30 April 2014 - Jazz. Described as restless, refusing to stay put, constantly evolving and changing - right down to the manner one emphasises the word. Jazz, energetic and passionate, can be heard drifting through the streets of New Orleans played by rag-tag street musicians or drifting from jazz clubs carried by the evening breeze. Or, Jazz, smooth and comforting, can be heard softly playing in the background at a high-end reception surrounded by black ties and high heels.
This restless nature comes from the very origin of the musical genre. Born in the United States, jazz draws on influences from Africa, Europe, and the Caribbean. The genres, the sub-genres, and regional differences are legion. From blues to bossa nova jazz has been adopted, changed and restyled countless times.
In recognition of its universal appeal, message and significance around the world, UNESCO has proclaimed the 30 of April as "International Jazz Day". Behind so many mixed roots, styles and interpretations lies one uniting factor: improvisation. The jazz band provides the background, the cadre, within which the musician can be free to travel. Be it on the trumpet, drums, saxophone, flute or any other instrument, a key aspect in jazz is for its performer’s individual creativity to flow through.
Louis Armstrong on the trumpet, Duke Ellington behind his piano, Frank Sinatra with his voice, or Ray Charles fusing jazz into soul and R&B, each brought his own inimitable style. And the world of jazz is not only reserved for men. From the “Queen of Jazz” Ella Fitzgerald, to the powerful vocals of Aretha Franklin or the psychedelic tunes of Janis Joplin, female artists have taken jazz, or aspects of it, as an influence for their work. Thus adding to the exponential expansion of its sub-genre’s and derivatives.
Jazz is based in the struggle for civil rights and equality, born from the oppression of African-Americans in the southern states. It provided the soundtrack for past struggles for dignity and civil rights. It remains today a force for social transformation, because it tells a story of freedom that all people share.
To observe this day a concert, featuring an all-star international cast of musicians, will be held in Japan and webcast live around the world. Enjoy the concert and learn more about Jazz in the world today at the official website.The International Jazz Day is intended to raise awareness of the virtues of jazz as an educational tool and force for peace, unity, dialogue and enhanced cooperation among people. According to UNESCO director Irina Bokova, “Jazz is here for us all, to give shape to our aspirations for respect, tolerance and freedom.”
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