It's Jazz Appreciation Month in America
Jazz easily provides the soundtrack for any season, whether its winter holidays or hot summer nights, like when the Blue Jay Jazz Foundation will head up three August Thursday Nights, 10, 17 and 24, for its 2017 Festival.
Back in 2002, the Smithsonian Institute launched its effort to draw attention to the music by naming April Jazz Appreciation Month, or JAM. It has kept the commemoration alive with online resources that promote participation and provide historical background along with links to education programs and artist initiatives.
JAM 2017 also honors Ella Fitzgerald, for whom this year marks the centennial of her birth. The singer, who died in 1996 at the age of 79, is undeniably, along with Billie Holiday and Sarah Vaughn, considered by critics and fans to be one of America's greatest singers of any genre.
According to the Smithsonian's website, Fitzgerald "had a warm and lovely voice, superb rhythmic sense, considerable versatility, a three-and-a-half-octave range, meticulous intonation, and improvisatory gifts as a fine natural melodist. With an unparalleled ability for mimicry and 'scat' singing, Fitzgerald also produced melodic lines that put her in the category of great instrumental improvisers. A 'singer’s singer,' she recorded some two thousand songs in her lifetime."
Watch and listen to her in this German studio concert from 1974 with Roy Eldridge, Eddie "Lockjaw" Davis, Joe Pass and others.
How to celebrate?
Participating in jazz appreciation is as easy as listening to a track or watching a concert or documentary on your favorite device. Better yet, spend some money and support today's artists by attending a concert or purchasing a CD or digital download by your favorite band.
Or explore the music of someone. A great way to discover new artists and music is to listen to radio or podcasts. Here in Southern California, the flagship jazz stations are KKJZ at 88.1 out of Long Beach and KSBR at 88.5, the campus station of Saddleback College in Mission Viejo. (Listen to them online via links at right.) Another great Internet station is Newark's WBGO. Share your favorites in the comments below or to our Facebook page.
There are concerts across Southern California in April. From the locals to the legends, you'll find plenty to attend. We offer a short list (at right) to get you thinking, starting off with a great friend of Blue Jay Jazz Festivals, conguere Poncho Sanchez, coming to Catalina's in Hollywood for three shows April 7 and 8.
There are so many great free films available online, we've provided links at right to just a few from both today and back in the day.
On Youtube along you'll find everything from historic films of iconic legends to this week's posts by contemporary artists. At right we offer a rare television appearance by John Coltrane on a program hosted by jazz critic Ralph J. Gleason, concert by drummer Terri Lyne Carrington, a full-length documentary on the life of Quincy Jones, and another rare gem from the 1960s. In this 1969 clip we hear Miles Davis performing at one of his big turning points, performing "Milestones," "Footprints, " and "Round Midnight."
Enjoy jazz in April, and all the months ahead … Especially this August!
PHOTOS: Top, Leroy Neiman's fantasy jam session paiting; Inset: Ella Fitzgerald
RADIOKKJZ (88.1 and online)
KSBR (88.3 and online)
WBGO (Newark, NJ; online)
CONCERTSA sampling …
April 7-8 – Poncho Sanchez – Info
Catalina Bar & Grill, Los Angeles (Friday 8:30 pm; Saturday 8:30 and 10:30 pm, $30)
April 8 – Joe Lovano – Info
Luckman Fine Arts Complex, Los Angeles (8 pm, $30)
April 12 – Tony Guerrero Quintet – Info
Seven Degrees, Laguna Beach (6 pm, $20)
April 14 – Charles Lloyd & The Marvels – Info
UCLA Royce Hall, Los Angeles (8 pm, $29)
VIDEOSMoney Jungle, a Terri Lyne Carrington concert featuring music from her release on the Duke Ellington piece.
Jazz Casual, with John Coltrane in performance.
Miles Davis, a 1969 performance with Wayne Shorter, Chick Corea, Dave Holland and Jack DeJohnette
Listen Up!, a great story well told of Quincy Jones's life and music.