Jazz is characterized by its syncopated rhythms, polyphonic ensemble playing, varying degrees of improvisation, often deliberate deviations of pitch, and the use of original timbres, ensuring quite simply, its sounds unite people from all cultures and all backgrounds across the world. Launched in Australia on April 30, 2019, and celebrated in 190 countries around the world, International Jazz Day is a festival, making spirits soar.
A UNESCO (United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization) event, this year’s global concert will take place at Hamer Hall, Melbourne, as renowned musicians from around the world gather to entertain listeners who enjoy this enduring genre of music, which is constantly evolving. It has a distinctive sound of its own, from swing to avant garde manifestations, it has ‘varying degrees and endless permutations’.
At the time of its arrival in the late nineteenth century, you required an expensive piano for the parlor and time in learning to play it. All that would change, however in the meantime there was a World War (1914-1918) to contend with. The capturing of the public interest for jazz was helped by all new means for spreading its enjoyment.
During the 20’s and the 30’s, phonograph recordings and wireless broadcasting meant the growing middle class was able to bring music into their homes and many people became smitten with jazz. Simply by tuning into your radio or winding up the phonograph, you could entertain your friends and spread the joy of new music far more easily and Jazz thrived.
Its birth among the rhythmic sounds of West African and North Amerian sources, ensured it was always unconventional until it took on harmony and spiritualty allowing it to gain a language and form of its own.
The addition of ‘blues’ and ragtime’ helped it to become popular entertainment and dance music. Trumpet genius Louis “Satchmo” Armstrong (1901-1971) taught the whole world how to ‘swing’.
In New Orleans in the south of America, a distinctive jazz style with music typically played on cornet, clarinet, trombone, tuba, bass, piano, banjo and drums, emerged.
The Saxophone was a later arrival and during World War II, American Jazz entertainers got on board entertaining the troops who took it into their heart.
Growing up in the 50’s Jazz was integral to my whole family musical experience. Following World War II, Jazz exploded during the 1960’s into a world no longer a series of states, or political divide, but one on the way to becoming ‘global’.
New wave Jazz musicians created a tradition, which has been passed down through community, emerging out of cultural beliefs or the ideas and hopes of the so- called ‘ordinary’ people.
The aim of the festival is to promote ‘peace and intercultural dialogue, while reinforcing international cooperation and communication by mobilizing the intellectual community; the decision makers, cultural entrepreneurs, cultural and educational institutions and the media to promote jazz-related values.
They act as a vector for the mandate of UNESCO, which works to create the conditions for genuine dialogue between civilizations, cultures and peoples, based upon mutual respect and respect for shared values.
Nearly every era of recorded jazz will be showcased, under the influence and inspiration of Iconic jazz pianist Herbie Hancock (USA) and acclaimed trumpeter James Morrison (Australia) whose Academy of Music at the University of South Australia, has gained the reputation of being the most innovative and exciting place to undertake jazz studies in Australia.
The Herbie Hancock Institute of Jazz is UNESCO’s official partner in the organization and promotion of International Jazz Day.
Hancock and Morrison are both serving as artistic co-directors and will be performers, alongside colleagues such as Antonio Pizzarelli on Saxophones and clarinets, Felice Lionetti Piano, Giovanni Mastrangelo on Double bass and Antonio Cicoria Drums, plus some thirty of Jazz’s world renowned artists today.
Performance and outreach programs will also take place in Adelaide, Mount Gambier, Sydney, Perth and other Australian cities. A jazz education program for student musicians in the indigenous community of Yarrabah, in Far Northern Australia, to be followed by similar programs in Sydney for students from New South Wales public schools.
Generations in Jazz, a youth festival to be held in Mount Gambier, South Australia, will provide the finale, and James Morrison and Kurt Elling will lead more than 6,000 high school student musicians in what is the largest youth jazz festival in the world.
Thousands of programs happening globally will celebrate jazz as a universal language of peace, by showing jazz-themed films, offering lectures and book readings, theatre performances and panel discussions. Jazz, well it is positively therapeutic when performed by Satchmo and his band led by Bing Crosby.
There will also be jam sessions, master classes, and radio and television broadcast sure to be popular and have an ongoing community impact, benefiting millions of students, academics, professional musicians and music lovers everywhere.
Music, especially jazz, creates camaraderie at major festivals and has been proven medically to have many therapeutic qualities including providing an atmosphere of calm in a very busy world.
Carolyn McDowall, The Culture Concept Circle, 2019