We’re past April Fools Day so I can safely say “Happy JazzApril” — a shorthand hailing Jazz Appreciation Month (April, so designated in 2001 by the Smithsonian), culminating in International Jazz Day (April 30, first celebrated in 2012 by UNESCO as advised by the Thelonious Monk Institute of Jazz).
These officialized jazz occasions — IJD with an all-star concert to be webcast live from Osaka, Japan, JAM with US gov’t sanction, and both events endorsed by the U.S. Conference of Mayors — are good opportunities for jazz enthusiasts to trumpet the music’s vitality and vivacity to people who don’t pay it much attention but ought to and would probably like it if they did. The Jazz Journalists Association, over which I preside, has encouraged and enabled grass roots supporters and organizations especially in the US and Canada to use JAM and JazzDay as pegs upon which local media can hang coverage of local jazz activities, including, for instance, the celebration of local “Jazz Heroes” — people the JJA deem “activists, advocates, altruists, aiders and abettors of jazz.”
Here are 24 such Jazz Heroes based in 22 cities — announced yesterday:
Check out these Heroes bios and affiliations. They’re our neighbors, these are their networks, and everyone’s doing good even for those who aren’t into jazz (because like jazz or not, it’s good for you).
For those who are into jazz, JazzApril is a call to let that fact be known. There’s strength in our numbers if those numbers are made manifest. The vast population all ages, ancestries, genders and/or genre-preferences who love jazz — of any kind, of any era — must not overlooked, ignored, underestimated, underfunded, disregarded, ridiculed or forgotten just because our jaunty and improvisational, bluesy and hard-bitten, lyrical and persevering music is commercially marginal, being more substance than flash.
It’s important to assert this because jazz truly is the American musical art form, cultural mirror and conveyance of genuine expression, though you wouldn’t know it from most media coverage. Due to unfortunate economic and sociological factors jazz is now without much infrastructure other than what high school and college music education programs offer and what a mere dozen arts institutions (but many more elbow-grease-fueled nonprofits) provide. It has no high powered broadcast platforms beyond a few score staunch radio outlets ( thanks, NPR! Thanks, college stations!). Other than musicians themselves, only the hardiest independent record labels and prestigious remnants of proud old catalogs keep releasing jazz records. The jazz performance “circuit” comprises stubbornly unaffiliated, privately run clubs scattered everywhere, modest gigs in community centers, schools and private parties and the like, plus (glad for this) a year-long calendar of festivals.
It’s all ok — we can embrace jazz’s contextual reality. We can also wear our jazz. at least on our avatars. JazzApril offers graphics from the JJA, JAM and Jazz Day that anyone/everyone can use, put on as a tag, twibbon, t-shirt. coffee cup proclaiming jazz is here and now, just as it was hot or cool back when.
Yes, jazz is still America’s indigenous creative, artistic, entertaining, progressive, questing, collaborative sound, forbearing challenges, bringing light to dark times — one gift to the world American’s needn’t be apologetic about. Want to make friends? Talk about jazz. It’s worked for me in Yerevan, Amman, Dakar, Banjul, Guelph, St. Petersburg, Veradero, Tampere, not to all over our country.
What’s happy about April? April = Spring = Hope. Hope springs eternal — jazz results. Jazz abides, jazz survives, jazz evolves, jazz thrives. Internationally now, but let’s not take jazz for granted right here where jazz started. Let’s not forsake how it started — with folks just foolin’ around. Let’s do more of that. Let’s have fun with jazz. Happy JazzApril!