Houghton Jazz consists of a standard-sized big band under the direction of Kenneth Crane. Students play classic jazz styles from the 20's to the present. A backbone of this repertoire is the music that developed out of the swing era and was seasoned by influences such as bebop, cool jazz, and hardbop. More recent styles such as fusion from the 70s and 80s and the diverse forms of Latin jazz are also explored.
In this context students are encouraged to explore the art of improvisation, both in small combos and in order to enrich the big band charts through various features of individual talents. In addition to performing on stage with the jazz ensemble student combos are often active on campus. Recent guest clinicians have included Fred Sturm, director of jazz studies at the Eastman School of Music, Frank Mazzeo from the University of the Arts in Philadelphia, and other top jazz artists.