Jazz Appreciation Month, as April has been designated for the past 19 years by the Smithsonian Institution, ended yesterday (April 30) with the eighth annual International Jazz Day. Celebratory events were held worldwide, but the focal point was Melbourne, Australia, site of an all-star show featuring performers from around the globe. Unity seemed to be on everyone’s mind. Early on in the concert, Herbie Hancock, the man who came up with the original idea for IJD, spoke of jazz as a “universal language of peace.” The show’s co-organizer, Australian trumpeter James Morrison, went so far as to muse, “If only the world were one big jazz band,” just before Antonio Hart soloed on a Persian melody over a tabla-and-didgeridoo groove. As has become customary in these concerts, John Lennon’s “Imagine” was the final number, its hope that “the world will live as one” seeming more necessary than ever in 2019. (Look for a full report from Australia on jazztimes.com soon.)
While IJD is perhaps the premier current example of jazz thinking globally, two earlier April shows in New York ably demonstrated the other side of the equation, acting locally with a clear and compelling sense of purpose. The Jazz Foundation of America’s “A Great Night in Harlem” benefit concert at the Apollo Theater on April 4 and the Jazz House Kids spring gala at City Winery on April 17 fostered a different kind of jazz appreciation—not just of the music itself but of the community that values it, and of how that community’s members care for each other.