Close

5th Annual JAM Celebration Honors Jazz Pioneers

Posted in News on April 27, 2006
Jazz Appreciation Month, or JAM for short, kicked off this April with a special fifth anniversary ceremony held at the Smithsonian's National Museum of American History in Washington, D.C. Sponsored by BMI and presented by the Smithsonian, the annual, month-long celebration pays tribute to this living art form by raising awareness of jazz and its history through performances, dance, film, programs and displays at the museum.

Donors gather with representatives of the national JAM partner, sponsor, and collaborator organizations. Back row: Jean Banks, BMI; Gale Monk; Thelonious Monk, Jr.; Dan Schuman, U.S. State Department; John Stevenson, Voice of America; Wayne Brown, National Endowment for the Humanities; Sandra Gibson, Association of Performing Arts Presenters; Mara Walker, Americans for the Arts; Cynthia Minnick, U.S. Department of Defense; Dwan Reese, National Endowment for the Humanities; Jennifer Adams, PBS; Barry Robinson, representing IAJE; Kristin Wilson, Association of Public Television Stations; Carol Sue Fromboluti, U.S. Department of Education; Patricia May, American Library Association. Front row: Dr. John Edward Hasse, National Museum of American History; Dr. Brent Glass, National Museum of American History; Fran Morris Rosman, Ella Fitzgerald Charitable Foundation; Dr. Jonathan D. Katz, National Assembly of State Arts Agencies; Roger Whitworth, representing the American Federation of Musicians and the Music Performance Fund; Herman Leonard; Paul Kerlin, MENC; Bill Pace, Chamber Music America; Cheryl Davis; Vince Wilburn, Jr.; Vince Wilburn, Sr. Smithsonian. Photo by Hugh Talman 

On hand were the families of legendary BMI jazz artists Miles Davis and Thelonious Monk who donated objects and manuscripts from their estates. Jazz photographer Herman Leonard also donated some of his photographs.

"Jazz is truly an American form of music that has played and continues to play an important role in our history from its birth in the South in the late 1800s and early 1900s to its later fusion with other forms of popular music," said Brent D. Glass, Director of the National Museum of American History. "Through the museum's Jazz Appreciation Month activities, we highlight jazz and its significant history, while exposing audiences to this significant piece of American culture."

Miles Davis (1926-1991), a trumpeter and composer, helped pioneer a wide variety of jazz music from cool jazz to hard-pop to jazz-rock fusion, while becoming the most dominant figure in jazz during the second half of the 20th century. The seven-time Grammy award-winning artist began his career playing with jazz greats such as Charlie Parker, Benny Carter and Billy Eckstine, but he would go on to create his own distinct lyrical style that was often lonely and introspective. Davis recorded the best-selling jazz album in history, Kind of Blue (1959). Donations from the Davis family included a Versace suit that Davis wore during the Montreux Jazz Festival in Switzerland in 1991; a sheaf of parts for "Summertime," arranged for Davis by Gil Evans based on George Gershwin's "Porgy & Bess"; and an electronic wind instrument used by Davis.

Thelonious Monk (1917-1982) is often regarded as one of the greatest composers in jazz history, creating such classics as "Round Midnight," "Blue Monk" and "Criss Cross." Credited with helping pioneer bebop as a form of jazz, he was also an accomplished pianist who created an iconic sound through unorthodox voicings and an unusual approach to rhythm. In 1964, Monk was featured on the cover of Time magazine-one of five jazz musicians to ever make the cover. He recently received a special posthumous citation from the Pulitzer Prize board. Donations from the Monk family included one of his iconic skull caps; a handwritten manuscript for "Four in One," which was first recorded in 1951; and other articles of clothing worn by Monk, including a jacket, vest and ties.

Jazz photographer Herman Leonard began his career in the 1940s in the jazz clubs of Broadway, 52nd Street and Harlem, N.Y. Throughout the years he developed relationships with and photographed many jazz greats, including Dizzy Gillespie, Billie Holiday and Duke Ellington. Leonard's extensive portfolio extends beyond jazz, though, as he has photographed other American icons like Albert Einstein, Harry S. Truman, Clark Gable and Marlon Brando. Leonard's donation consists of 20 black-and-white photographs, including images of Louis Armstrong, Holiday, Gillespie, Lena Horne and Tony Bennett.

The donated items join the museum's collection of memorabilia from other jazz musicians, including Ella Fitzgerald, Lionel Hampton, Artie Shaw and Ellington, and are showcased in a special display "Miles & Monk: New Jazz Acquisitions," which opened March 30.

April was chosen for JAM to honor the birthdays of such jazz legends as Ellington, Fitzgerald, Puente, Charles Mingus and Gerry Mulligan. Throughout the entire month, the museum highlights jazz music through concerts, programs and displays. Schools, colleges, museums, concert halls, libraries and public broadcasters are encouraged to offer special programs of their own every April.

The Smithsonian operates the world's most comprehensive set of jazz programs, including Jazz Appreciation Month. It collects jazz artifacts, documents, recordings and oral histories; curates exhibitions and traveling exhibitions; operates its own big band, the Smithsonian Jazz Masterworks Orchestra; publishes books and recordings on jazz; offers fellowships for research in its collections; and offers concerts, educational workshops, master classes, lectures, seminars and symposia.

With an impressive roster of jazz legends that includes Charlie Parker, Thelonious Monk, Miles Davis, Dave Brubeck, Lionel Hampton and Charles Mingus, as well as today's new jazz stars like Herbie Hancock, Norah Jones, Kevin Eubanks, Joshua Redman, Mark Whitfield and Bobby Watson, BMI has supported jazz from the start and continues today with programs such as the BMI Jazz Composers Workshop, the BMI Foundation's Charlie Parker Jazz Composition Prize and the BMI/Thelonious Monk Institute Jazz Composers Competition.