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International Jazz Day

Happy Jazz Day!


Jazz Radio all day


The King & Carter Jazzing Orchestra photographed in Houston, Texas, January 1921.

About the Day

What: In November 2011, during the UNESCO General Conference, the international community proclaimed 30 April as "International Jazz Day". The Day is intended to raise awareness in the international community of the virtues of jazz as an educational tool, and a force for peace, unity, dialogue and enhanced cooperation among people. Many governments, civil society organizations, educational institutions, and private citizens currently engaged in the promotion of jazz music will embrace the opportunity to foster greater appreciation not only for the music but also for the contribution it can make to building more inclusive societies.


A Great Day in Harlem



Trumpeter, bandleader and singer Louis Armstrong was a much-imitated innovator of early jazz.

Why International Jazz Day?
  • Jazz breaks down barriers and creates opportunities for mutual understanding and tolerance;
  • Jazz is a vector of freedom of expression;
  • Jazz is a symbol of unity and peace;
  • Jazz reduces tensions between individuals, groups, and communities;
  • Jazz fosters gender equality;
  • Jazz reinforces the role youth play for social change;
  • Jazz encourages artistic innovation, improvisation, new forms of expression, and inclusion of traditional music forms into new ones;
  • Jazz stimulates intercultural dialogue and empowers young people from marginalized societies.


Special Features
Events all day long
  • Live coverage by French Paris TSF JAZZ radio
  • Photo exhibitions by the Smithsonian’s National Museum of American History and Philippe Lévy-Stab (Miró Halls)
  • Screening of photo montage by Blue Note Records (Foyer)
  • Montreux Jazz Lounge
    Hosted by the Montreux Jazz Festival, with screening of legendary performances (Pas Perdus Room)

Join the celebration
  • Join UNESCO on Facebook and Twitter to exchange with others about jazz’s impact. Make sure to use #JazzDay in your message!

  • Organize a jazz concert in your community with local musicians and students.

  • Teachers, you may choose to center part of your classes around jazz. You could consider discussing jazz music and musicians, videos, concerts, or even documentaries.

  • Encourage your local community to participate by organizing seminars, photo exhibitions or film and video screenings.

  • Talk about jazz! Do some research on the history and legacy of jazz throughout the years, and engage in discussion with your children or your friends about what you have learned.

  • Browse the jazz selection at your local record store, and consider supporting the artists by purchasing the song or album you like best.

  • Donate your time to an NGO or a school helping to educate new generations about jazz music.

  • Learn some jazz, play an instrument, and teach others what you have learned!


Barbara Hendricks

Barbara Hendricks was born in the USA and received her musical training and her Bachelor of Music at the Juilliard School of Music in New York. She has more than 20 roles in her active opera repertoire and has performed with all of the leading conductors and orchestras of our time. She made her jazz debut at the Montreux Jazz Festival in 1994 and has since then performed regularly in renowned jazz festivals throughout the world with the Magnus Lindgren Quartet.

Who are your favorite jazz greats?

My introduction to jazz was due to my high school choir director, Arthur Porter who was considered to be the best jazz pianist in Arkansas at the time. He and his trio were invited to play at one of  Bill Clintons inaugural balls in 1992 . At age 15 I was his regular babysitter during the weekends when he played in local nightclubs. He had an enormous collection of jazz LPs and I listened to them while waiting for he and his wife to return home. My education and love for jazz began there in his living room some 50 years ago. Since thenI have listened to and been moved by so many great musicians at different times in my life. I am listening to a lot of Coleman Hawkins just now because my husband played one of his records some time ago and I love it and listen to it often! It is futile to give names but I can start with: Billie Holiday, Ella Fitzgerald, Oscar Peterson as well as some  great Blues musicians like Elisabeth Cotten, Son House and BB King; Negro Spirituals and the Blues are the roots of Jazz and these musicians have  had an enormous influence on a multitude of incredible geniuses that have come after them.

Why is it important for young people today to learn about jazz?

I believe that it is very important for young people to learn about music in all of its rich and varied aspects it should be included in the  curriculum of their general education from an early age.To learn about music without learning about jazz would be like learning about  dance without knowing what a waltz is! Jazz is an integral part of the cultural heritage of humankind.It is a gift that we too often ignore.It belongs to all of our children and to deny them access to it is to shirk our duties as adults to inspire and motivate them. Lack of knowledge of our this cultural heritage is cultural poverty and a wasted opportunity to allow them to explore their own budding creativity. I am a trained classical musician and my repertoire has included jazz for more than 20 years. I fight everyday to keep both jazz and classical music from being left out of our musical consciousness. What the mass media offers to us as culture is equivalent to industrialized food that it  conceived to be consumed quickly and to give the an impression of fullness and short term satisfaction but is sorely lack in the nourishment that feeds the soul.

What is your most memorable jazz ‘moment’?

The first time I sang on the stage of the Montreux Jazz Festival! When we decided to move to Montreux Switzerland some 25 years ago one of the first things that I was looking forward to was to be able to attend the legendary jazz festival every year. What I could never have imagined then was that one day I’d be singing jazz on stage there and that would be the beginning of my journey as a jazz musician.  I was introduced by Quincy Jones! It was so memorable to me because I, coming from the world of classical music and a beginner in jazz,  felt warmly welcomed in the jazz family by the musicians and the audience. It was an honor and a privilege to be standing on that stage where so many of the greatest jazz artists have stood.

Do you think that music (and jazz in particular) can promote peace and tolerance?

I think music has a very special power to touch us by bypassing our small brains which tend to get us into a lot of problems. Through the language of music, we are able to speak to one another and reach others. What can promote peace and tolerance is the conversation, the possibility of having a conversation with someone else.

Why do you think a day like International Jazz Day is important?

It’s important because we get a chance to acknowledge jazz all over the world. Collectively, if on that particular day, everyone is focused on jazz, it gives us the opportunity to introduce it to young audiences who are unaware of it or find it difficult, and to shed a light on that heritage, on the beauty and on the emotion that is in the music. I think people are so busy, and to take the time to celebrate jazz on one day where everyone is vibrating to the same beat all over the world is wonderful. There is so much we do to waste our time everyday, why not devote an international day to jazz?!

What is one action the public could do to promote Jazz Day or the values of jazz?

On International Jazz Day, allow yourself to be really open.  Decide that, today, I’m going to be open to whatever jazz wants to work on me and let it happen. It’s an openness to see and to accept. Once that is achieved, many will become ambassadors for jazz! There is not one jazz, there are so many different types and styles of jazz and music from many different periods. It is varied, as varied as we are, and as international as we are! You see that the roots of jazz come from Africa, and we have all come originally from Africa… it becomes obvious that this music is a apart of our universal language.

Do you think jazz brings together people from different cultures? Can you give examples from your personal experience?

In my quest  to learn more about the blues and the roots of jazz as I develop, it is very clear that when you hear music from Africa, from Mali, Senegal Nigeria, or you listen to delta blues from Mississippi, they’re speaking the same language. So all we have to do is to play more together , listen to each other play, play for others, and let that conversation continue to happen.


What is Jazz?

jazz instruments International Jazz Day

While Jazz Music has only been around since the begging of the 20th century, it has quickly blossomed from it’s humble beginnings into a wide dynamic range of sub-genres, including Bebop, Dixieland, Fusion and many more. The Jazz genre itself seems unwilling to accept a static label and it may be exactly as Jazz critic Joachim-Ernst Berendt suggests, the “spontaneity and vitality of [Jazz] musical production in which improvisation plays a role”; and “sonority and manner of phrasing which mirror the individuality of the performing jazz musician” ultimately makes it a genre that is very difficult to define.

One might go so far to say that each Jazz musician may in fact be creating a sub-genre unto themselves, as skilled Jazz performers will often interpret tunes based on their mood, experience, interactions with fellow musicians, or even the audience’s response and reaction to the music. So if you’ve been wondering why over just the last century we’ve seen the creation of more than half a dozen new ‘official’ Jazz sub-genres, now you know.

History of Jazz

Scott Joplin International Jazz Day

The word “Jazz” might be as controversial as the classification of its sub-genres. The American Dialect Society named “Jazz” the Word of the Twentieth Century. Beginning as West Coast slang in around 1912 with varied meanings (unrelated to music), the term “Jazz” was finally was associated with music in the town of Chicago around 1915. And although “Jazz” was being played in New Orleans prior to 1915, the “Jazz” being played there was not referred to by that name. If we trace Jazz back to it’s beginning we find Ragtime or Rag, which peaked in popularity between 1897 and 1918. Ragtime had a syncopated or more “ragged” rhythm, and featured artists such as Scott Joplin, Joseph Lamb, James Scott among others.

Want More? Tune into wmp icon 16x16 International Jazz Dayflash icon 16x16 International Jazz Day Jazz Music Internet Radio at 977Music. Celebrate International Jazz Day & share your favorite Jazz songs in the comments!

Louis Armstrong International Jazz Day

Tags:bebop, Blues, international jazz, jazz, ragtime



Interview with Herbie Hancock: the roots of jazz are in humanity

© UNESCO/Michel Ravassard – Herbie Hancock, at UNESCO, November 2004.

by Jasmina Šopova and Gina Doubleday
Herbie Hancock, the legendary American jazz pianist and composer, is the force behind UNESCO’s International Jazz Day, celebrated for the first time on 30 April 2012. In this interview he describes the humanist values of jazz and his mission as a UNESCO Goodwill Ambassador for Intercultural Dialogues.

What motivated you to propose the creation of International Jazz Day?

When I accepted the honour of being a UNESCO Goodwill Ambassador, in July 2011, I decided to dedicate my time and energy to a culture of peace. I therefore presented a project that would share the values of jazz on a global scale. The project was adopted by UNESCO’s General Conference in November 2011 and I hope this new International Day will stimulate interest in jazz, especially among young people.

You have been supportive of young people for many years, particularly through the Thelonius Monk Institute of Jazz, which you helped to establish.

I think that music—and jazz in particular, because it’s improvised—helps students to express themselves. Being able to express oneself is a very liberating act for a human being. We have statistics that prove that students who have gone through our program have done considerably better in other subjects, like math, science, literature. Being exposed to the values of jazz has a direct effect on their sense of hope, their sense of self-worth, because the values of jazz are very high values.

What are the values of jazz?

Living in the moment, working together and, especially, respecting others. Music, and jazz in particular, is an international language that represents freedom because of its origin—growing out of slavery.

Jazz is in the moment, and it’s non-judgmental: when you’re playing on the stage, you’re not judging what the other musician plays. What you have in mind is to be able to enhance it – whatever a musician plays, your job and your desire is to be able to help it to blossom. It’s not about “I don’t like what that person played,” because as soon as you have that judgmental attitude, it actually stops the flow of the music. There’s a sense of mutual cooperation. Those values are not only wonderful values to have for the creation of music; they are wonderful values to have for daily life.

Dialogue is part of the music and people can sense that, I believe. I’ll give you an example: In 1998, President Clinton asked the Thelonious Monk Institute to represent jazz for the United States at the Summit of the Americas in Chile. When we were on stage, I could look out at the audience and see the representatives of the different countries relaxing. I could see a glow come to their faces, and I could see the invisible barriers coming down. The next day President Clinton told us that we did more for intercultural dialogue than all of the heads of states and ambassadors that were there. (Laughs)

Your latest album, The Imagine Project (2010) brings together musicians from the United States, United Kingdom, Ireland, Mali, Congo, Columbia, Somalia, Mexico, South Africa and India. It also blends different musical styles, from jazz to hip-hop. What was your intention in making this album?

When it came to thinking about doing another record, I asked myself what purpose would the record serve. I didn’t think this way when I started in the music business, but over time, from living life, and also through my practice of Buddhism, I ask questions like this of myself now. What would be my purpose of making this record? Is it just putting music on a disk, or would it have some deeper meaning?

One of the issues of the day is globalization, which is a process of human beings adapting to a sense of this being one world with one people. We are all human beings.

I wanted to address that issue musically, so I decided to make an album record that had songs performed by artists from different countries, in many languages. I wanted to make a global record. It’s in seven languages, and we recorded the songs in each artist’s country, so we went around the world to make this record!

I wanted to show the incredible potential that globalization holds for us, if we create the kind of globalized world we want to live in. We don’t want a selfish, greedy world. We want a world where people are not just thinking about ‘I’, but thinking about ‘we’. Imagine a world like that. That’s why I borrowed the name of John Lennon’s song “Imagine”.

Are you going back to Africa with jazz with this project?

When I made the Imagine project, I didn’t think of it as a jazz record. Jazz has its own kind of box that it can fit in; but I wanted to remove the walls.

Am I taking jazz back to its initial roots? My feeling is that the roots of jazz are in humanity. So my answer is yes, but not just to Africa – the roots are also in Ireland, in various countries.

I think the roots of jazz are in humankind. This is why I would like to see jazz added to the List of Intangible Heritage, just as I would like to see important birthplaces of jazz—in Mississippi, New Orleans, Chicago or New York—inscribed on the World Heritage List.

Your mission at UNESCO is closely linked to World Heritage.

Yes, and I’m playing tomorrow night (30 January 2012) at UNESCO at the launch of the 40th anniversary celebrations of the World Heritage Convention, and I’m very proud to do so. I consider World Heritage preservation to be one of the highlights of UNESCO’s work. The sites are not just jewels of world culture, but also emblematic places for the history of countries and the transmission of this history to younger generations.

For my first mission as Goodwill Ambassador I visited World Heritage sites in South-East Asia, and was made even more aware of this significance. I had the honour of visiting Borobudur and Prambanan in Indonesia, and Angkor in Cambodia. This was an inspiring and uplifting experience. I saw how the development of a World Heritage site creates jobs for people and promotes local activity through arts and crafts, promoting development and growth.

I was also deeply moved by the kind of international and intercultural cooperation that the World Heritage sites created to preserve these treasures. Entire temples were dismantled and restored patiently, stone by stone. This is how I see the construction of peace in the world, and I am proud, as a UNESCO Goodwill Ambassador, to play my part in this effort.





Double bassist Reggie Workman, saxophone player Pharaoh Sanders, and drummer Idris Muhammad performing in 1978



In the late 18th-century painting The Old Plantation, African-Americans dance to banjo and percussion.



The blackface Virginia Minstrels in 1843, featuring tambourine, fiddle, banjo and bones.



The Bolden Band around 1905.



Morton published "Jelly Roll Blues" in 1915, the first jazz work in print.



Duke Ellington at the Hurricane Club (1943).



Louis Armstrong in 1953



Birth of the Cool by Miles Davis (1949, 1950).



Fusion trumpeter Miles Davis in 1989



extant by Herbie Hancock (Recorded 1972, released in 1973).

See also

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African American portal

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Jazz portal

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Music portal


External links

Wikiquote has a collection of quotations related to: Jazz

Wikimedia Commons has media related to: Jazz



International Jazz Day



Jazz Sound Clips

  • Jazz Video


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