For the Smithsonian Institution and its National Museum of American History the month of April means one thing: Jazz. This April marks the sixth annual commemoration of Jazz Appreciation Month, a celebration of jazz as both a historical and living American art form launched by the museum in 2001.JAM is now recognized by all 50 states and 20 other countries.
This year the Smithsonian will present a record 29 events, including five performances by the Smithsonian Jazz Masterworks Orchestra, the museum's resident big band. "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 expose audiences to this significant piece of American culture."
The Smithsonian operates the world's most comprehensive set of jazz programs. The National Museum of American History is home to incomparable jazz collections that include 100, 000 pages of Duke Ellington's unpublished music and such objects as Ella Fitzgerald's famous red dress, Dizzy Gillespie's angled trumpet and Benny Goodman's clarinet. Though the museum is closed for renovations, prized jazz artifacts can be seen in its "Treasures of American History" exhibition at the National Air and Space Museum. Such artifacts include Louis Armstrong's cornet, Gillespie's angled trumpet, Ellington's score of "Mood Indigo" and Tito Puente's timbales. Joining these jazz items in the "Treasures of American History" exhibition will be selected photographs of jazz greats by photographer Bill Claxton displayed in the recent acquisitions case. Claxton recently donated 22 prints of such well-known artists as Miles Davis, Ray Charles, Chet Baker and Frank Sinatra to the museum in a ceremony on March 28 that kicked off JAM 2007.
Also donated at the kickoff ceremony were business records and personal ephemera belonging to Gillespie given to the museum by Charlie Fishman,Gillespie's manager from 1985 to 1993. The ceremony also recognized financial support from the Herb Alpert Foundation and LeRoy Neiman's donation of the use of this conte-crayon drawing of Louis Armstrong for JAM promotional posters. This year, Carlos Santana and Herb Alpert have added their voices to those of other prominent musicians, including Geri Allen and Wynton Marsalis, in recording radio public service announcements produced by BMI.
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