The first--of many we trust--International Jazz Day shined brightly with a concert at the United Nations in New York City. There were other concerts the world over. But in New York, a star-studded event also included poignant and uplifting words about the music from Quincy Jones, T.S. Monk, Herbie Hancock and others.
In the United Nations building, it did in a couple hours what the organization was supposed to do. Jazz is the shining example of freedom, brotherhood, communication, experimentation, exhilaration all in one. It’s has everything. Heart. Emotion. Guts. As Jones noted: Left Brain, Right Brain. Emotion and Intellect.
It’s known the world over, of course, and often better known overseas than here. Which has always been a shame. That aside, the proceedings in New York showed what jazz is and can be.
It’s here. HIGHLY recommended viewing: jazzday.com/videos (Cut and paste in browser till this thing is fixed)
It reached into the blues with Susan Tedeschi, Derek Trucks and Robert Cray wailing a Howlin’ Wolf tune, accompanied by Christian McBride and George Duke. Ron Carter, Hancock, Jack DeJohnette and Wayne Shorter revived their former boss’s classic “Milestones” in a tribute to Miles. Thelonious Monk was acknowledged with a sharp version of “Think of One,” the group led by Danilo Perez, with Joe Lovano scorching the room with his tenor sax.
Jazz -- out of the blues -- has influenced all of the music that came after, including pop and rock. The concert featured many flavors showing that. Hugh Masekela and Angelique Kidjo showed the direct African influence. Stevie Wonder was there, jamming on harmonica with Masekela, McBride, Jimmy Heath on “Grazing in the Grass.” The music stretched across a broad plain, performed with joie de vivre at every step.
Jazz has been an international language for decades and probably the strongest ambassador that’s ever been for the U.S. Dave Brubeck, Louis Armstrong, Dizzy Gillespie, Duke Ellington and so many more took music to every corner of the world before any others, traveling in places that were forbidden to the average American. So many greats were lionized overseas.
There is sooooo much talent out there today, young, eager. Open to new ideas and making jazz contemporary. And jazz has always been contemporary. Miles showed that.
Christian Scott, Ambrose Akinmusire, Esperanza Spalding, Myron Walden, Marcus Strickland, Eric Harland, Kendrick Scott, Chris Potter, Jason Moran. Shit. Waaaaaay too many names to include. Young cats that are going to carry on the art form.
Here’s hoping in some way they are lionized. And here at home.