Sunday, April 1, 2012

April is JAZZ Appreciation Month

April is Jazz Appreciation Month in the United States. I had never heard of this, but when I did a little bit of digging it turns out that this was started by the Smithsonian National Museum on Natural History in Washington DC. Turns out that they have quite a collection of jazz-related items in their archives, and as jazz is largely considered an American form of music, the Smithsonian decided to help celebrate it.

They have jazz-related events during the entire month of April. No fooling!
You can learn more at their site,

When I went to do research on this theme, I kept thinking, "What is jazz? I don't like jazz, do I?" But of course I found Ella Fitzgerald, Duke Ellington, Ray Charles, and of course, Louis Armstrong, and then I found myself saying, "Hell yes, what was I thinking, I LOVE jazz!"

On the other hand, I also saw Kenny G and other "smooth operators" like Sade and I don't particularly like that stuff at all. So for every Anita Baker who I could listen to all day, there are "blues" artists like Billie Holiday who I never liked at all. So what the hell IS "jazz," anyway??

Is THIS jazz? This is one of the first times I ever heard anything actually calling itself jazz....and I love this...even though it's sung by a white British lady!?!?!

You gotta admit, this is pretty good stuff. (Even though I NEVER understood anybody mistaking Julie Andrews for a guy! "He" needed to be a little bit more masculine to convince me, haha).

Anyway....What about this? Is THIS jazz?

Or is this a "standard"? When I was growing up in St. Louis I heard a lot of Nat "King" Cole and Marvin Hamlish' theme from THE STING (actually based on Scott Joplin's "The Entertainer"). So I guess I never equated African-American music with jazz *necessarily.* (I wouldn't say MONA LISA is jazz, but maybe there are jazzy versions of it...?) And of course, "the blues" (such as "St. Louis Blues" and Scott Joplin ragtime songs were always around. I never liked any of the sad stuff, but I loved me some honky-tonk piano-laying, mean saxophone, and wild trumpeting. Ragtime, big-band tunes, bebop, "cool" jazz, dixieland, "soul" music...were all of these  jazz, but not "standards"? Was there a difference?!

Now that I'm older and I've seen just how international jazz is and just how many types of music can (and do!) fall under the header of "jazz" my answer to this question is....."Jazz is anything it wants to be. It's hot, it's cool, it's fun, it's blue, it's what you need to hear at any given time...."

To start us off this month, here's Tony Bennett (not necessarily a "jazz" artist) and the wonderful Count Basie from their 1959 recording, PLENTY OF MONEY AND YOU. I love this song, so I guess I love me some jazz. :-)

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