Herbie Hancock launches International Jazz Day

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Herbie Hancock
Herbie Hancock

Mark your calendars for April 30th, the end of “Jazz Appreciation Month,” and the day that Herbie Hancock and Jazz lovers everywhere will be celebrating International Jazz Day.

The event has been organized by the U.N. Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization, along with the Thelonious Monk Institute. At the end of April, concerts are slated for special events across the world, from New Orleans to Algeria.

“Jazz has been the voice of freedom for so many countries over the past half century,” Hancock told the AP recently. “This is really about the international diplomatic aspect of jazz and how it has, throughout a major part of its history, been a major force in bringing people of various countries and cultures together.”

UNESCO, which Hancock was officially declared a Goodwill ambassador for in July of last year, is endorsing the event. Beginning April 27th in Paris, the UNESCO headquarters will be hosting an all-day event and several days’ of  special recognition for the American-born art form that has since been adopted and loved by a widely international audience.

Hancock will be hosting an event a little closer to home — in the Congo Square of New Orleans, where Jazz was born. He will be joined by Kermit Ruffins, the Treme Brass Band, and many more celebrated New Orleans Jazz musicians.

While there is not currently an officially sanctioned day celebrating Blues Music, the other truly American art form which shares a long and intertwined relationship with Jazz, a grass-roots initiative has been accumulating great support in favor of an International Blues Music Day. Currently, a Facebook group petitioning for an official declaration of the day is nearing ten thousand members.

“The short-term process is to keep spreading the word about the initiative,” said bluesman Johnny Childs to the American Blues Scene, “pick a date that’s widely supported, and associate with organizations around the world that will get involved in producing events for the International Blues Music Day. That will be what year one looks like.”

On the evening of the International Jazz Day, a star-studded event representing a global community will take place at the United Nations General Assembly Hall. Morgan Freeman, Robert DeNiro, Michael Douglass and Quincy Jones will be hosting. Among the musicians in attendance and on stage are Derek Trucks and Susan Tedeschi, Esperanza Spalding, Wynton Marsalis, Wayne Shorter, Jimmy Heath and more. An international cast of Jazz musicians will also be joining the event from such widespread locations as India, China, Japan, Cameroon, and Brazil.

“I hope that this day spreads the joy of spontaneous creation that exists in this music,” Hancock said. “My feeling is that jazz will be getting its just due.”