Jazz: America's music. Of the many contributions this country has made to the musical traditions of the world, we are known best for jazz. At the University of Puget Sound, jazz appears in many guises, including ensembles directed by School of Music Faculty, guest artists, master classes, and academic courses.

Jazz Orchestra

Director: Tracy Knoop

A fully instrumented “big band,” the Jazz Orchestra performs music from all eras in formal and informal settings. In addition to frequent campus concerts, the group has appeared at the Seattle Opera House Annual Kent-Meridian Jazz Festival and the Western International Band Clinic. Guest artists are featured regularly with the Jazz Orchestra and have included:

Toshiko Akiyoshi 
Ernestine Anderson
Louis Bellson
David Benoit
Terence Blanchard
Ray Brown Trio
Johnny Dankworth
Paquito D'Rivera
Jon Faddis
Nnenna Freelon
Fred Hersch
Janis Ian
Ingrid Jensen
Cleo Laine
Howard Levy
The Ramsey Lewis Trio
Delfeayo Marsalis
Ellis Marsalis
Keiko Matsui
T.S. Monk
Eddie Palmieri
Danilo Pérez
Marcus Roberts
Poncho Sanchez
Arturo Sandoval
Ed Shaughnessy
Lew Tabackin
Mads Tolling
Stanley Turrentine
Victor Wooten
Max Weinberg

Jazz Combos

Performance in jazz combos offers students an essential opportunity to develop skills in improvisation and the split-second musical communication inherent in such an experience. Students wishing to perform in jazz combos must audition during the jazz ensemble auditions at the beginning of the year for placement in a group. Those who have auditioned may form their own groups or ask to be placed in one. Jazz combos are open to all students regardless of major.

University Courses

Jazz Theory and Improvisation

Jazz Theory and Improvisation, is a course for serious music students wishing to gain a strong foundation in jazz improvisation. The semester begins with the learning of standard jazz melodic patterns. Then, week by week, students thoroughly learn ten jazz standards by mastering the melodies of these tunes on their instruments and the harmonic progressions on the piano. Additionally, students have weekly improvisation assignments on these jazz standards. Different approaches are taken: application of jazz "licks" to II-V-I progressions, chord-scale relationships, and pentatonic approaches a just a few.

In addition to the playing portion, students are quizzed every other week on their aural recognition of ten classic jazz recordings. Over the course of the fifteen-week semester, students learn to identify the soloists and melodies of seventy different tunes.

Another component of the course is the transcription of four jazz solos, which the student must learn to play. After the student completes a transcription, he or she excerpts four to eight melodic patterns for application in improvisations. All the students share in this exchange of melodic patterns, which enriches the vocabulary of everyone in the class.

The culminating experience is a public performance in the Rotunda in the Wheelock Student Center.

Jazz History

This course is a historical survey that focuses on the principal elements and styles of jazz, its trends and innovators, and its sociology. The course is designed to develop a critical awareness, understanding, and appreciation of jazz.