Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Happy Jazz Day - April 30th!

© Andrea Canter

All over the world, April 30th is celebrated as International Jazz Day, a three-year old global event sponsored by UNESCO and the Thelonious Monk Institute of Jazz. In addition to the internationally webcast live concert from host city Osaka, Japan, there are events ranging from club gigs to workshops to panel discussion registered as Jazz Day activities from all corners of the planet.

Jazz Day, like a concentrated edition of April's Jazz Appreciation Month, is a time to reflect on the contribution of jazz to our lives and ears and minds, to our interactions with others, to the underlying concepts of freedom, collaboration, and improvisation-- however narrowly or broadly defined. Jazz can be appreciated and promoted in many ways. Today, I'll take time out to take five (with apologies to Brubeck and Desmond):

Dave Mitchell, MN Youth Jazz Bands
     Jazz educators. Hats off to the many school band directors who squeeze jazz into their budget-slashed curricula and/or direct school jazz ensembles with limited time, limited space, limited resources and still manage to put together terrific concerts and bring students to area festivals to learn and perform. And another nod to the many jazz performers who also spend considerable time in classrooms as clinicians, passing on their knowledge and even more important, their passion. Jazz can be contagious.

Jazz venue owners/managers. This group is unfortunately shrinking as more clubs revamp their music priorities to better meet the bottom line. A full-time jazz club that really focuses on jazz is not easy to find, even in a large metropolitan area. Some nonprofit organizations are finding a niche as producers of jazz events and gigs, and we still have some clubs that cater to local and/or national acts. But those clubs that are part-time purveyors of jazz, local or national, need support to ensure musicians have opportunities to play, to build audiences, to keep the music vital and ever-changing. Jazz once per week is better than no jazz - we need to patronize such venues on jazz nights to remind owners that jazz still has an audience. Thanks to every venue that keeps jazz on the calendar.

Broadcasting Planet Jazz at the Detroit Jazz Fest
Jazz promoters. There's many ways to promote the music without performing or teaching or hosting. The Jazz Journalists Association exists to lend a supportive arena to those who write about it, tell the world about it, broadcast it, evaluate it as a serious art form, show the world what it looks like, and remind listeners to just go and hear it! Then there are those who organize and manage jazz festivals, from small neighborhood gatherings to the largest jazz events in the world -- the mega-festivals, and those who manage and promote individual performers. And there are the organizations that exist to ensure that jazz exists by promoting education and performance from the smallest advocacy foundation to the largest alliance.

Graydon Peterson and Dave Karr
Jazz artists. The music has stayed alive for over 100 years because musicians devote their lives to it, even if doing so means continual debt, long hours of travel hauling instruments and music, performing at times before sparse audiences, and the hassles of gigs and contract negotiations.

Jazz audiences. Remember the old riddle, "If a tree falls in the forest, but no one is a around, does it still make a sound?" If a jazz musician blows a riff in an empty club, does it still swing? Is it jazz if there is no one to react? There's art for art's sake, but is there art without response? Audiences range from kids in a classroom hearing an introduction to jazz history to residents of a nursing home enjoying a recording of Basie, from subscribers to jazz concert series to those fans who seek out after-hours jam sessions, from diners in a restaurant to bar patrons, from tourists seeking a "hot" night spot to neighborhood regulars, from those who simply dig the rhythms to those who can analyze that extended voicing.

Jazz Day is a good time for all the consumers of jazz to think about the value of this music and how we can ensure another, and bigger Jazz Day. Every day.

Keep jazz alive.  It makes us "pleased and flipped."