Apr 13, 2012
In April 2001, the National Museum of American History of the Smithsonian Institution launched the first Jazz Appreciation Month to honor both the legacy of America’s original art form and its relevance and importance as a part of modern American culture. Throughout the nation, schools, organizations, and local governments celebrate JAM with diverse events and concerts. This year, JAM highlights “the role of jazz and jazz advocates in crossing musical and cultural borders to support freedom, creativity, and unity.”
While there is an entire month devoted to jazz, April 13 has been designated Jazz Day this year, If you are reading this posting, than you're likely hip to the jazz scene. But if you aren't, or you want to spread the gospel, may I borrow some ideas from Andrea Cantor at Jazz Police and suggest:
1. Listen to jazz! As easy as it gets, simply tune in to your favorite jazz radio station or online broadcast source. Here in Western Massachusetts, that means the non-commercial part of the dial, especially WFCR and WMUA out of UMass. The wonder of the internet has given us the ability to listen to great jazz stations from across the world on-line. Pandora and Spotify are services that let you here music to which you might never be exposed. And be sure to remember your favorite non-profit stations during their pledge drives!
2. Buy jazz! Choose your music, via CD, DVD, vinyl, iTunes, whatever media you prefer. Buying music supports the musicians, the producers, the labels, etc. that keep the music going. More and more music is made available independently, so check the performer’s website or CD Baby to buy directly from the originator whenever possible.
3. Listen to live jazz! On any night of the week, sometimes even earlier in the day, you can find live jazz of all styles within a short drive. There are online sources from Tom Reney, the Hartford Jazz Society and more that list local and national acts. Google your favorite clubs and concert venues, and check out the upcoming schedules of jazz festivals in Saratoga, Newport, Burlington, Hartford, Litchfield and Northampton. Listening to live music, and watching the musicians communicate, provides a much deeper experience than merely listening to recordings on radio or stereo. And attending live performances supports the venues that present music and the artists who perform.
4. Introduce a friend to jazz. This month—or every month!—introduce someone to the music you love. Too often we hear “Oh, I just don’t like jazz….” Considering the wide range of music classified as “jazz,” it seems unlikely that someone would dislike the entirety of jazz. More likely, their exposure has been limited. Maybe they don’t like Dixieland but might fall in love with Coltrane; maybe Coltrane is just too “out” but what about swinging big bands? Maybe Return to Forever is too electrified but what about the lyricism of Bill Evans or Keith Jarrett? If you know what your friends like to listen to, you can probably figure out a jazz performance that would appeal. Find something close by, inexpensive or free, and suggest a musical adventure!
5. Introduce a youngster to jazz. Music seems to have natural appeal to children, and there are many opportunities here to find an event that is aimed at youth and families. Check out programs at area libraries, museums, schools, etc. Look for jazz events that involve demonstration, hands-on activities, etc. If you read to your younger children, consider books like “Charlie Parker played Be-Bop”. A lot of high schools have spring jazz band concerts – seeing older kids perform can be very inspiring to future musicians and future listeners. And be sure to share information about “summer camps” for budding musicians like UMass’ Jazz in July.
6. Volunteer to help an organization devoted to jazz. I’m involved with the Northampton Jazz Festival and Valley Jazz Network, and there are many more opportunities out there. Take it from me, these groups often need volunteers to help with special events, fund raisers, etc. Donations are always welcome but so is your help!
7. Spread the word about a jazz
event. Post a message on Facebook, Twitter, your blog,
whatever your social media outlet. Let your friends know where you
plan to go, what band you plan to hear, and invite them to join
you. After the event, post a comment about it, especially if you
would do it again! “Like” your favorite local jazz initiatives on
Facebook. Forward links to this blog site and other great sites.
Suggest people subscribe to rss feeds for sites on the
8. Educate yourself about jazz. Find a class through community education; download lessons and materials from online jazz education sites; check the library or your favorite book or CD source for some new music or books about jazz; attend any open workshops, master classes, public rehearsals, etc. Even if you do not have much of a foundation in music, you can learn quite a bit from reading, listening, and observing instruction. (For some accessible online materials and media archives, visit the Jazz at Lincoln Center and the Smithsonian Jazz websites.)
9. Suggest jazz artists and events to venues. Tell club owners what you want to see and hear. Contact curators of events at area concert halls to suggest jazz artists for their performance series. Let them know there is an audience for jazz!
10. Support jazz musicians at all levels. Put something in that tip jar! Get out as often as you can to hear new talents as well as the veterans, at new venues as well as the established ones. Add your name or email address to musicians’ mailing lists. Visit musicians’ websites. “Like” jazz artists on Face Book! Support projects on sites like KickStarter, ArtistShare, etc.