Wednesday, April 30
5:30p JAZZmob at Union Station
Tony White, saxophone and producer
Ndugu Chancler, drums
Edwin Livingston, bass
7:30p International House of Jazz @ The CAP
Tatiana Parra, Vardan Ovsepian, and Artoym Manukyan
Hitomi Oba, Abe Lagrimas, Miles Senzaki, Gary Fukushima, Hamilton Price
by Gary Fukushima
This coming Wednesday we as jazz musicians and fans have the opportunity to join with human beings all over the world to celebrate something that can unite us all despite our differences. It happens every spring, just like Easter, and its likewise full of joy, and love, and egg hunting.
In November 2011 (I’m not sure why they won’t give us an exact date. What are they hiding?) The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) decided to designate April 30 as International Jazz Day, with the purpose of “highlighting jazz and its diplomatic role in uniting people in all corners of the globe.
There is a historical precedent to linking jazz and diplomacy. In 1956, U.S. Congressman (from Harlem) Adam Clayton Powell successfully lobbied the State Department to enlist Dizzy Gillespie to embark on a U.S. sponsored (and funded) world tour in the name of cultural diplomacy. The move was a response to assertions by the Soviet Union and other communist nations that America was a decadent, imperialist society that had a huge equality problem, especially in the area of racial equality concerning African Americans. One might argue the assertions were more accurate than not at that time, but the act of sending a black man leading an integrated band (including women, whites, and Jews) sent a powerful message to the world reinforcing America’s difficult steps toward unity and reconciliation. The U.S. also wanted to display in full force perhaps its greatest and most loved contribution to the world; the art form known as Jazz. The tour was a huge success, with Dizzy being lauded and applauded by new jazz fans from Athens to Iran to Syria to Pakistan. It should be noted there was an issue of hypocrisy when a nation which still recognized the legality of Jim Crow laws nevertheless elevated a person of color like Dizzy to be its ambassador. The very next year, Louis Armstrong called out that hypocrisy, canceling his own State Department tour after the National Guard incident in Little Rock, Arkansas. Armstrong eventually went on multiple tours in the 1960’s, to great fanfare.
It’s now 2013, and our current ambassador for jazz is none other than pianist Herbie Hancock, who is unequivocally suited to be the face and voice of jazz around the world. This year for IJD Herbie will be in Osaka, Japan, spearheading a full schedule of concerts and workshops featuring so many lovely jazz musicians that I’m not going to list here, since I can bet less than 1% of you reading this will be in Osaka on April 30. John Beasley, if you are reading this, you are the 1 percent, and congrats on being the musical director for IJD this year!
As for the rest of us back here in Los Angeles, take heart, for there are a number of events scheduled on April 30 where you can go to show your love for jazz and your love for bringing people together. At least I hope you love those things. Allow me to highlight two events:
On 4/30 at 5:30pm, you can take part in a ‘Jazz Flash Mob’ at Union Station in downtown Los Angeles. This crazy event is the brainchild of saxophonist Tony White, who is also an exceptional educator and humanitarian. Tony, as head of the Beyond the Bell program through the LA Unified School District, was able to partner with the Jazz Education Network (JEN) and Make Music LA (MMLA) to pull this off. He’s enlisted legendary drummer Ndugu Chancler and bassist Edwin Livingston to lay down the rhythm section. That sound you are hearing right now? That is the sound that sounds like fun.
Only thing is you have to register ahead of time, but they have provided a neat link,
which you can click on right
HERE (Click the word marked ‘HERE’)
[yes, the word ‘HERE’ on the previous line]
After getting your flash mob on, you might want to head up to Sherman Oaks, where at the gorgeous CAP Studio Theater we are going to be curating an event called the International House of Jazz. I just suddenly had a craving for hash browns. When I was in college in Seattle I had quite a few friends who were from other countries, who came to the States for a first-rate American education. Some of these friends of mine were living in a large multi-room house on Greek Row called the International House. I remember visiting their place and being struck by how close the members of the IH were with each other, even though they all from vastly different parts of the world and spoke different languages. It seemed to me they all found a shared experience through the very nature of being different, and it brought them closer.
In a way, jazz musicians can often feel they are from another planet, as they enjoy listening to and playing things that in this day and age carry little relevancy to the rest of the world. Jazz festivals can sometimes provide a feeling of belongingness, after endless months of musical isolation, a de facto desert island with nothing but your favorite Albert Ayler records. So just getting to see a bunch of creative musicians all in the same room is exciting. At the same time, this is also an International House, so we’ve hand picked artists and groups who represent, either by nationality or musically, many different parts of the world. We have musicians from Brazil, Armenia, Japan, Hawaii, New Zealand, Arkansas, Oklahoma, and elsewhere, and kind of music that will be played will reflect an even larger swath of multiculturalism. Yet jazz and improvised music will be the unifier for all of us on this day.
This article is running long, so in my next post, I will be going into detail to highlight each of the four groups that will be performing that night, but suffice it to say, I am excited to produce this show and contribute to the myriad of festivities happening all over the world for International Jazz Day. In the meantime, mmmm, bacon.