When St. Peter meets me at the gates and asks me what I have
to show for this incarnation, I think “I played Jazz Jeopardy with kids” is as
good a ticket into heaven as any. I started this back in the early ‘80’s at
Cazadero Music Camp and it has been a regular feature of my 8th
grade year-long jazz study for at least 25 years. I played it on Tuesday with
the kids and then gave them the individual final exam on Wednesday. I’m always
shocked to discover that they seem to know so much when they play the game and
forget it all the next day, but of course, that’s the old teacher syndrome of
asking the kids, “What was Duke Ellington’s piano teacher’s name?” and one kid
answers “Mrs.Clinkscales” and you’re so relieved that someone got it that you
assume they all now understand. When in fact, it was one kid out of sixteen and
that kid got it because you forgot to erase it from the board from the previous class!
So the individual final exam is the real deal, not as much
fun as the group Jazz Jeopardy, but good to get a reality check on what the
kids actually absorbed from your semester of effort initiating them into this
enormous world. And also pretty amusing. Some of the answers I got filling in
the blank of “It don’t mean a thing if it ain’t got that ______” included “beat,
rhythm, ring, thing, D (?!!), and love.” And yes, more than one child answered
the question “What is the B section of the jazz standard called?” with “The B
section.” Well, yes, but.
So if you’re taking the time to read this blog, why not give
yourself the test and see how you’d stack up next to my 8th
There was a listening section that I’ll have to leave out here and a personal
reflection that I may save for a future blog, so you’re getting the short
version. Test your jazz literacy and then Google the answers after you’ve
scored yourself. 20 questions, five points a question, the average score of my
graders was 80.
8th GRADE JAZZ FINAL—May 29, 2013
Southern city has been called The Birthplace of Jazz?
musical career started in a reform school for kids?
3. Who was nicknamed Satchmo?
4. What was the name of the theater in Harlem where Ella
Fitzgerald won a contest?
5. What children’s song did Ella sing with the Chick Webb
Band that helped make her name known?
6. Ella sang the above song in a movie called “Ride “em
Cowboy” staring a comedy duo also famous for their “Who’s on First?” routine.
What were their names?
migration, the center of jazz in the late ‘20’s and the 1930’s moved from New
Orleans to which neighborhood in New York?
8. What was the name of a popular dance style in the 1930’s
and who was it named for?
9. What was the
famous ballroom in Harlem where the above style was danced?
10. Who got a job at a local café after singing a song and
making the patrons cry?
11. Which famous piano player was born in Toledo, Ohio?
12. What was the name of the fabulous tap-dancing brothers featured
in Stormy Weather
1. Write a third line to this blues verse (no one
answer— invent your own following the basic guidelines of blues poetry).
baby left this mornin', just about half-past four,
My baby left this mornin', just about
2. Using the I, IV and V chords, fill in the 12-bar blues
1 2 3
3. How many bars in a jazz standard AABA form? (Think of a
song like “Side by Side.”)
4. What are the five notes in the basic blues scale in the
key of G?
5. What is the word for a short, repeated melodic pattern in
6. What is the B section of the jazz standard called?
7. “It don’t mean a thing if it ain’t got that ________.”
8. What are the
three instruments in the “rhythm section?”