April is Jazz Appreciation Month throughout the world, and the big celebration day is International Jazz Day. Held April 30 and implemented by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization in 2011, it highlights jazz and the diplomatic role it has played culturally throughout the world.
The now annual event was the brainchild of jazz pianist, composer and UNESCO Goodwill Ambassador Herbie Hancock, who chairs Jazz Day along with the sitting UNESCO director-general. The celebration is recognized on the calendars of both UNESCO and the United Nations.
There are a lot of people who are unaware that this celebration takes place on an annual basis.
It would be easier for me to let Jazz speak for herself while I take a backseat. So here is Jazz, the person of the hour:
“First I would like to say I am honored and appreciative that the United Nations saw fit to give me my own special month that culminates April 30 with a big bash. And a special shoutout to Herbie for making it happen; he has always represented me well.
During this special month, I have mixed feelings as I ponder such special times as Black History Month, Hispanic Month and Women’s History Month. Gosh, it’s great that we have these special months, but it’s as if somebody screwed up and felt badly that we weren’t getting the respect or equality we deserve, so they gave us a mere month to try to make up for it.
Thirty or 31 days out of 365. There is so much history, so many details and so little time. I should be on the calendar 365 days per year. People should listen to me every day, sing songs by Ray Charles, Lou Rawls, Nancy Wilson, Ella Fitzgerald or Carmen McRae, or dance to Count Basie or Duke Ellington, to Craig Harris, Robert Glasper or Jason Moran’s swinging funked-up tunes.
You see, I am misunderstood. I am the most misunderstood genre under the musical rainbow. People say I’m too complicated, or I’m uppity—You know, bourgeois.
I guess you never heard Ray Charles sing ‘Busted’ or ‘Hit the Road Jack’ or Oscar Brown Jr. sing ‘But I Was Cool’ or ‘Signifyin’ Monkey’ (You know about playing the dozens, right?). These songs are swinging R&B tunes, but the fact is gospel, spiritual hymns, blues, rock & roll, R&B, bebop, doo wop, hip-hop, jazz fusion, Latin jazz and Cuban jazz are all relatives of mine.
Come on—a cappella singing was derived from doo wop. Young brothers singing in project stairwells to get that echo for the high notes and deep bass. Rhyming is the basis for hip-hop—that is a cappella set to rhymes. So don’t act like you don’t know we all street. Dig?
My little brother hip-hop is always saying to me, ‘Yo Jazz, you got to get that paper. Your peeps out there making maybe one or two CDs a year and may not sell over 50,000. Damn, kid, Common or Snoop sell more than that in their sleep.’