In this module: We will be exploring jazz chords and techniques.

  • Students will experience theme and variation.
  • Students will learn the jazz chords C Major 7th & F Major 7th.
  • Students will improvise an instrumental break using the C Major scale.
  • Students will improvise vocally (rap).
  • Students will create and perform a free jazz composition.
  • Students will change the feel of a piece of music.
  • Students will create an arrangement of a known piece using jazz techniques.

Expanded background & useful links

Like the Blues, Jazz began in the African-American communities of the Southern states of the USA around the beginning of the 20th Century and can be traced to New Orleans.

Like the Blues, Jazz uses blue notes, syncopation, polyrhythms and improvisation (elements which link it, like the Blues, to West Africa). Jazz promotes the self-expression of the performer and novel interpretation of known songs and tunes.


From the 1890s, Black musicians began to find work playing piano in bars and clubs, and Ragtime (from ‘ragged time’ – referring to the music’s syncopation) began. One of the best-known exponents was Scott Joplin (The Entertainer, Maple Leaf Rag).

New Orleans
New Orleans spawned influential performers, such as pianist Jelly Roll Morton. Self-taught musicians combined the New Orleans funeral-procession band instruments of brass, reeds and drums to produce what became known as ‘Dixieland’ or ‘Trad(itional) Jazz’ bands. Popular standards from this time include Darktown Strutter’s Ball and St James Infirmary. The 1920s became known as the ‘Jazz Age’ and produced artists like Bessie Smith and Louis Armstrong (who popularised ‘scat singing’).

During the 1930s, ‘Swing Big Bands’ emerged, with famous bandleaders such as Duke Ellington, Count Basie, The Dorsey Bros, Cab Calloway, Benny Goodman and Glen Miller

Jump & Bebop
Up-tempo boogie-woogie became ‘Jump Blues’ under Benny Goodman’s direction and this led, in the 1940s to the wild, fast, ‘Bebop’ of Lester Young, Charlie Parker and John Coltrane – full of chromaticism and dissonance. Dizzy Gillespie and Theloneous Monk were also celebrated Bebop artists.

Cool Jazz
By the end of the 1940s, more mellow, ‘cool’ Jazz arrived with players like Miles Davis, Dave Brubek, Stan Getz and the Modern Jazz Quartet. This was also called ‘Modern Jazz’ and Miles Davis’ Birth of the Cool is one of the best-known recordings.
It led to ‘Modal Jazz’ (Herbie Hancock, Miles Davis – Kind of Blue) and, later, Brazillian Jazz and Bossa Nova – from musicians like Antonio Carlos Jobim (The Girl from Ipanema).

Free Jazz
‘Free’ or ‘Avante-Garde’ Jazz emerged in the 1950’s, combining beats, rhythms and scales from various world music influences and melding everything into an intense style of playing where beat and metre and form were dispensed with. Proponents of this style included Ornete Coleman, Charles Mingus and John Coltrane (A Love Supreme).

Jazz Fusion
The 1960s and 1970s saw a fusion between Jazz and Rock with artists like Miles Davis (Bitches Brew), Weather Report, Chick Corea, Herbie Nancock (Headhunters).

The 1980s By the 1980s, Jazz was being fused with everything from traditional African and Indian instruments and styles to bagpipes and beyond. Experimentation continues and is ever-changing. From hereon in, small movements would begin and fade, including ‘Smooth Jazz’ (with artists like Grover Washington Jr, Kenny G, Sade, Chaka Kahn), ‘Acid Jazz’, Nu Jazz’ an ‘Jazz Rap’. However, the Jazz world dramatically shrank from the 1980s onwards and ceased to be a force in popular musical culture. Its influence on contemporary music, however – from rock to folk, to hip-hop – remains powerful and omnipresent, and musical experimentation (a cornerstone of Jazz) will probably be with us forever.


Jazz Foundation of America

See and hear Jazz music here

Maple Leaf Rag Played by Scott Joplin (Piano Roll)
Jelly Roll Morton – Hesitation Blues
Duke Ellington – It don’t mean a thing (if you ain’t got that swing)
Kenny G – Forever In Love
Black Eyed Peas – Where Is The Love?

ABC Jazz
American Jazz Museum
All About Jazz
PBS Jazz
BBC Jazz and Blues
Jazz FM