Let’s make every month Jazz Appreciation Month! One of the greatest things this country exports around the world is our music and culture. This includes the American art forms of Jazz and Blues.
As we’ve stated many times in our Jazz Notes blogs – Jazz and Blues have been some of the most important musical genres in the history of music. Their influence on music around the world has made its mark influencing everything from R&B, Rock, Classical, World, Country, to Gospel, Electronic, Hip Hop and everything in between.
Jazz awareness has been steadily growing in the past couple of decades due to efforts by musicians, historians, journalists, educators and other cultural advocates. Jazz studies programs are growing on the high school and university level enabling young people to become acquainted with, and inspired by, the music early on.
Jazz Awareness Month (April) and International Jazz Day (April 30) are two relatively recent examples of America publicly recognizing their enormous contributions to world culture through it’s indigenous art forms of Blues and Jazz – both of which are rooted in African American musical traditions.
These commemorative months/days give us a chance to recognize and celebrate what this country has contributed to world culture. Our nation is still quite young compared to most others and yet we’ve created the most important contemporary musical art forms from the past century…that are celebrated all over the world.
The following text includes excerpts from the Smithsonian’s website which gives us some interesting background on the creation of Jazz Appreciation Month (JAM) which is a music festival held every April in the United States, in honor of Jazz as an early American art form.
JAM was created in 2001 by John Edward Hasse, PhD, curator of the Smithsonian’s National Museum of American History. Initial funding was provided by the Ella Fitzgerald Charitable Foundation. Miss Fitzgerald’s archives are housed at the Smithsonian.
Schools, organizations, and even governments celebrate JAM with events ranging from free concerts to educational programs. JAM is intended to stimulate and encourage people of all ages to participate in jazz – to study the music, attend concerts, listen to jazz on radio and recordings, read books about jazz, and more.
Jazz Appreciation Month 2017: Women in Jazz
2017 Featured musician: Ella Fitzgerald
This year, being the centennial of Jazz icon Ella Fitzgerald, JAM 2017 will celebrate women in Jazz. Beyond the traditional female vocalist, there are also many great composers, arrangers, orchestrators, and instrumentalists who have and continue to leave an indelible print on the history and future of jazz.
Ella Fitzgerald (1917-1996) was one of the greatest American singers in any genre of music. She had a warm and lovely voice, superb rhythmic sense, considerable versatility, a great range (three and a half octaves), meticulous intonation, and improvisatory gifts as a fine natural melodist.
With an unparalleled ability for mimicry and “scat” singing, Fitzgerald also produced melodic lines that put her in the category of great instrumental improvisers. Known as a singer’s singer, she recorded some two thousand songs in her lifetime.
The Ella Fitzgerald Collection, including the Ella Fitzgerald Papers, was donated in 1996 to the National Museum of American History, which has led to a rich amount of resources available for Jazz scholars, teachers, students and fans.
Celebrating 100 years of the First Lady of Song
In the 1930s, amateur contests were among the most popular attractions at theaters in Ella Fitzgerald’s neighborhood of Harlem, NY. At age 16, Ella Fitzgerald and two of her girlfriends wanted to get onstage. They made a bet and drew straws to see which one of them would go on the amateur hour at the Apollo Theater — Ella drew the short straw! Ella had studied dance and was planning to perform a dance number. Why did she end up singing instead? Because she was so thrown off guard by the success of the two teenaged dancing sisters that performed before she was supposed to go onstage.
Ella Jane Fitzgerald (April 25, 1917 – June 15, 1996) was an American jazz singer often referred to as the First Lady of Song, Queen of Jazz and Lady Ella. She was noted for her purity of tone, impeccable diction, phrasing and intonation, and a “horn-like” improvisational ability, particularly in her scat singing.
After tumultuous teenage years, Fitzgerald found stability in musical success with the Chick Webb Orchestra, performing across the country, but most often associated with the Savoy Ballroom in Harlem. Fitzgerald’s rendition of the nursery rhyme “A-Tisket, A-Tasket” helped boost both her and Webb to national fame. Taking over the band after Webb died, Fitzgerald left it behind in 1942 to start a solo career that would last effectively the rest of her life.
Detroit Public Radio mainstay, Judy Adams, is a trained pianist, composer and musicologist who hosts a Jazz and contemporary music show on CJAM 99.1FM and guest hosts on WRCJ 90.9FM.