Repertoire & Resources Chair for Jazz Choirs
MacNally Smith College of Music
Arr. Matt Falker
SATB- Level 2.5, with rhythm section
This song was written by the instrumental jazz fusion group, the Yellowjackets. The Los Angeles based vocal jazz quartet, True North added a lyric and recorded this fun arrangement. It is a straight eighth groove based tune in 5/4 with some sections utilizing scat syllables which retains the instrumental feel. There is quite a bit of unison and easy chromatic voice leading when there are parts. There is one tougher section harmonically in the middle but the voice leading makes it achievable with a little effort. The chord changes for the solo sections consist of long vamps over a single dominant seventh chord. This means that your students can sing nearly any note and it will sound good! This is a great selection to work on improvising with the band or the singers. The rhythm section parts do demand a familiarity with jazz lead sheets so a professional or experienced rhythm section may be needed.
Traditional Arr. Larry Lapin
SATB- Level 4 Swing with rhythm section
This arrangement is like a jazz history lesson. It includes lots of famous quotes and everything from classic swing era nuances to a “Swingle Singer” fugue section. The vocal ranges are very accessible even during the a cappella sections. Harmonically it provides classic jazz colors with nice voice leading. The solo section is a blues so it is a great opportunity for your beginning improvisers to get to know the blues or minor pentatonic scales! This chart does need a rhythm section that can read lead sheets but the tempo is manageable and the instrumental parts are a great learning tool. You can very easily mirror the voicings from the vocal parts in the piano. If your chord player is new to jazz that is usually the best place to start.
Elton John Arr. Kerry Marsh
SSAA- Level 3, Ballad with Piano
Looking for something to feature your amazing treble voices? Your students will love the Sara Bareilles version this is modeled after. It does require some ladies to be comfortable on a low F. However, with microphones and relaxed, free phonation, it is possible. Because it is a ballad, students will feel less urge to “press” or “push” in the lower register and it could provide a lovely learning opportunity for approaching the bottom of the female range, color and registers. The piano part is completely scored and is written on the same page as the vocals so if you play for your students, it is easy to play and guide simultaneously on this one. If there are sections that prove too difficult as written, this chart is easy to simplify with solos or unison replacements in the melody. There is no question this is more of a pop opportunity but it retains the lush harmonic vocabulary we love about vocal jazz.
Stevie Wonder, Arr. Tsunenori “Lee” Abe
SATB- Level 4, Med. Swing, a cappella
This Stevie Wonder classic will be a treat for your audiences. It does require a great low bass, but finger snaps provide enough vocal percussion to skip that challenge if you don’t have someone. The song goes through a few different modulations and there are some tricky harmonic sections but your students will relate to the shuffle-feel very quickly. The full recording is available on the ordering page for reference. If you don’t have a low bass consider fund raising ($100) for an Octaviser pedal (see related link) and have one of your solid treble voices lay down the bass line. This is an easy solution for so many groups that don’t have a bass that can handle a walking line.
Arr. Roger Emerson
SATB, SAB, SSA- Ballad, Level Medium a cappella.
I am sure most of you are familiar with this beautiful rendition by the famous a cappella group, the Pentatonix (see related link). Roger Emerson has done a wonderful job of making this arrangement sound equally impressive no matter what the voice combination. Your sopranos will have the challenge of singing something other than the melody and your student’s ears will grow as they experience the many ways you can rearrange the same chord over and over again. I would teach the students to spell and build the core harmonies and practice stacking them vertically and then inverting them. Great chance to teach unified inflection and focus on dynamics and phrasing.
Stevie Wonder Arr. Roger Emerson
SAB or 2 part- Discovery Jazz (Easy) Up-tempo Latin Pop with just piano or rhythm section
This is for the jazz babies! Students will recognize the Stevie Wonder classic from the hit summer movie, Sing. This song provides an opportunity to introduce Latin music and its many influences on pop and jazz music. The arrangement is mostly unison or 2 parts allowing time to work on the syncopated rhythms and a groove that many students may be new to. There is an opportunity to add some auxiliary percussion and simple movement to solidify the groove. The unison lines could easily be made into solos to feature some strong singers/ improvisers. This song has an upbeat, positive message and could work well for a graduation ceremony for elementary or middle school!