Friday, May 31, 2013

Jazz Jeopardy

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 graders? 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 8th graders was 80.

Good luck!

8th GRADE JAZZ FINAL—May 29, 2013            NAME __________________


1.  Which Southern city has been called The Birthplace of Jazz?

2.  Whose 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?

7.  With 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).

            "My baby left this mornin', just about half-past four,
              My baby left this mornin', just about half-past four,

2. Using the I, IV and V chords, fill in the 12-bar blues progression

            /       /        /      /      /      /      /      /      /      /       /      /
         1         2          3         4        5        6        7         8       9      10      11       12

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 jazz?

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?” 

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