International Jazz Day 2016

25 Apr

All good things must come to an end. Jazz Appreciation Month is going out on a high note. On Saturday, April 30, America’s classical music will be celebrated across the globe, from Afghanistan to Zimbabwe.

International Jazz Day 2016

UNESCO Director General Irina Bokova said in a statement:

Jazz was born in the U.S. and traveled the world as a music of tolerance, freedom and human dignity. This is why UNESCO created International Jazz Day and we are extremely pleased that in 2016 Washington, DC has been designated the host city for this global celebration, with a unique All Star Concert at the White House, hosted by the President of the United States Barack Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama. This event reminds us Jazz is more than music – it is a universal message of peace with rhythm and meaning.

Jazz at the White House - 4.25.16

UNESCO Goodwill Ambassador Herbie Hancock added:

We are thrilled that President Obama and Michelle Obama are hosting the International Jazz Day All-Star Global Concert at the White House, and are truly grateful for their commitment to jazz and its role in building bridges and uniting people around the world. Over the past five years, the innovation and creativity of Jazz Day has been a beacon of light to millions of people who find common ground and communicate through the values inherent in jazz. On April 30th, people of all ages in all corners of the globe will participate in International Jazz Day. A wide range of momentous events will take place in thousands of neighborhoods – and the streets will be alive with the sounds of peace and freedom.

The lineup is a real-life fantasy jam session.

The all-star global concert will air on ABC-TV at 8pm ET.

Did You See ‘Jackie Robinson’ on PBS?

18 Apr

On April 15, 1947, Jackie Robinson became the first African American to play major league baseball.

Last week, PBS aired a two-part documentary, “Jackie Robinson.”

Like all African Americans, I admire Robinson’s achievements, and dignity and grace in the face of unrelenting racial taunts and threats. I was delighted when I stumbled upon the plaque in Brooklyn Heights noting the place where Brooklyn Dodgers President and General Manager Branch Rickey signed Robinson in 1945.

Jackie Robinson Plaque - Brooklyn Heights

But somewhere along the way, I developed an inchoate impression the baseball icon had become an “Uncle Tom” after his playing days ended. Ken Burns’ film disabused me of that foolish notion. Robinson was a race-man who advocated for political empowerment:

I’m a black man first, an American second, and then I will support a political party—third.

Robinson was in the tradition of “Radical Republicans.” He understood that playing one-party politics in a two-party system would ensure black folks would not get a fair return on the investment of their political capital.

Robinson also pushed for economic empowerment. In 1964, he co-founded Freedom National Bank in Harlem. The bank later opened a branch in Bedford-Stuyvesant. I grew up in Bed-Stuy. As an emerging race-woman, I opened my first savings account at that branch. Frankly, I don’t remember whether I knew Robinson was associated with Freedom National Bank.

If you missed “Jackie Robinson,” you can watch full episodes online at PBS videos on demand.

April is National Poetry Month

11 Apr

April is Jazz Appreciation Month. It’s also National Poetry Month.

National Poetry Month 2016

It’s probably no coincidence the two art forms are celebrated during the same month. After all, the Harlem Renaissance gave birth to jazz poetry. The most celebrated jazz poet is Langston Hughes who collaborated with jazz musicians, including Charles Mingus and Thelonious Monk.

In his 1926 essay, “The Negro Artist and the Racial Mountain,” Hughes wrote:

But jazz to me is one of the inherent expressions of Negro life in America; the eternal tom-tom beating in the Negro soul—the tom-tom of revolt against weariness in a white world, a world of subway trains, and work, work, work; the tom-tom of joy and laughter, and pain swallowed in a smile.

In 1958, Hughes recorded his poem, “The Weary Blues,” over jazz composed by Mingus and Leonard Feather.

Also, check out a reading of “The Weary Blues” by Rev. Dr. Allen Dwight Callahan, a Philly native and former professor at Harvard Divinity School.

Philly Celebrates Jazz 2016

29 Mar

April is Jazz Appreciation Month. The City of Brotherly Love and Sisterly Affection got the party started early with the Philly Celebrates Jazz kickoff on March 28th.

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Mayor Jim Kenney proclaimed April as Philadelphia Jazz Appreciation Month. He also honored Philly native and Grammy Award-winning bassist and composer Christian McBride who was given an inscribed Liberty Bell, the equivalent of the key to the city.

Mayor Kenney - Christian McBride

Kenney said:

Christian McBride is an ambassador of Philadelphia to the world, not only through his music, but also through his work as an educator and advocate for music education. “Christian’s story and accomplishments demonstrates the power of arts education, in our schools and communities, and the impact it can have on a person’s life and how we can encourage and build the next generation of musicians, artists, and creative thinkers.

The Philadelphia Clef Club of Jazz and Performing Arts was also recognized on its 50th anniversary. The Clef Club was the social arm of Union Local 274, the black musicians union.

David Oh - Derek Green - Don Gardner - Lovett Hines - Proclamation

Philly Celebrates Jazz includes live performances, film screenings and art exhibitions. Now on view at City Hall are two photography exhibitions, Live Philly Jazz – Through the Photographic Lens and The Clef Club at 50, a retrospective curated by Don Gardner, Managing Director of the Philadelphia Clef Club, and Artistic Director Lovett Hines.

Art Exhibition

For a full calendar of Philly Celebrates Jazz events, visit http://bit.ly/PhillyJazzMonth.

Women in Jazz: Sarah Vaughan

21 Mar

March is Women in Jazz Month. To mark the occasion, the U.S. Postal Service is issuing the  Sarah Vaughan Forever stamp.

Sarah Vaughan Stamp - Resized

NJ.com reports:

Jazz legend Sarah Vaughan is being honored with a U.S. Forever stamp, which will be released March 29 with a free concert at her hometown’s Newark Symphony Hall.

Vaughan, who sang in the Mt. Zion Baptist Church Choir and attended Arts High School, joins the ranks of Elvis Presley, Ray Charles, Janis Joplin, Jimi Hendrix and Johnny Cash, all part of the Postal Service’s Music Icons stamp series. The stamp is an image of a Bart Forbes oil painting based on a 1955 photograph by Hugh Bell of Vaughan in performance.

The Grammy- and Emmy-winning singer nicknamed “The Divine One” and “Sassy” died of lung cancer in 1990 at 66. A member of the Jazz Hall of Fame and the New Jersey Hall of Fame, her hits include “Misty,” “Broken-Hearted Melody,” and “Send in the Clowns.”

The First-Day-of-Issue dedication ceremony will be held on March 29 at 11:00 a.m. at the Sarah Vaughan Concert Hall of Newark Symphony Hall. The gala event features a Proclamation from Newark Mayor Ras Baraka and remarks from Grammy Award-winning vocalist Dianne Reeves. The musical highlights include performances by actress and singer Melba Moore, the Mount Zion Baptist Church Choir and the NJPAC Jazz for Teens Ensemble with Jazzmeia Horn.

Information on how to obtain free tickets for the concert is available here.

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