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RIFFING ON THE TRADITION #22: New Orleans Celebrates Jazz Appreciation Month

Did you know that April is Jazz Appreciation Month?! How should we celebrate?

Let's start by looking at what's already happening... Let's do a Google search for [ "Jazz Appreciation Month" "New Orleans" ]

Right at the top there's a NOLA.com article about Herbie Hancock performing here at month’s end. ...What else? Events in Philly, Dallas, D.C... Umm, OK. ...let's go to the next page. Something must be doing in New Orleans. Ooh! Radio shows. There's our friends at WBGO talking about New Orleans. Featured on the show, “Riverwalk” from San Antonio, my favorite vocalist, Topsy Chapman... Ah! A link to the National Jazz Historical Park at the U.S. Mint! ...The April schedule isn’t there yet, but I imagine it will be up soon with a slew of JAM related events. Moving on to the third page... Fourth? ...Fifth? ...Sixth?

Hmm...

Well, either nothing's happening for JAM in New Orleans or I just don't know how to use the Internet. Never mind. After all, we're New Orleans. Every month here is Jazz Appreciation Month! Let's "riff" on things we can do to celebrate.

First of all, you don't have to be a "jazz” musician to celebrate JAM. After all, this year's broad theme is “Jazz Crossing Borders and Cultures.” Furthermore, this year's honoree is Frank Sinatra. So, you see, no need to get hung up on preconceptions about the idiom. The Smithsonian, who started JAM a decade ago, has suggestions about how musicians can celebrate.

Donate a concert to your local elementary, middle, or high school.

I say think even bigger. Donate a show to the whole city, in the form of next weekend's French Quarter Festival. If you’re among the 800+ local musicians who will be performing, make the most of your exposure there. But, if your public needs a reminder about the extent to which FQF is the music community's gift to the city, here's a Times Picayune article from last fall. [FQF Article]

Feature music of the jazz legends whose birthdays fall in April.

That gave me the idea to speak to my friend and jazz historian, Tom Morgan. To the list of jazz legends whose birthdays fall in April such as Duke Ellington, Bessie Smith, and Charles Mingus, check out Tom's list of New Orleans and Louisiana music legends we can celebrate, including King Oliver, Johnny Dodds, Henry "Red" Allen and Shannon Powell.

Get together with fellow musicians and organize a citywide “Jazz Day” or “Jazz Night” and have a citywide JAM session.

Great idea. Getting together with other musicians committed to the same goals shouldn't be too difficult. But, let's also put the venues who are presenting your music in April to the test. See if they want to be part of our team and celebrate JAM with us.

For example: I approached the best new performance hall, Café Istanbul (in the Healing Center, 2372 St. Claude Ave.) about JAM. Chuck Perkins was enthusiastic about celebrating the art form born here in New Orleans and created an amazing week of partnerships starting this Wednesday.

New Orleans trumpet great Leroy Jones kicks off a regular Wednesday residency with his stellar quintet.
Thursday
, vocalist Michaela Harrison celebrates "Ladies in Jazz," including Ella Fitzgerald and Billie Holiday who have April birthday anniversaries.
Stephanie Jordan is bringing a big band for Friday’s release of her new CD tribute to Lena Horne
Saturday
, my own Clarinet Road group performs an evening of New Orleans music presented by NOLA Art House Music.
Africa Brass
, led by master percussionist Thierno Dioubate of Guinea, West Africa performs Sunday.

I asked Chuck if he was worried that his JAM week is at the same time as the largest free music festival in the South? He answered, clearly unconcerned, “...Free, safe parking, air conditioning, no lines for drinks, and clean bathrooms.”

 

 

 

 

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