All. That. Jazz. Many consider it “America’s classical music.” After all, jazz began in New Orleans over 100 years ago. Legendary jazz pianist and composer Herbie Hancock (along with the UN) helped create International Jazz Day in 2011. So join with people around the world as this day promotes jazz’s roots and intercultural influence every April 30.
This year the 2020 All-Star Global Concert takes place in Cape Town. Listen to the 2019 global concert from Melbourne, Australia for free.
Read on for a musical look at a distinctly American art form — and don’t miss our list of four cool jazz subgenres.
International Jazz Day timeline
The first International Jazz Day
The first International Jazz Day was held, featuring high-profile programs in Paris, New Orleans, and New York.
UNESCO designated April 30
UNESCO named April 30 International Jazz Day to culminate the Smithsonian Institution’s Jazz Appreciation Month in April.
Herbie Hancock played a key role
Designated a UNESCO Goodwill Ambassador for Intercultural Dialogue, Hancock created a celebration of the diplomatic role of jazz music.
Herbie Hancock & Miles Davis
Herbie Hancock joined Miles Davis’ Second Great Quintet where he helped refine the role of the rhythm section.
- 19th century
Jazz blossomed in African-American communities in the South — born from blues and ragtime.
International Jazz Day Activities
Listen to the greats
Whether you’re new to jazz or want to honor the classics, honoring the musicians who helped define the genre is the ultimate way to celebrate International Jazz Day. Check out Louis Armstrong, Duke Ellington, Benny Goodman, Billie Holiday, Charlie Parker and Dizzy Gillespie, Miles Davis, and John Coltrane to start.
Attend a concert
Concerts are held all over the world to celebrate International Jazz Day. If there’s not one near you, why not host your own event? You can even register the event on the International Jazz Day website.
Take some lessons
Take to Yelp or even the streets of your neighborhood – there are learning opportunities everywhere. The hard part will be deciding which instrument to play!
4 Cool Jazz Subgenres You Need To Explore
Instead of a drum kit, Latin Jazz uses congas, bongos, or timbales to drive a Latin American style rhythm.
Avant-garde art musical composition combines with jazz instruments to form this sub-genre, characterized by its emphasis on improvisation and experimentation.
Beat-driven and highly danceable, swing music features a strong rhythm section. You’ll recognize Frank Sinatra and Nat King Cole as famous pop vocalists of the swing movement.
Soul jazz incorporates strong influences from blues, soul, gospel, and rhythm and blues to create music with repetitive rhythms and bluesy melodies.
Why We Love International Jazz Day
It unites cultures
Herbie Hancock wanted to celebrate the diplomatic role of jazz in unifying people all around the world, and thus International Jazz Day was born. Countries from Argentina to Zambia throw jam sessions, music clinics, concerts and more, each with their own unique cultural flavor.
Anyone and everyone can participate
In 2017, more than 190 countries hosted events for enthusiasts of all skill levels and sub-genres. A major focus of International Jazz Day is community outreach and education. Thanks to UNESCO, beginners and advanced players can access lessons on writing blues music, Indian rhythms, the mathematics of music and more
Top jazz musicians perform together
Each year, one city is selected for the annual Global Host celebration. Everything culminates in one incredible performance. The All-Star Global Concert has featured some of the best jazz musicians from around the world, including Esperanza Spalding, Robert Glasper, and Aretha Franklin, just to name a few.