International Jazz Day: the event of the week
For those who think they don’t ‘get’ jazz, just put yourself in a room with some live jazz musicians
This is also the time of year when Ireland’s jazz community rouses itself from its winter slumber and comes awake with a slew of festivals
It was all Herbie Hancock’s idea. For the legendary Chicago-born pianist, jazz is much more than a style of music – it’s an attitude, and the values of jazz – improvisation, interaction, collaboration, freedom of expression, innovation – are values that the world needs more of. So when he was named a Unesco Goodwill Ambassador in 2011, Herbie proposed International Jazz Day as more than simply a celebration of the music, but, in the words of Unesco’s board, as “a means to develop and increase intercultural exchanges and understanding between cultures for the purpose of mutual comprehension and tolerance”. God knows, we need more of that.
“The great thing about jazz”, Herbie said at the launch of the first jazz day in Paris in April 2012, “is that without even saying a word, musicians are automatically being non-judgemental. They’re working together. Once you start judging another musician on the stage, the music stops, so musicians are always concerned about ‘how can I take whatever happens and make it blossom?’ How can you make this moment be a valuable moment, through sharing, through respect for each other, through embracing each other, through trusting each other, trusting yourself, trusting your own ability to be able to respond to whatever everyone else plays through trusting your heart – these are the values that jazz promotes.”
Irish jazz festivals
Jazz Day’s All Star Global Concert moves around the world every year, and this year’s main event is in Melbourne, Australia, where Herbie will be joined on stage by musicians from around the globe, including Iran, India, Israel, Russia and China. The concert will be webcast for free on jazzday.com.
Whether by accident or design, this is also the time of year when Ireland’s jazz community rouses itself from its winter slumber, and as well as a number of concerts for Jazz Day on Tuesday (see jazz listings). There are jazz festivals kicking off next weekend from Derry to Bray to Ballydehob that offer a chance for aficionados and neophytes alike to experience the joy of jazz.
The Improvised Music Company (IMC), the non-profit Dublin organisation which is one of the principal promoters of jazz and related music in Ireland, is marking the day by giving free admission for all to the latest of its Signal Series, a curated salon which showcases the best of the domestic scene (see jazz listings). They’re also encouraging Irish jazz musicians to register their events on the IMC and Unesco websites, and to spread the word by sharing playlists of Irish jazz on social media, using the hashtags #jazzIRL and #JazzDay to connect with musicians and events around the world.
The City of Derry Jazz Festival is a big, family-friendly event with five days of music involving over 200 artists in 70 venues across the city, including star US musicians, pianist George Colligan and drummer Adam Nussbaum. Ballydehob’s Jazz Festival is a more boutique affair, organised by the local community, but it’s a great excuse to visit the picturesque west Cork town as every venue there will be filling up with music for the long weekend.
The Bray Jazz Festival, which this year celebrates its 20th anniversary, is an altogether more artistically credible event for fans of jazz as an artform with much-anticipated visits from two of the biggest names in contemporary jazz, influential New York pianist Fred Hersch and chameleon-like guitarist John Scofield.
For those who think they don’t “get” jazz, the Jazz Day message is think again. And to get the message, all you need to do is put yourself in a room with some live jazz musicians. Trust me, you’ll get it.
For more information on Jazz Day, go to jazzday.com; for information on Irish jazz, go to improvisedmusic.ie; for information on the festivals, go to brayjazz.com, ballydehobjazzfestival.org and cityofderryjazzfestival.com