The Morehouse College Jazz Ensemble has been acclaimed as one of the finest College Jazz Ensembles in the country. Many of its members enroll at Morehouse from some of the country’s strongest high school Jazz Band programs. The Morehouse College Jazz Ensemble was first formed in 1971 under the leadership of Dr. Ted McDaniel, a Morehouse College graduate. With a membership of 15, the ensemble quickly developed a reputation for Musical Excellence that has now become the very foundation of the group itself. This leadership has continued for nearly three decades under the direction of Roderick Smith (1980-1989), a Morehouse graduate, Blake Gaines (1990-1995), Bill McGhee (1995), and Dr. Tim Turner (1996-2004). During their individual tenures the ensemble continued performing annual concerts in the Atlanta area and abroad as well as touring the East Coast, Mid-West and Southern regions of the United States.
Under the direction of Dr. Tim Turner, the Morehouse College Jazz Ensemble performed with legendary recording artist Ray Charles and jazz pianist James Williams along with participating in concert performances at the Twenty-Fifth Annual Black Music Caucus as well as having performed on tour in Europe in the spring of 1998, in the countries of Belgium, Holland and Germany. The following Spring Semester of 1999 saw the beginnings of the first Annual Morehouse College Jazz Festival. The Jazz Festival is a non-competitive festival for high school bands and college bands in the Southeast region that provides students the opportunity to learn through clinics and concert performances from some of today's outstanding professional jazz artists. The clinicians and performing artists involved in past festivals included local artists/educator Joe Jennings, Memphian Gene Rush, vocalist Deborah Brown, Jazz Trumpeter Jon Faddis, Saxoponist Jimmy Heath, Trombonist/ Arranger Slide Hampton, and the list of Jazz Legends goes on and on.
Now under the leadership of the current Director of Bands Mr. Melvin Jones (a Morehouse Graduate), the Jazz Ensemble continues its "tradition of excellence" having performed across the country with a host of legendary figures in Musical history including Freddy Cole, brother of the late, great Nat King Cole, Saxophonist and Composer Don Braden, Trumpet Virtuoso Sean Jones, and living musical icon Isaac Hayes. Some of the ensemble's recent credits include: (2004) A Star-Studded Musical Tribute to the Late Ray Charles in Los Angeles with Brian McKnight, Stevie Wonder, Michael McDonald, Quincy Jones, Bill Cosby, and a host of musical icons; (2005) A Performance for the National Youth Coalition to an audience of nearly 6,000 students and numerous civil rights leaders; (2005) A special concert paying tribute to Musical Innovator Isaac Hayes; (2006) The Morehouse College Jazz Festival featuring a live performance with Jazz Singer/ Legend Freddy Cole, who also happens to be the brother of the late, great Nat "King" Cole. To date, the Jazz Ensemble has been critically acclaimed as “one of the most entertaining jazz ensembles in the country.”