Jazz Appreciation Month Gets the Downbeat in Las Vegas

Posted on Saturday, April 2, 2016

Jazz is celebrated year round at The Smith Center, but the genre gets a downbeat in April for Jazz Appreciation Month.

Jazz Appreciation Month (JAM) was created in 2002 by John Edward Hasse, PhD, curator of the Smithsonian's National Museum of American History. JAM’s purpose: to celebrate the heritage and history of jazz.

Hasse, in addition to being the creator of JAM, served as the founder of the Smithsonian Jazz Masterworks Orchestra, became a biographer of Duke Ellington, and is a Grammy-nominated writer and musician.

His idea was to celebrate jazz on a national level, led by all kinds of organizations, governments, and schools. Why April? There are two reasons -- one is logistical and one is inspirational. April was chosen to exploit JAM’s educational potential because it is the point in the school year when student jazz ensembles can perform what they have been rehearsing throughout the year. The second reason is the coincidental birth month of many leading jazz musicians such as Duke Ellington, Ella Fitzgerald, Bessie Smith, Johnny Dodds, Billie Holiday, Charles Mingus, Lionel Hampton, Gerry Mulligan, Shorty Rogers, Tito Puente, and Herbie Hancock. You can’t get more inspirational than that!

While The Smith Center presents Jazz throughout the year, April is a bountiful month for JAM to be celebrated by a distinct group of jazz interpreters: TIZER featuring Karen Briggs, April 1-2 (Cabaret Jazz); “Gershwin: Music of the Jazz Age” with the Las Vegas Philharmonic, April 2 (Reynolds Hall); Arturo Sandoval, April 22 (Cabaret Jazz); Chick Corea & Bela Fleck, April 23 (Reynolds Hall); and Monty Alexander, May 13 (Cabaret Jazz).

While Jazz is appreciated throughout the year, this is the month (led by the Smithsonian's National Museum of American History) that its appreciation is brought to center stage. Listen for the downbeat in Las Vegas!

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