Ideals of Jazz and Freedom
I’ve been thinking about Duke Ellington a lot lately, so I was amused, but not really surprised, to look up and see a street sign announcing Duke Ellington Place as I walked to a gathering in New York City a couple of weeks ago. New York is the center of the jazz universe any time, but for a period each January that intensity is bumped up by a factor of many. Once again, I was happy to be in the middle of it.
The huge Association of Performing Arts Presenters (APAP) conference brings thousands of arts professionals into the city each January, and helps to create an overall environment for the jazz field (among others) to capitalize on the concentration. This year, Jazz at Lincoln Center and JazzTimes magazine inaugurated the two-day Jazz Congress, which grew out of the Jazz Connects conference from previous years. And, as has been the case for the past 14 years, the NYC Winter Jazzfest got bigger, edgier, and more relevant than ever. As always, Seattle artists could be found shining in all quarters.
Ellington’s comment that, “Jazz is a good barometer of freedom,” seemed especially apocryphal. The showcases, conference topics, and concerts were burning as much with issues of equity and social justice as they were with incredible, state-of-the-art music making. The programming was articulate in reflecting the times in which we live, acknowledging that the “certain ideals of freedom and independence,” which Ellington mentioned, seem, to many, to be going off the tracks.
That Seattle’s vibrant jazz scene is well known and respected by the international jazz community is always gratifying, as is seeing the many Seattle artists in New York, who are now a part of that same international community. You can help to ensure that the young artists here have all of the support they need to take their place in the world.
The annual Golden Ear and Seattle Jazz Hall of Fame Awards are just around the corner, and we’re asking for your participation. Over nearly 30 years, these awards have been the barometer of Seattle jazz, reflecting the times and styles through the nominations put forth by fans and peers. We’ve got just a hot month or so to get out to see and hear these artists, cast your vote, and plan to join us at the annual awards ceremony.
As Ellington acolyte Wynton Marsalis says, “Jazz music is America’s past and its potential, summed up and sanctified, and accessible to anybody….The music can connect us to our earlier selves and to our better selves-to-come. It can remind us of where we fit on the time line of human achievement; that’s the ultimate value of art.”
–John Gilbreath, Executive Director