Jerry Tolson Jazz Clinic Topics

w/ synopsis and/or clinic outline


Jerry (and his groups when appropriate) is available to present clinics to your ensemble, school district, or professional organization.  Listed below are typical topics that are covered.  Contact Jerry for more information on clinics and fees.


Developing and Maintaining an Instrumental Jazz Program

This session addresses the basics of starting, developing, and maintaining a jazz program in the schools including rationale, curriculum, rehearsal techniques, programming, and equipment.



RX: Developing A Healthy Rhythm Section

I.   The rhythm section in the jazz ensemble:  the history

II.  Developing facility and technique on the individual instruments

III. Understanding the jazz language and nomenclature.

IV.   Understanding various jazz styles

V. The integrated role of each rhythm section player as related to each other and to the ensemble

VI. Opportunities for application - putting it all together



How Do You Make 'Em Swing After They've Seen Paris

Establishing the swing feel i.e. "finding the groove" is one of if not the most crucial elements of a successful jazz performance.  The rhythmic feel is the most important element of jazz.  As one great American composer (Duke Ellington) so aptly expressed it in his song title, "It Don't Mean a Thing If It Ain't Got That Swing".  To paraphrase a contemporary politician, "It's the rhythm, stupid".  This session will explore techniques that address the crucial elements of jazz performance of "groove" and style.


The T.O.T.A.L. Approach to Jazz Education

This five-part instructional model is designed to help jazz educators develop a more comprehensive approach to teaching jazz, so that they may assist students in gaining a knowledgeable exposure to jazz and help them learn how to appropriately and accurately "speak the language" of jazz on their instrument or with their voice.  (i.e. to play/sing stylistically correctly and to be able to improvise in a manner which is consistent with the stylistic norms).  It also helps the instructor coordinate instruction with the National Standards.


Jazz Combo: A Valuable Alternative and/or Addition to Your

Jazz Program/Curriculum

I. Rationale

A.  Instrumentation inequities/flexibility

B.  Chamber experience for students

C.  More individualized instruction

D.  Time factors

E.  Opportunity for more intensive study of improvisation

F.  Opportunity to study Masters of craft

II. Instrumentation

III.  Curriculum

A.  Addresses MENC National Standards

B.  T.O.T.A.L. Approach

C.  Improvisation Philosophy

 1. Scale Approach

 2. Harmonic Approach

 3. Melodic Approach

C.  Historical perspective

IV. Resources



Rehearsal Techniques for Jazz Directors

This session addresses practical techniques for rehearsing your jazz ensemble.

A. Goals

B. Physical Set-up

C. Part Assignments

D. Programming

E. Editing

F. Warm-up

G. Articulation/Rhythm exercises

H. Style

I.  Vocalization

J. Tune Rehearsal

K. Rhythm Section

L. Solo Development



ABC/123: Jazz Piano Voicings for the Novice

I.  Introduction

A.  The role of the rhythm section

B.  The Role of the pianist within the rhythm section

C.  Jazz charts

II.  Problems to be solved

A.  Nomenclature

B.  Bad sounding voicings

C.  Wrong notes

III.  Voicings (demonstration)

A.  3-note voicings

B.  4-note voicings

C.  5/6-note voicings

IV.  The systematic approach (demonstration)

A.  Chord root movement

B.  Limited movement

C.  Range

V.  Application (demonstration)

A.  Incorporating the system

B.  Comping patterns/rhythms




The Jazz Commandments:  Guidelines for Successful, Authentic Swing Performance

The interpretation of jazz style is crucial to the element of swing in any jazz ensemble performance.  Many charts today for both large and small jazz ensembles are well marked with articulations and expression markings.  However, in some cases there is nothing to guide the instructor or student.  In this clinic I address some of the articulation and style situations that are commonly found in jazz music.  In doing so, I present a set of guidelines that can be used to guide decisions regarding the treatment of notes and rhythms in the swing style of the jazz idiom.  Armed with this set of general guidelines, it will be easier to sound more stylistically accurate and authentic.  The ultimate goal of this clinic is to provide useful tips for helping your students understand jazz articulation and style.

I. Jazz Articulations

II. Quarter note patterns

III. Eighth note patterns

IV. Dotted patterns

V. Triplets

VI. Standard combination patterns

VII. Style

a. Ghosted notes

b. Accents

c. Phrasing

d. Dynamics


Unlock the Secrets to Solo Success: Nine Keys to Better Jazz Improvisation

This clinic describes nine steps that aspiring soloists can take to improve the quality of their improvised solos.

I. Technique

II. Analysis

III. Tunes

IV. Running Changes

V. Repetition/Sequencing

VI. Vocabulary

VII. Non-chord Tones

VIII. Resolutions

IX. Alterations/Extensions