Reflections by Newport Jazz Festival artists on the past, present and future of jazz on International Jazz Day

Happy International Jazz Day!

Created by the United Nations in 2011 at the initiative of UNESCO Goodwill Ambassador Herbie Hancock, International Jazz Day brings together communities around the world each April 30.

This year’s theme for International Jazz Day is “A Call for World Peace and Unity”. The day is recognized in more than 180 countries and in all 50 US states.

On Saturday, a live concert hosted by Herbie Hancock is broadcast worldwide from the United Nations headquarters in New York. The concert, which kicks off at 5 p.m., will feature Marcus Miller, Gregory Porter, David Sanborn, Ravi Coltrane, José James, Terri Lyne Carrington, Linda Oh, Shemekia Copeland, Lizz Wright and more.

Click on this link to watch the concert:

Of course, Newport, RI has a special place in the jazz world. Today we share some highlights from recent interviews we conducted at the Newport Jazz Festival.

From a 2021 interview, Jazz Festival Artistic Director Christian McBride offered some thoughts on the future of jazz.

“I know it’s been a broader conversion in jazz circles for quite some time…we want to make this music more appealing to younger audiences,” McBride said. “One of the proven ways to do that is to book a band that’s going to hook them, someone like Khruangbin or Cory Wong. They’ll come here and say we have a three-day pass, we’ll see Trombone Shortly and Andra Day. And then find out about Immanuel Wilkins and Kenny Garrett. That’s how we bring in a younger audience and teach them about the legends that are here.

“Make it fun,” he added. “There’s a certain fun spiritual human aspect to this music, all the other so-called genres of music focus on that. We are going too deep into the weeds of intellectualization, of analysis. There’s this subliminal message that you’re smarter than everyone else if you like this music. We have to cut that.

In our 2020 interview, saxophonist Grace Kelly made similar points.

Grace Kelly at the 2018 Newport Jazz Festival (Photo: Ken Abrams)

“There’s a whole new wave coming right now that’s pushing jazz forward, and I’m very excited to be a part of it. In my mind, if we can get one more person who wasn’t into jazz into it now, that will help the music reach an even wider audience, which I think is really, really important. . In my mind, the world of it’s jazz, it’s pop, it’s hip-hop, it’s very blurry in the way people listen to music. We’re in a world of playlists, we’re in a world of videos, where people find things on YouTube. »

Jose James, who presented a tribute to Bill Withers at the 2018 Jazz Festival, also had some interesting ideas.

“The most recurring question I’ve heard in the last ten years is ‘Why did you do jazz? How did you come to jazz in the hip hop era? It’s funny because jazz and hip hop have this very close connection. Most hip-hop artists and producers hire jazz musicians when performing live. I just opened for Common a few weeks ago. You begin to realize that jazz is the common thread in American music. For me, once you kind of understand that constellation, you see jazz like Quincy Jones does, like a special sauce makes everything a little bit more sophisticated and a little bit more interesting.

Jose James (Photo: Ken Abrams)

How can you support jazz music? Go see shows, buy CDs and vinyls and share jazz with your friends who may not know you. There is something for every taste !

Click here for more information on International Jazz Day.

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