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2007-2008 Culture News & Events

America Celebrates Jazz Appreciation Month

April 2008
Duke Ellington and Louis Armstrong

Jazz musician Duke Ellington prepares to strike up a tune for Louis "Satchmo" Armstrong at the Rainbow Grill in New York City on August 26, 1969.

Each April, the United States celebrates Jazz Appreciation Month (JAM), an opportunity to savor a quintessential American contribution to world culture. Initiated by the Smithsonian Institution's National Museum of American History in 2001, JAM aims to focus public attention on the extraordinary heritage and history of jazz and its importance as an American cultural heritage.

Now in its seventh year, the annual event has grown to include celebrations in all 50 states and 33 other countries, paying tribute to jazz both as a historic and living American art form. “Jazz is a truly American style of music that has played an important role in our heritage,” said Brent D. Glass, director of the National Museum of American History. “Through the Smithsonian’s Jazz Appreciation Month activities, we will highlight jazz and its history and how the genre has an important function in global diplomacy.”

Jazz traces its formative roots back to West African musical rhythms and traditions that were transplanted to the U.S. and given new expression by African-Americans, in the form of home-grown American blues and the syncopated rhythms of ‘ragtime’, incorporating the rich embellishments of European musical scales, scoring, and instrumentation. Jazz displayed irrepressible determination to gain broader acceptance and validation in the U.S., and while doing so, won new generations of converts and enthusiasts worldwide, in part by maintaining a democratic openness to foreign musical influences.