Several years ago, The Smithsonian Institution's National Museum of American History designated one month out of the year to publicly celebrate the heritage of jazz. Jazz Appreciation Month, which has since been signed into law by President George W. Bush, is intended to draw public attention to the glories of jazz as an historical and living treasure and to encourage musicians, concert halls, schools, colleges, museums, libraries, and public broadcasters to offer special programs on jazz throughout the month of April.
Last year, Jazz at Lincoln Center established the Jazz Trail, a living map of great places around New York City to hear jazz music. The Jazz Trail highlights such neighborhoods as the Upper West Side, the Upper East Side, Midtown, Harlem, Chelsea, Murray Hill, the West Village, the East Village, Tribeca, the Lower East Side, Queens, Brooklyn, and the Bronx.
Jazz at Lincoln Center also celebrated last April with a New Orleans second line parading around the Empire State Building's Observation Deck. Musicians from the Lincoln Center Jazz Orchestra and the Afro-Latin Jazz Orchestra proudly took part, and Derek E. Gordon, Jazz at Lincoln Center's president and CEO, helped throw a switch that bathed the top of the building in lights of majestic "cool blue," representing, of course, the blues.
"We celebrate our history and the new generation of young emerging jazz artists who dedicate their heart and soul to become part of America's greatest indigenous art form," Gordon said at the time. "During the month of April, we want to send a message to everyone that jazz is alive and thriving in every corner of the city."
This year on April 5, the lights of the Empire State Building will once again be cool blue in honor of Jazz Appreciation Month and in a salute to the great artists born in April such as Duke Ellington, Ella Fitzgerald, Tito Puente, Bessie Smith, Ma Rainey, Louis Armstrong, Charles Mingus, and Billie Holiday.
"There is no better place to celebrate Jazz Appreciation Month than the World's Second Home, the nation's jazz capital," says New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg. "I am pleased to invite you to join with Jazz at Lincoln Center in celebrating America's greatest indigenous art form. Jazz at Lincoln Center is a testament to the history of jazz and its great artists, a haven for new talent, and continuing proof of New York City's commitment to the arts. I hope that all New Yorkers and our many visitors will take the opportunity to experience the sites and sounds along the Jazz Trail and join us as we look forward to being a part of jazz's continuing evolution."
As Jazz at Lincoln Center joins in the celebration with organizations across the city, Artistic Director Wynton Marsalis explains, "Jazz is about the interaction of human beings. It's about the cultivation and development of a personal and unique sound. Our music is about playing together, playing softly, and communicating. Jazz helped me understand life and my place in it. Music is like that, it's spiritual. It goes beyond emotion; music can take you to a whole different consciousness. Jazz teaches us to listen to one another with empathy. It teaches us to understand and enjoy the individuality of another person‹like being a good neighbor. That's what jazz is about. Jazz is democracy in action.
"I just want people to be aware of the music," he continues, "to make it available through recordings and broadcasts, and to produce more jazz musicians who can play. There's not any one thing I want people to think about jazz. I just want them to be aware of it and check it out."
Scott H. Thompson is Assistant Director for Public Relations at Jazz at Lincoln Center.
For more information on Jazz Appreciation Month visit www.jalc.org.