Paris – International Jazz Day – 2015

Paris – International Jazz Day – 2015

Oh my God, y’all! I wish you could have been there sitting on my shoulder seeing what I saw and hearing what I was thinking because it seems so loud in my head. I have a special love for this lady, Paris that began at the beginning of my European career and before.

Before…has to do with the romance of the highest possibilites that a human being can soar to making the most of an eyelash and a whisper and which adores rain that turns the streets into a mirror of glistening color with a flower shop and a boy and a girl with an umbrella.

It rained in Paris as we joined up with UNESCO and the Thelonious Monk Institute to celebrate International Jazz Day with 187 other countries doing the same on this same day…April 30th, 2015. Dear me! I still can’t believe it. UNESCO and the United Nations! The United Nations and Jazz coming together with the Thelonious Monk Institute, with Herbie Hancock as the Chairman.

When American Jazzers went abroad and played this music that was born in America, they talked to an audience of people who’s freedoms were being taken away. In one evening or matinee they saw life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness—the pillars of democracy. The United Nations recognizes this fact in the contributions of jazz. And everyone knows that the mother and father of today’s music, such as Rock n Roll and Rhythm and Blues and Pop, came out of Jazz.

This year was the 4th Annual International Jazz Day and how wonderful to have it happen in France. Fact is the French love jazz more than we do in the U.S. They turn it upside down and inside out and study it and swish it around in their mouths like fine wine and continue to have lots of places to hear and do jazz. And they have the oh-so-important smaller and intimate clubs that are just like the early days. This means that a lot of really average people are continuing to enjoy this truly creative and personal expression of art.

Music director and coordinator, John Beasley put together a hot band that included Herbie Hancock, Marcus Miller, Terri Lynn Carrington, and Leigh Ritenour. Myself along with Femi Kuti, Dianne Reeves, Wayne Shorter, Dhaser Yousseff, Annie Lennox, Dee Dee Bridgewater, Hugh Masakela and others all got to showcase our talents on such a great stage. And there we were, a personification of the tradition at its best. 8 separate singers and horn players all playing for the first time with a band they had just met. None of this was lost on the audience who heard and applauded every nuance. This as a concept at all is jazz.

Herbie Hancock, our lead amb-jazzador, was elegant and fresh and personal in his spoken remarks and playing. His choice of John Lennon’s “Imagine” as our finale speaks volumes. This audience at the UNESCO auditorium breathed it all in and stood and applauded in appreciation.

The week in Paris also included some press interviews and a workshop with jazz appreciators at the Philharmonic of Paris, a spectacular facility that stopped me in my tracks on my way to the stage. The whole affair could almost be a watercolor painting with that boy and girl and the flower shop just across the street from the Philharmonic. I hope to be apart of next year’s celebration.





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