American jazz was honored recently at a White House event, prompting President George W. Bush to note the stunning influence of the craft.
“The story of jazz mirrors the story of our nation,” Bush said during at a toast last Thursday. The president spoke to a crowd of about 200 guests in the White House East Room at an evening celebration of American jazz on June 19.
Bush noted the influence of African slave songs and waltzes of European immigrants in the style.
“With its spontaneity and energy and innovation, jazz expresses the best of America’s character,” Bush said during the evening, as reported by the Associated Press. “And through its role in fostering freedom and equality, jazz reflects the best of America’s ideals.”
Performing at the celebration were vocalist Esther Williams and saxophonist Davey Yarborough (pictured). The pair, a married couple who reside in the Washington, D.C., area, performed tunes like “It’s Time for Love” and “Here’s to Life” during the celebration.
As performers and educators, Williams and Yarborough are passionate contributors to the community and craft of jazz, a strong selection for the evening’s celebration. Together, the pair created the Washington Jazz Arts Institute in 1998, a non-profit organization with free programs to educate and mentor young musicians.
In addition to the institute, Yarborough is director of jazz studies at the Duke Ellington School of the Arts, located in Washington, D.C. This February, Williams was granted the Washington Area Music Association Jazz Vocalist of the Year award for her performances.
Jazz guitarist, composer and 11-time Grammy nominee Earl Klugh also performed at the event, to a crowd that included President Bush, First Lady Laura Bush and Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff.
Meanwhile, in a cover story in Rolling Stone magazine, Senator Barack Obama, the presumptive Democratic presidential candidate, revealed that his iPod includes music by some of the giants of jazz, including Miles Davis, Charlie Parker and John Coltrane. No word on what Senator John McCain, his probable Republican opponent, likes to listen to.