Lawrence jazz small groups/combos are “jazz performance classrooms” which engage students in a meaningful exploration of jazz improvisation. Through applied performance practice and intensive guided listening and analysis, students study and perform in classic jazz styles and build upon the jazz tradition of innovation by creating transcriptions, arrangements and compositions of their own.
Jazz small groups meet twice a week. They are coached by a faculty member once a week and have at least one un-coached weekly rehearsal. Students are placed by auditions during the first week of classes. Typically, there are 6 jazz small groups with 5-8 students per group.
Guest performers and clinicians work with the jazz small groups during their visits. Danilo Perez, Donny McCaslin, Joe Locke and John Clayton, Jr. have been recent guests.
Each small group performs a half-recital each term, presents a set at Lawrence's annual Jazz Weekend in November and participates in weekly jam sessions at the Warch Campus Center Café. Ensembles are also encouraged to rehearse and perform on their own in campus and off-campus venues.
Repertoire is drawn from the “Tune of the Week” list (a collection of 24 jazz standards selected by the jazz faculty each year), classic and contemporary jazz compositions and original student works.