JAZZ piano syllabus & selection of standards - (UK) ABRSM

prestigious exam board for classical playing also has a jazz syllabus - 5 grades

as an ex teacher I’ve always been fascinated by how stuff get institutionalised and graded, so the free syllabus is an interesting read.

to me “jazz” and " exam grades" don’t really belong in the same sentence, but if it had to be done somehow, I think ABRSM have designed a formula that I’d be happy to teach to ( if I was still teaching).

For Jazz, AMRSM use the method they developed for classical music grades:. the student has to choose and learn to perform a tune from each of 3 shortlists. ( and rattle off a few scales, arps… ) . key difference here is that the tunes are prescribed only as leadsheets, with improv sections.

for jazz , the student picks one blues, one standard, and one contemporary. from the lists.

So here’s what "standards " appear on their lists:
( it does not correlate well with any most popular/ most played / most covered lists that I have seen - i suspect some were included because it was easy to get copyright approval to print in the exam books, rather than because they a greatest tune of all time… )).

grade 1: standards choose 1 of :
Jean Pierre,
old man from the old country
is you is or is you ain’t my baby

bedford square blues,
oh lord don’t drop that atom bomb on me,
bags groove,
slinky thing,
Prove you groove

FYI I got a lot out of studying Miles Davis Jean Pierre. I knew it only as a re-imagined guitar fusion cover from Eric Johnson . I see now why the original is a great beginners groove to get down;
and Bags Groove - I’d love to see the oscar peterson take crop up in transcription studies as his head has 3 times as many notes in it as the fake book versions…

ABRSMs choice of standards
grade 2: softly as a morning sunrise, contemplation, St Thomas, Moanin’, the big noise from winnetka
grade 3: I wish I knew how it would feel to be free, fly me to the moon, sombrero Sam, A smooth one, the peanut vendor

[standards ??? I’ve never heard of half those . Am i missing anything ]


FYI - I am not promoting AMBRM, just opening a discussion - they sell official books and Cds for each grade [ that’s probably a big income source]
paper books and physical CDs only - no downloads.
[ when I search Spotify, i find them all, but greyed out - looks like they used to be up but got taken down - probably due to a copyright claim] - shame as I’d like to hear the simple playalong/ backing track arrangements. ]

from the link:
There are four sections to a Jazz Piano exam, giving candidates the opportunity to demonstrate their skills through prepared work and musicianship tests.

The tunes cover a wide range of styles - from New Orleans and swing through to modal, jazz-rock and Latin jazz. Each arrangement contains a fully notated Head and at least one section for improvisation, with a simple chord sequence and set of guideline pitches.

Jazz exams include:

  • Three tunes from the list for the grade
    A blues, a standard and a contemporary tune. All include improvisation.
  • Scales, arpeggios and broken chords
    Common patterns found in jazz.
  • Aural tests
    Testing all-round aural awareness and musicianship skills.
  • Quick Study
    To play either at sight or to reproduce by ear a short phrase and to improvise a response.