April celebrates ‘JAM’, Jazz Appreciation Month

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What a fantastic idea!

jazzJazz Appreciation Month (JAM) … a whole month dedicated to the celebration of jazz as something to treasure as part of our past, and present.

Jazz is a genre of music that originated in African American communities during the late 19th and early 20th century. It emerged in many parts of the United States in the form of independent popular musical styles, all linked by the common bonds of African American and European American musical parentage with a performance orientation.

Jazz spans a period of over 100 years and encompasses a range of music from ragtime to the present day, and has proved to be very difficult to define. Jazz makes heavy use of improvisation, polyrhythms, syncopation and the swung note, as well as aspects of European harmony, American popular music, the brass band tradition, and African musical elements such as blue notes and ragtime.

The birth of Jazz in the multicultural society of America has led intellectuals from around the world to hail Jazz as “one of America’s original art forms“.

As jazz spread around the world, it drew on different national, regional, and local musical cultures, giving rise to many distinctive styles. New Orleans jazz began in the early 1910s, combining earlier brass band marches, French quadrilles, biguine, ragtime and blues with collective polyphonic improvisation. In the 1930s, heavily arranged dance-oriented swing big bands, Kansas City jazz, a hard-swinging, bluesy, improvisational style and Gypsy jazz (a style that emphasized Musette waltzes) were the prominent styles. Bebop emerged in the 1940s, shifting jazz from danceable popular music towards a more challenging “musician’s music” which was played at faster tempos and used more chord-based improvisation. Cool jazz developed in the end of the 1940s, introducing calmer, smoother sounds and long, linear melodic lines.

The 1950s saw the emergence of Free jazz, which explored playing without regular meter, beat and formal structures, and in the mid-1950s, Hard bop, which introduced influences from rhythm and blues, gospel music, and blues, especially in the saxophone and piano playing. Modal jazz developed in the late 1950s, using the mode, or musical scale, as the basis of musical structure and improvisation. Jazz-rock fusion appeared in the late 1960s and early 1970s, combining jazz improvisation with rock rhythms, electric instruments and the highly amplified stage sound of rock. In the early 1980s, a commercial form of jazz fusion called “smooth jazz” became successful, garnering significant radio airplay. Other jazz styles include Afro-Cuban jazz, West Coast jazz, ska jazz, Indo jazz, avant-garde jazz, soul jazz, chamber jazz, Latin jazz, jazz funk, loft jazz, punk jazz, acid jazz, ethno jazz, jazz rap, M-Base, spiritual jazz and nu jazz.

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JAM will be all about encouraging musicians, radio stations, concert halls and more local facilities to promote the month by offering themed programmes to the public. Jazz Appreciation Month was created right here at the museum in 2002 to herald and celebrate the extraordinary heritage and history of jazz.Through local and national jazz fans everywhere, JAM is intended to stimulate the current jazz scene and encourage people of all ages to participate in jazz – to study the music, attend concerts, listen to jazz on radio and recordings, read books about jazz, and support institutional jazz programs.

The world has a rich history when it comes to jazz.

Especially in America! Ragtime, bebop, the blues are all types of jazz that have developed into the wide range of music we can hear today. But back in the 1800s in the American south jazz originated from slave plantations when the working slaves would try to break up the boredom of their day by singing. This accompanied the European-American musical tradition to create the basis for jazz.

Prominent jazz musician Louis Armstrong observed:

“At one time they were calling it levee camp music, then in my day it was ragtime. When I got up North I commenced to hear about jazz, Chicago style, Dixieland, swing. All refinements of what we played in New Orleans… There ain’t nothing new.”

Or as jazz musician J. J. Johnson put it in a 1988 interview:
Jazz is restless. It won’t stay put and it never will.”

Some of the great jazz artists include Frank Sinatra, Ella Fitzgerald and a singer I really love, Bessie Smith.

Which is fitting because its also her birthday in April!

jazz-appreciation-monthSo, is jazz just for people that already love jazz and want to celebrate it further? The answer is yes and no!

Yes, this gives jazz-lovers a great excuse to participate in jazz-related activities for the month – but it also gives them the chance to introduce an exciting genre of music to those less familiar!

Each year the event has a different theme. So, what is he reason for this? By introducing a theme, the Smithsonian Museum hopes to show how jazz can reach across different cultures, music genres, technology, gender and race! Phew!

For a list of Jam Director, Joann Stevens’ list of favourite jazz songs, click here. Keep an eye on the Jazz Appreciation Month website for more updates on the 2015 activities.

And don’t forget that on 30 April it is International Jazz Day. UNESCO proclaimed the day in November 2011 and the aim of the day is to raise awareness of jazz in education, peace and unity. The promotion of jazz will not only encourage people to appreciate the music but it is also a great way of joy and reducing tensions around the world.

International Directory of JAZZ ASSOCIATIONS – HERE

Meanwhile, why not take some inspiration from 112 ways to celebrate jazz – HERE.

There are endless ideas, so there’s no excuse not to take part!

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