Tuesday, March 31, 2015

April is Jazz Appreciation Month

It's almost time once again for Jazz Appreciation Month, the annual celebration of jazz music sponsored every April by the Smithsonian Institution.

Now in its 14th year, Jazz Appreciation Month (or JAM) was created "to draw greater public attention to the extraordinary heritage and history of jazz and its importance as an American cultural heritage. In addition, JAM is intended to stimulate the current jazz scene and encourage people of all ages to participate in jazz—to study the music, attend concerts, listen to jazz on radio and recordings, read books about jazz, and support institutional jazz programs."

This year, JAM is celebrating the legacy of composer, arranger and pianist Billy Strayhorn on the occasion of the hundredth anniversary of his birth.

More than just one of Duke Ellington's key musical associates, Strayhorn was in some ways almost an alter ego for Ellington, composing and arranging many important works for the orchestra, including standards such as "Take The A Train," "Chelsea Bridge," and "Lush Life," and also serving as rehearsal pianist, copyist, sounding board and more.You can learn more about the Strayhorn-Ellington collaboration in the Smithsonian's online exhibition here.

At the end of the month, jazz fans worldwide also will celebrate the fourth annual International Jazz Day on Thursday, April 30. Sponsored by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), International Jazz Day is designed to highlight jazz and its diplomatic role of uniting people in all corners of the globe.

Paris, France will be the host city for 2015, but various related events will take place in cities all over the world, including an all-star concert with performances by Herbie Hancock, Marcus Miller, Al Jarreau, Wayne Shorter, Dianne Reeves, Dee Dee Bridgewater, and many more that will be streamed live online around the world. At the end of this post, you can see a short promotional video for International Jazz Day, and, if it's made available to bloggers this year, StLJN will present the live stream of the concert right here on April 30, too.

Meanwhile, if you can't wait to get started, the Smithsonian offers a list of "112 ways to celebrate Jazz Appreciation Month," and once again has produced a poster honoring a famous musician. This year's JAM poster (pictured) features an image of Strayhorn by artist Keith Henry Brown.

The posters were distributed for free to schools, libraries, music and jazz educators, music merchants and manufacturers, radio stations, arts presenters, and U.S. embassies worldwide, and anyone can download a copy in .png format here. You also can see and download commemorative posters from the previous 13 years of JAM here.

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