Today is Jazz Day, as established last year in a proclamation made by the U.S. Conference of Mayors.
That organization proclaimed, in part, that “jazz has spoken eloquently of freedom for people in the United States and abroad, and has become an international language that bridges differences and brings people of all races, ages, and backgrounds together.”
I couldn’t have said it better myself.
Hizzoners and Herhonners from all over the U.S. encourage mayors everywhere “to plan jazz related activities and programming.”
So what’s your mayor doing to further the cause of America’s classical music? Anything? What’s my mayor, Pam Iorio of Tampa, doing?
Hey, mayors, don’t fret if you’ve yet to make plans to show your support for jazz. It’s not too late. Your colleagues also urge you “to build partnerships with their local jazz society and other members of the arts and music community in their cities to proclaim, to participate in, Jazz Day April 9, 2010 and to celebrate the month of April as Jazz Appreciation Month.”
Jazz Appreciation Month, by the way, was established in 2001 by the Smithsonian.
The Tampa Jazz Club is based in Tampa, and holds events in Hillsborough County. The Al Downing Tampa Bay Jazz Association is based in St. Petersburg and holds events in Pinellas County. Both organizations draw their memberships from throughout the Tampa Bay area.
Instead of just waiting for the mayors to get busy, jazz fans can support the cause by taking these seven simple steps, some of which ought to be obvious.
1)Go hear live jazz in your town. Patronize venues that offer live jazz.
The Palladium in St. Petersburg, for example, is serious about putting high-end jazz on its stages. Recent examples: Singers Sophie Milman and Whitney James, and drummer Ronnie Burrage.
- Tonight, guitarist Pat Metheny brings his Orchestrion tour to Ruth Eckerd Hall in Clearwater (my story is here), while the phenomenal Afro-Cuban pianist Omar Sosa will lead his Afreecanos Quartet, featuring Senegalese singer vocalist Mola Sylla, in a concert at the Largo Cultural Center.
- Sunday afternoon (April 11), the Helios Jazz Orchestra will be joined by singer Belinda Womack at the Palladium.
- Saturday, April 17, the Dixieland Meets Swing show brings Bobby Tess and the Dixie Chaps and The Original All Stars to the Palladium.
- Sunday, April 18, I’ll be leading a trio, with vibraphonist Sam Koppelman and saxophonist Willie Lawson, for a 2 p.m. Jazz & Poetry event at the Jimmie B. Keel Regional Library. We’ll collaborate with poets Melissa Fair, Nyssa Rhiannon Hanger, Myron Jackson and Janet Sylvester.
- April 22-23, singer Amy London, guitarist Roni Ben-Hur and bassist John Lamb will present “Happy Birthday Duke and Ella” at the Palladium.
And don’t forget about all the good jazz club shows and jam sessions happening around the Tampa Bay area (my band, Trio Vibe, plays tonight at Della’s in Brandon).
2)Listen to local jazz radio, all night every night on WUSF, 89.7 FM and several times weekly on WMNF, 88.5 FM. Vote for jazz programming on those stations with your wallet, by making donations. You don’t have to wait for the pledge drives.
3)Support jazz programs in the schools. No jazz bands at your local middle school or high school? Encourage the band director to start one. Volunteer to help, if you can. Check out the low-dough concerts at area colleges and universities, including the Monday Night Jazz Series at USF in Tampa.
4)Buy CDs and downloads by local and national artists. Not sure where to start? Get good ideas by checking out the reviews and features in such magazines as Down Beat, Jazz Times and Jazziz, all of which can be found at major bookstores. Those publications offer some content for free online; much isn’t. Online sources for jazz features and reviews include All About Jazz and Jazz Review.com.
5)Encourage your local performing arts centers to bring in nationally and internationally known jazz artists. One first-rate artist a year — like, say, Pat Metheny at Ruth Eckerd Hall — is nice, but not nearly enough. Smooth jazz doesn’t count. Will REH, the Straz Center for the Performing Arts (formerly TBPAC) in Tampa and the Mahaffey Theater in St. Petersburg get serious about booking major jazz artists?
6)Support your local big jazz festival. In my area, it’s the Clearwater Jazz Holiday. Let’s encourage the Jazz Holiday to fill its stages with top-rank jazz artists, not just the smoothies.
7)Last but not least, play jazz at home and in the car. Give the next generation of music listeners a chance to hear it for themselves. C’mon, your kids — and my kids — can afford to take a break from Lady Gaga, 50 Cent and Hannah Montana. If we don’t build opportunities for children and teens to hear jazz, they won’t have the opportunity to come to it.