April is officially Jazz Appreciation Month as proclaimed by the United States Conference of Mayors adopted in 2012. However, the Smithsonian Museum’s National Museum of American History notes that the 10th anniversary of Jazz Appreciation Month — appropriately known by its acronym “JAM” — took place in 2011, thereby establishing the year Jazz was honored with a month as 2001.
When The Saints Go Marching In
The most famous jazz musician to the public — both during his lifetime and now as an historical figure — is undoubtedly Louis Armstrong, also known as Satchmo. Born in 1900 or 1901 in New Orleans, Armstrong was involved in both mischief and music at the tender age of 11. At age 13, he began to attract attention as a musician of note as he played the cornet for the New Orleans Home for Colored Waifs’ band.
Despite his income and celebrity status, Armstrong purchased a home in Corona, NY in 1943 and lived there for almost three decades. Lucille Armstrong, his widow, donated their home and many of its contents to New York City where it became the Louis Armstrong Museum– designated as a National Historical Site in 1976. It is open to the public for guided tours and educational reviews Tuesdays through Sundays.
His professional career then continued for 60 years until his death in 1971. Louie Armstrong’s “honorary pallbearers included Bing Crosby, Ella Fitzgerald, Dizzy Gillespie, Pearl Bailey, Count Basie, Harry James, Frank Sinatra, Ed Sullivan, Earl Wilson, Alan King, Johnny Carson and David Frost.” Even those who would deny that they knew or know anything of jazz can recognize at least some of Armstrong’s pallbearers.
In addition to the musical greats mentioned above, other jazz musicians of remarkable genius and inspiration included Duke Ellington, Charlie Parker, Lester Young and the more contemporaneous Miles Davis.
We Have All the Time in the World
According to the Smithsonian Jazz Masterworks Orchestra concert schedule, they will participate in a riverboat cruise taking place from April 9 -18, known as Smithsonian Journey’s “Treasures of the Mississippi and the Gulf Coast.” In addition to concerts by three musicians from the Smithsonian’s Jazz Masterworks Orchestra, a guest speaker from the American Museum of Natural History will speak as a geologist and conservationist during a series of lectures on and about the Mississippi River. Finally, a well-known Civil War historian will point out the war-related information and topics during the cruise.
Later in the month, the Smithsonian Jazz Masterworks Orchestra Production, “The Musical Genius of Duke Ellington” will take place at Viterbo University in Lacrosse, WI on April 27 and 28 at the university’s Fine Arts Center’s Main Theatre.
Attendance at either event would be an occasion for celebration. A possible style of dress for a woman might be anything that recalls the style of the 1930’s or 1940’s. A stylish hat would be obligatory as would a dress or skirt with heels. Appropriate jewelry would include clip-on earrings, a strand of pearls and perhaps one or two pearl bracelets.
Although the Smithsonian’s championing of the importance of jazz to American history is acclaimed and appreciated, the best time to listen to jazz is at night where in the shadows, one might catch the improvisational tease of a piece and perhaps catch a glimpse of Satchmo’s smile.