Friday, March 31, 2017

April is Jazz Appreciation Month

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

Now in its 16th 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 recognizing the centennial of the birth of singer Ella Fitzgerald, lauding her as "one of the greatest American singers in any genre of music" and noting that with "an unparalleled ability for mimicry and “scat” singing, Fitzgerald also produced melodic lines that put her in the category of great instrumental improvisers." You can learn more about Fitzgerald at the Smithsonian's website.

At the end of the month, jazz fans worldwide also will celebrate the sixth annual International Jazz Day on Sunday, 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.

Unlike in years past, there apparently will be no all-star International Jazz Day concert televised or webcast in 2017, but there will be hundreds of related events taking place in cities all over the world (though none, alas, here in St. Louis).

Meanwhile, if you can't wait to get started, the Smithsonian offers a list of "ways to celebrate Jazz Appreciation Month," and has produced a poster (pictured) honoring Fitzgerald and fellow singer Billie Holiday.

The first in a special three-year series featuring LeRoy Neiman’s painting "Big Band," 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 .pdf format here. You also can see and download commemorative posters from the previous 15 years of JAM here.

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