International Jazz Day 2012

“Everybody in all countries tries to play jazz.” – Thelonious Monk

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As Europeans have produced some of the most important musical icons of the classical music genre, all over the world there are concert halls that dedicate their performances and seasons to Beethoven, Wagner, Brahms, and endless composers. Hundreds of years has gone since many of these legendary composers have died yet the educational and political stigma of classical music over the years here in the United States seems to be steeped in that this is and still is, ‘a music for the rich and those in power.’ I happen to love and appreciate all musics including classical, but as I was growing up as a child into an adult, all I kept seeing at concert halls were upper-middle class white folks attending these concerts. Very seldom, and still today, do I see people of color reach out to classical music community.

Over the last 30 years that I’ve watched, followed, and covered music, jazz music has become like classical music in regards to how it’s being perceived in the public eye as well as how many people of color don’t support the music like they did when jazz music was the popular music during the 1930’s until the mid-1970’s. Ragtime and the blues evolved into big bands, be-bop, avant-garde, Latin jazz, Afro-Cuban, gypsy jazz, and later fusion. The late jazz trombonist J.J. Johnson said, “Jazz is restless. It won’t stay put and it never will”. Many of the old jazz heads loved Miles Davis from his “Birth of Cool” and “Kind of Blue” days, but, when he went electric, it was like the equivalent of Bob Dylan ditching the acoustic guitar and harmonica and going electric and rock and roll full-time. Miles was moving in another direction musically, socially, and mentally. Just like jazz and hip-hop, the movement progresses onward.

Jazz music gave birth here in the United States due to the lack of education music studied in schools due to lack of resources as well as the racial and political climates that permeated during the racist Jim Crow era. After the Civil War in the south during the late 1860’s, Blacks were forced into a new period called Reconstruction. It was this period when people of color began to form black colleges and introduce academia to cater to services that blacks could earn a decent living and take care of their family and community. Sharecropping was also another form of indentured slavery to the plantation owners who provided food and housing for their labor services. The educated and the working class Blacks during this time came together at the end of the day and generally on weekends to two places. The church and the juke joints, which later became the nightclubs and bars. These two venues served as a place to seek refuge in the Lord as well dancing and drinking. Music at the time was steeped in the gospel as well as the blues. Since music wasn’t modern then, musicians of this era had learned how to sing spirituals and blues songs from memory from their ancestors. The music was played on the instruments that become the foundations of jazz and blues music in the early 1900’s. The harmonica, banjo, trumpet, guitar, piano, and drums were used in the church and juke joints as a means of economy and lack of resources. Whereas in Europe, the musicians were classically trained in theory and composition and that’s how schools of academia had kept the classical music tradition alive and well for hundreds of years.

The musicians here in the United States, especially people of color didn’t have the resources nor couldn’t really grasp of the strict discipline to play the music at the start of the century. Plus, musicians here in the states couldn’t relate to the music because it wasn’t ours from the beginning and also no soul! Thats the beauty of this music called jazz, Blacks express themselves from the depths of their souls to create a music here that was both dirty, beautiful, original, and innovative. It is the only original art-form that was created by architects like Louis Armstrong, Duke Ellington & Billy Strayhorn, Benny Goodman, Charlie Christian, Thelonious Monk, James P. Johnson, Fats Waller, and the other endless icons that shaped this glorious music. 

On April 30, 2012 the world took part in one of the most important cultural events that paid tribute in honor to America’s only true art-form, jazz music. For 24 hours, many live concerts, jazz seminars, documentary screenings, and jazz music workshops were held on the first International Jazz Day created by 14 time Grammy-Award winning pianist and composer Herbie Hancock. Hancock, is UESCO Goodwill Ambassador for Intercultural Dialogue and Chairman, Thelonious Monk Institute of Jazz.

 

“In November 2011, during the UNESCO General Conference, the international community proclaimed April 30 as ‘International Jazz Day.’ UNESCO, the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization along with Thelonious Monk Institute of Jazz, were this year’s keynote organizers of this global gala. The festivities kicked off in Paris, France with performances and educational programs at UESCO headquarters. Then, a special sunrise concert in New Orleans, Louisiana, the birthplace of jazz music at the famed Congo Square. International Jazz Day concluded at General Assembly Hall at the United Nations for a special sunset concert in downtown New York City.

This year’s International Day participants included: Terence Blanchard, Tony Bennett, Richard Bona, Dee Dee Bridgewater, Candido, Ron Carter, Vinnie Colaiuta, Robert Cray, Eli Degibri, George Duke, Jack DeJohnette, Sheila E., Herbie Hancock, Jimmy Heath, Zakir Hassain, Chaka Khan, Angelique Kidjo, Lang Lang, Joe Lovano, Romero Lubambo, Shankar Mahadevan, Wynton Marsalis, Hugh Masekela, Christian McBride, Danilo Perez, Bobby Sanabria, Wayne Shorter, Esperanza Spaulding, Susan Tedeschi, Derek Trucks, Hiromi Uehara,Tarek Yamani, and soul music legend Stevie Wonder.Image

Herbie’s vision was keen on that a real International Jazz Day reflects a day where the musicians and the music is put on the pedestal globally. It also shows the world how jazz music has influenced musicians all over the world. The night showcased that with pianist Hiromi who hails from Japan, Lang Lang from China, Eli Degibri from Isreal, Danilo Perez from Panama, and Hugh Masekela from South Africa. This music started here and has expanded all over the world, just to think the music is under 120 years old! Herbie also did an outstanding job appointing pianist/keyboardist George Duke as the music director for the evening’s concert. Duke did an amazing job putting together a show that showcased all spectrums of jazz music. From the vocal side featuring performances from Dee Dee Bridgewater, Chaka Khan, and Esperanza Spaulding, to the blues tribute with guitarists Robert Cray, Derek Trucks, and Susan Tedeschi.

Overall, this event was a masterpiece for jazz music and somewhat of a resurrection of the music brought back to life to the mainstream. International Jazz Day is something that we should all look forward to as well as support year round.

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To find out more about next year’s International Jazz Day or to watch the entire sunset concert, please visit them on the web at http://www.unesco.org/new/en/unesco/events/prizes-and-celebrations/celebrations/international-days/international-jazz-day/

 

The Revolution Will Be Televised,

Brian Pace

The Pace Report   

www.thepacereport.com

thepacereport@yahoo.com

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The Last Stand of Bandstand

“I’m saddened and devastated over the loss of my dear friend, Dick Clark. We were friends for over 50 years. My thoughts and condolences go out to his family, especially his wonderful wife, Kari, who took such incredible care of him always. Dick was always there for me and Motown, even before there was a Motown. He was an entrepreneur, a visionary and a major force in changing pop culture and ultimately influencing integration. It happened first emotionally. Music can do that. He didn’t do it from a soap box, he just did it. That’s who he was. ‘American Bandstand’ was a platform for all artists. For me personally, he helped bring Motown into living rooms across America. Dick did everything with class, style and integrity. He was a true gentleman. His groundbreaking achievements in music and television ensure that his legacy will live on forever.” — Motown founder Berry Gordy.

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It is really sad that over the last two months we lost some extremely important and iconic media figures that helped etched American pop culture in a medium that helped revolutionized soul and rock and roll as well help define how journalism could be a serious form of insight and news entertainment that reached millions of people one night, and could also be toast of the water-cooler the next day. In the last couple of weeks we lost Gil Noble, Mike Wallace, and now America’s oldest living teenager, Dick Clark.

Million upon millions of music fans tuned in every Saturday morning to watch “American Bandstand” to catch the pull of the who’s who of the rock, soul, folk, and country artists that dominated what was on all radio stations all over the county. The show was the lifeline to all teenagers as well as all things popular in America popular culture. From the clothes, dance steps, hair styles, and records he played, Mr. Clark was instrumental in keeping with the times as well as allowed a platform to a multi-racial artists to perform as many parts of the country was waking up to the thought of racial equality.

Mr. Clark suffered a heart attack last Wednesday at St. John’s Health Center in Santa Monica, California at the age of 82. Born Richard Wagstaff Clark on November 30, 1929 in Bronxville, New York, but grew up near Mount Vernon, was the second son to Richard and Julia Clark. His father was a salesman for a radio station and later became a station manager in Utica, New York. Clark’s first radio job was a mail boy at a station his father worked. He attended Syracuse University where he majored in business administration. It was in college where he began his professional career as a broadcaster as a disc jockey on the college radio station. Upon graduating Clark work as an announcer for his father’s station. His luck changed and he was hired as a newscaster at WKTV in Utica.

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In the late 1940’s the medium of broadcast television was still in it’s infancy and little did Dick or the world know that this would become the medium that would change what radio had done for the first 20 years. In Philadelphia, WFIL gave Clark his own radio show in 1952. “Dick Clark’s Caravan of Music” was a afternoon program where he played records by many of the easy-listening genre. Artists like The Mills Brothers, Patti Page, Nat King Cole, Frank Sinatra, and Perry Como. At the same time, the television station’s affiliate created and began a show simply called “Bandstand.” Then hosted by Lee Stewart and Bob Horn, the show aired performances of music artists with a live audience of Philly teenagers. After programmers decided to ditch the short films and allow the teens dance to the records instead, then thats when the show really took off and gained instant viewership. By 1956 Clark became the permanent host and changed the name to “American Bandstand.” From 1957 when the “Bandstand” when national on ABC until 1989 when the show ended, Mr. Clark allowed artists to lip-sync and many times perform live on his show. Diverse artists from many musical genres performed and became instant stars while on “American Bandstand.”

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My take on Mr. Clark is that he was one of the pioneering icons of what we call ‘music television.’ This is way before cable television and the Box. Before the show moved to Los Angeles, California, the show was on everyday for one hour during the afternoon, generally right after school. Teenagers gravitated to the television to hear artists like Frankie Lymon and the Teenagers, Fabian,The Chantels, and Chubby Checker. Shows like BET’s 106th and Park to MTV’s TRL were based on the blueprint from American Bandstand. Even show hosts like the late Don Cornelius, Donnie Simpson, Ryan Seacrest, and Sway understood how to keep in touch with the pull of American popular culture at the same time allowing the younger generation to have a platform to communicate their ideas and music to the masses. Mr. Clark didn’t discriminate his personal taste of music for the sake of his viewers. He also took a chance and allowed many artists of color to perform on his show, at a time when many southern television stations could’ve pulled the plug on his show.

In addition to Mr. Clark’s vision of nationally syndicated program that reached millions of viewers each week, he was also a shrewd businessman and didn’t get pigeonholed in one form of entertainment. Even though he was earning millions from “Bandstand,” he created Dick Clark Productions, which for well over a half century produced shows like “The $20,000 Pyramid,” “TV’s Bloopers and Practical Jokes,” and the endless “New Year’s Rockin’ Eve” and “American Music Award,” and Emmy award shows. Clark made money through his syndication deals on his shows as well as his venture as the licensing of his shows. 

Over the last week I’ve read and seen many interviews of the legends of rock and roll and their sentiments about Mr. Clark have been nothing but of praise and a gratitude of thanks for what he’s done for the music as well as the artist. As for me, if it wasn’t for “American Bandstand” I would’ve never seen the group The Time or seen Janet Jackson first perform her breakout hit “What Have You Done For Me Lately.” Or see many hip-hop icons of my generation perform like Run-DMC, The Beastie Boys, The Fat Boys, and Whodini. Unlike Brother Cornelius who gave black America a platform to see many people of color to perform in front of millions, Mr. Clark integrated American pop culture as well as allowed people to experience a weekly take of how music was changing as a culture for over three decades.

Thanks for the memories Mr. Clark! Rest in peace! 

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The Revolution Will Be Televised,

Brian Pace

The Pace Report   

www.thepacereport.com

thepacereport@yahoo.com