Accessibility links

Celebrations, Death of Guitarist Les Paul Marked 2009 in Jazz

2009 marked a year of celebration in jazz. One of the more notable events was a jazz clinic at the White House, hosted by U.S. First Lady Michelle Obama.

It was a day to remember for 150 lucky high school jazz students who came to the White House in June for a program called Jazz Studio. Front and center were five members of the Marsalis family and saxophonist Paquito D'Rivera, who led an interactive music workshop and concert. Mrs. Obama summed up the event saying, "There is no better example of democracy than a jazz ensemble."

Speaking of up-and-coming jazz ensembles, 10 bands were selected for a U.S. State Department world tour. As part of the Department's American Music Abroad Program, the groups will travel to countries not often visited by American jazz musicians, in such regions as Africa, Asia, Europe, Latin America and the Middle East. Included on the tour are public concerts, master classes, lectures, and collaborations with local musicians.

Satellite radio first

As jazz spreads cheer throughout the world, closer to home jazz continues to grow on satellite radio. For the first time in its history, the Sirius/XM radio network dedicated one of its channels exclusively to a jazz artist, trumpeter Miles Davis. Although it was a limited-run program, hundreds of tracks by Miles Davis were beamed across the country, non-stop and commercial-free for five straight days.

On one of his only recording dates for Blue Note Records, March 9, 1958, Miles Davis performed Cole Porter's "Love For Sale," from Cannonball Adderley's critically-acclaimed album, Somethin' Else.

While Blue Note couldn't claim Miles for its permanent roster, the label which celebrated its 60th anniversary in 2009, was home to some of the greatest names in jazz. Despite swirling changes in jazz over the decades, Blue Note has managed to stay afloat with distinguished players, from its earliest years with stride pianist James P. Johnson; through the '40s and '50s with Art Blakey and Thelonious Monk; and its most recent catalogue featuring albums by Herbie Hancock, John Scofield, Wynton Marsalis, and Norah Jones, who released one of the most successful jazz albums of all time, Come Away With Me.

Les Paul Dies

Someone once said, "Without Les Paul, we would not have rock and roll as we know it." Those sentiments were echoed across the globe when guitar virtuoso Les Paul died in August at the age of 94. Paul was known for his innovative multi-track recording techniques; for designing the solid body electric guitar; and for his string of hits with his wife and singer Mary Ford.

Also lost in 2009 were jazz composer George Russell, saxophonists Hank Crawford, David "Fathead" Newman and Johnny Almond, blues singer Koko Taylor, drummer Eddie Locke, vocalists Al Martino, Kenny Rankin, and Blossom Dearie, and 101-year-old guitarist Lawrence Lucie, who recorded with everyone from Jelly Roll Morton and Coleman Hawkins to Billie Holiday and Louis Armstrong.

Louis Armstrong Remembered

Close to 40 years after his death, Louis Armstrong remains one of the most popular figures in jazz. 2009 saw the release of more than 60 new titles by Armstrong, many of them imports, compilations and reissues. A five-disc set of John Coltrane music was one of the year's best sellers, as well as new albums by Boney James, Chris Botti, Diana Krall, Harry Connick, Junior and Michael Buble.

Buble also appears alongside past and present jazz greats on the 2009 holiday musical collection Letters To Santa, singing "Let It Snow! Let It Snow! Let It Snow!"