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International Celebration Made for Memorable 2012 in Jazz

  • Doug Levine

Wynton Marsalis performs during the International Jazz Day Concert held at the United Nations General Assembly Hall in New York, April 30, 2012.

Wynton Marsalis performs during the International Jazz Day Concert held at the United Nations General Assembly Hall in New York, April 30, 2012.

2012 was marked by International Jazz Day which made its United States debut in New Orleans, Louisiana and in dozens of cities across the globe.

International Jazz Day unfolded in Congo Square, where in the 19th century, musicians, dancers and onlookers once celebrated on Sunday afternoons. According to Herbie Hancock, a Goodwill Ambassador for the event’s organizers, the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), Congo Square was the perfect setting to mark its inauguration.


“If you think about the fact that New Orleans was really the birthplace of jazz, and particularly Congo Square, there is no other place that would truly represent the birthplace and sunrise and so forth,” Hancock said.

Hancock was referring to the sunrise concert in Congo Square where he performed his jazz standard “Watermelon Man.” The lineup there included local favorites Terence Blanchard, Ellis Marsalis, Kermit Ruffins and many more. There were also star-studded concerts in New York and Paris promoting jazz as a universal language of freedom and creativity.

Festivals

The Yosvany Terry Quartet performs at the inaugural Jazz & Colors Festival, Nov. 10, 2012, in New York's Central Park.

The Yosvany Terry Quartet performs at the inaugural Jazz & Colors Festival, Nov. 10, 2012, in New York's Central Park.

The stars were shining at the San Francisco Jazz Festival which celebrated its 30th anniversary with 30 concerts over four months, including Sonny Rollins, Ornette Coleman, Dianne Reeves, Randy Brecker, Branford Marsalis, Esperanza Spalding, and a tribute to Thelonious Monk by three generations of jazz pianists.

And speaking of the number 30, free concerts called “Jazz & Colors,” featuring 30 jazz groups, were held at 30 different landmarks in New York City’s Central Park. Sites included the Cherry Hill Fountain, Summit Rock, the 59th Street Pond and Duke Ellington Circle.

It was a year to celebrate past jazz masters, including Miles Davis who was honored by the US Postal Service with his own postage stamp.

The Musical Instrument Museum in Phoenix, Arizona offered an exhibit on the Golden Age of Jazz. On display were a guitar played by Charlie Christian, Illinois Jacquet’s saxophone and vintage photographs by William Gottlieb.

In memoriam

Kennedy Center honoree Dave Brubeck talks with the media at the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts for the 2009 Kennedy Center Honors Dec. 6, 2009.

Kennedy Center honoree Dave Brubeck talks with the media at the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts for the 2009 Kennedy Center Honors Dec. 6, 2009.

Sadly, in 2012, the jazz world mourned the death of pianist and composer Dave Brubeck, who ignited his long career with the release of his Quartet’s smash hit “Take Five.” We also bid farewell to singer Etta James, bandleader Johnny Otis, composer Clare Fischer, and New Orleans bass drummer “Uncle” Lionel Batiste.

GRP Records, known as the “Digital Master Company,” celebrated its 30th anniversary as an independent label with the release of “GRP 30,” a compilation of contemporary jazz covering the past three decades. Legendary bass player Charles Mingus was remembered with a new seven-disc collection called “The Jazz Workshop Concerts, 1964-1965.” And, renowned crooner Tony Bennett, performing alongside Aretha Franklin, Willie Nelson, Amy Winehouse, Michael Buble, and more than a dozen other stars, reached the Number One spot on the Billboard 200 Albums chart for the first time ever with his top-selling album, Duets II.
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