and everyone wonders what might have happened to jazz if he had lived longer. Listen to him play Now’s the Time, one of his slower songs.

Listen:

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Now's The Time by Eddie Jefferson

Eddie Jefferson

Text Eddie Jefferson is a singer who puts words to famous improvised solos by jazz musicians. Jefferson sings bebop and tells a story about Charlie Parker. Listen to how he even sings really fast using the same notes that Charlie Parker made up in his version of Now’s the Time. You will also hear saxophonist James Moody, trumpeter Dave Burns, and pianist Larry Harris before Eddie Jefferson comes back and finishes out the song. “Bird” is the nickname that people gave Charlie Parker.

Listen:

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Rockin' Chair by Louis Armstrong and Jack Teagarden

Louis Armstrong

Text Louis Armstrong was one of the best-loved of all jazz musicians. He was the first famous jazz musician and he perfected scat singing. He loved to sing and his unique voice became very well known. This is a funny song he used to sing with his trombonist Jack Teagarden. They are pretending to be two old men sitting in rocking chairs talking about the old days. The conversation they are having goes back and forth between them; in music a conversation like this is known as “call and response.” Listen to them sing and then play call and response with a classmate or friend.

Listen:

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Everybody’s Boppin’ by Lambert, Hendricks and Ross

Lambert Hendricks

Text Sometimes musicians would call bebop just “bop” and this song is about singing bop or boppin’. The singers are imitating horn players such as Charlie Parker and Dizzy Gillespie. This group was one of the most famous groups to sing jazz. There were always lots of jazz singers but a group of singers was fairly unusual, especially one that improvised or scatted solos. In this group are two men—Dave Lambert and Jon Hendricks—and a woman, Annie Ross. Listen to Lambert and Hendricks scat sing. Can you hear when one stops and the other starts? They are imitating horns. What horns do you think they sound like? Can you hear Annie Ross sing really high toward the end of the song? What instrument is she imitating?

Listen:

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Hikky-Burr by Bill Cosby with Quincy Jones

Quincy Jones

TextJazz musicians love to get together with each other and improvise for fun.  These are called jam sessions.  Comedian Bill Cosby loves jazz and he asked Quincy Jones to compose music for his television show.  Cosby liked to come hang out at the recording studio and often would join in on jam sessions.  This one was recorded.  Listen to Bill Cosby imitating instruments and scat singing.  At jam sessions musicians love to trade ideas with each other, and often are the most creative when they are singing and playing for fun.

Listen:

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Mumbles by Clark Terry with Oscar Peterson

Photograph of Oscar Peterson playing piano

Text Trumpet player Clark Terry is another jazz musician with a lively sense of humor. He loves to do a kind of scat singing that sounds like someone who doesn’t speak clearly and mumbles so it is hard to tell if he is really saying something or scatting. Can you imagine what he is saying? You can really have fun when you improvise and try all sorts of sounds.

Listen:

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A Night in Tunisia by Turtle Island String Quartet

Turtle Island String Quartet

Text When you think of jazz instruments, what instruments come to mind? Maybe saxophones, drums or bass. What about the cello? The viola? Violin? Stringed instruments play wonderful jazz but we don’t get to hear it very often. A string quartet is usually two violins, one viola, and a cello. Listen to this quartet, the Turtle Island String Quartet, play jazz. Do you hear sounds that make you think of drums? How do you think they do that on a stringed instrument?

Listen:

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Birdland by Weather Report

Weather Report Band

Text Saxophonist Charlie Parker was nicknamed Bird. There was a famous jazz nightclub in New York City named, in his honor, Birdland. A band called Weather Report recorded this song, in their own style, celebrating Birdland. Parker would probably never have recognized this music as jazz, but the music Weather Report recorded was innovative and new sounding in the 1970s, just as bebop was during Charlie Parker’s time. Imagine being Charlie Parker twenty years to the future, listening to this strange new music. What might he hear that sounds familiar and what might he hear that sounds very strange? Listen to Salt Peanuts and then Birdland and see if you can decide.

Listen:

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Song of the Volga Boatmen by The Smithsonian Jazz Masterworks Orchestra, conducted by David Baker

Weather Report Band

Text The Volga Boatmen were strong men who lived in Russia and made their living pulling barges down rivers. This was before boats had motors. It was really hard work and this song is an old folk song from Russia that tried to depict these legendary strong men. Later on, bandleader Glenn Miller had a big hit with a new, jazzy arrangement of the old song.

Listen:

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and the Smithsonian Institution. As well as the U.S. Department of Education