April is a time to celebrate jazz


Many know that April is Jazz Appreciation Month. But did you know that International Jazz Day is on April 30? It’s the world’s largest celebration of jazz music, declared by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization in 2011. Its significance is that it highlights jazz and its diplomatic role of uniting people from all over the globe. 

Jazz musician James Morrison recently tweeted a great quote that explains the importance of the day quite well. He said, “Jazz contains something fundamental to the human experience. It speaks directly to our very being without the need for translation, without regard for age, gender, race or status.” 

Pianist Marcus Roberts is definitely someone who embodies what Jazz Day is all about and is helping to define where it’s headed. Roberts and the American Symphony Orchestra perform a Duke Ellington program at Carnegie Hall on Thursday, March 24. 

WBGO’s editorial director, veteran jazz critic and award winning author Nate Chinen, wrote about the big day. Go to wbgo.org for all the highlights and backstory on the concert. Hopefully, Roberts will be headed to the Twin Cities again in the near future. 

On Thursday, March 31 at 7:30 pm the 2022 NEA Jazz Masters Tribute Concert took place at SFJAZZ’s Miner Auditorium to honor Stanley Clarke, Donald Harrison, Jr., Billy Hart and Cassandra Wilson. The event was free and kicked off a year-long celebration of the 40th Anniversary of the program. 

2018 NEA Jazz Master Dianne Reeves will host this year’s concert. 2022 honorees Clarke, Hart, and Harrison, Jr. will perform as well as other performers such as Ben Street, Mark Turner, the SFJAZZ Collective with Matt Brewer, Etienne Charles, Martin Luther McCoy, Gretchen Parlato, Chris Potter, David Sanchez, Kendrick Scott, Edward Simon and Warren Wolf. Plus Skylar Tang, who is 16 years old and a trumpeter and member of the SFJAZZ High School All-Stars.

A live webcast of the 2022 NEA Jazz Masters Tribute Concert will begin at 7:30 pm PT/10:30 pm ET at arts.gov and sfjazz.org. Additionally, NPR Music, WBGO, National Endowment for the Humanities, and JazzTimes, among others, will share the live webcast. 

Vocalist Barbara Morrison passed away on March 16. She was 72. Some of Morrison’s most impressive work was with saxophonist Houston Person. I remember her singing at the original Dakota in St. Paul. Check out her album, “A Sunday Kind of Love” featuring Houston Person on the Savant Record label. 

Guitarist Pat Martino passed away in November 2021. Now there’s a new album out this March 25 honoring him and his enormous contribution to jazz. “Alternative Guitar Summit, Honoring Pat Martino, Volume 1” from HighNote Records features 14 jazz guitarists playing selections from his varied catalog of compositions. 

Among the 14 jazz guitarists featured on the album are Rez Abbasi, Peter Bernstein, Paul Bollenback, Ed Cherry, Fareed Haque, Joel Harrison, Russell Malone, Adam Rogers, Kurt Rosenwinkel and Dave Stryker, among others. 

“Producer Joel Harrison is thrilled to have brought together this crew of great musicians to show their love for him while HighNote Records is proud to present this first volume of their recordings,” according to a HighNote Records press release about the album. 

Album liner notes writer Bill Milkowski wrote, “It is hard to overstate the profound influence that Pat Martino had on a generation of jazz guitarists. Back in the early ’60s, Martino and his friendly rival on the scene, guitarist George Benson, were being touted as heirs to Wes Montgomery’s throne.” 

Also released by HighNote Records this March 25 is trumpeter Jeremy Pelt’s album, “Soundtrack.” This one is cinematic, and he said, “I’ve certainly done plenty of concept albums, but in this case there’s nothing I’m on a soapbox about. It’s been a tough time for all of us, so let’s not worry about sending messages for a minute. Here we are playing some songs and having some fun.” 

With Pelt on this latest album is Chien Chien Lu on vibraphone, Victor Gould on piano and Fender Rhodes, Vicente Archer on acoustic and electric bass, Allan Mednard on drums, Anne Drummond on flute, and Brittany Anjou on Mellotron and Moog Sub 37. 

One final note to remember: Modern music keyboardist Craig Taborn, originally from Golden Valley, will perform in his hometown on April 13 at the Dakota in Minneapolis. 

My favorite album of his music is the “Junk Magic” recording. Taborn has plenty of newer material out now from ECM Records, so let’s support him by showing up for this rare local appearance.