Jazz Appreciation Month is here. Throughout April, the Smithsonian's National Museum of American History in Washington, D.C. will pay tribute to jazz with concerts, exhibits and an international trombone competition.
"The First Lady Of Song", Ella Fitzgerald was born in April. So were Duke Ellington, Billie Holiday, Bessie Smith, Lionel Hampton, Charles Mingus, Gerry Mulligan, Tito Puente and Herbie Hancock. Showing appreciation for the masters is one way to celebrate jazz this month.
"I think intelligent listening is the most valuable thing one can do if you're a fan or a student of the music," said John Hasse, the Smithsonian's Curator of American Music, who offers another way. "Careful, thoughtful listening with jazz in the foreground, not in the background. Not some background music to a conversation at a café or a nightclub, but listening to every note as you would Mozart or Bach or Ravi Shankar."
Jazz Appreciation Month is reaching Europe and beyond. Last April, only three countries got involved. This year, according to John Hasse, others have come on board with events and celebrations of their own.
"Central Asia, Estonia, Lithuania, Italy, The Netherlands, Switzerland, Germany, Canada, Belgium, Austria, and of course, the United States," said Mr. Hasse. "It's very encouraging. The word is spreading."
As the cherry blossoms bloom in Washington this month, so will jazz. At the Smithsonian, there'll be concerts featuring the Army, Navy and Marine jazz bands, films, poetry readings, and new and ongoing museum displays. And for the first time in April, the world's best young trombonists will perform in the 16th Annual Thelonious Monk Jazz Competition. Curator John Hasse says this year's celebration is especially meaningful with the eyes of the world focused on the Middle East.
"Lots of people, not only in the United States but elsewhere in the world, would like to be uplifted," said John Hasse. "And jazz is a music of uplift. It's a music that rewards careful listening with depth of feeling, with inspiration, clarity of thought, to the extent people do pay attention to jazz."