April 10, 2011

Bop at the Loop

During the month of April the Smithsonian Museum of Art celebrates jazz as a musical expression. The history of jazz is deeply intertwined with the history of America. Jazz Appreciation Month especially embraces the role jazz has played in America’s social and cultural development. It is appropriate that many of the pioneers and later icons of jazz, the first great geniuses like Duke Ellington, Ella Fitzgerald, Charles Mingus, Johnny Dodds, Billie Holiday, and Bessie Smith were born in the month of April.

Jazz was born on American soil, created and nourished by her African American people and bred on the uniquely American culture. But Jazz has managed to travel the globe and the music has extended to other cultures. Jazz has also informed and impacted other art forms. Many artists including poets, writers, painters, filmmakers and photographers have interpreted and used the jazz language within their own modes of expression. The moods and rhythms of jazz have long inspired these artists and aided them in their unique work. In a study of the rich history and exciting development of jazz, this artistic influence and interplay is seen throughout as the music crosses cultures and artistic media.

In its most provocative historical instances, jazz has always been about pushing boundaries and about finding innovative ways to test prescribed musical and cultural limits. The key element in jazz is improvisation. It is this aspect of music which sets jazz apart from the forms that preceded it, allowing the artist the freedom to express himself and transcend his previous performances. Throughout the month, the Smithsonian Museum of Art will present numerous jazz-related events including performances, films and displays in venues around Washington, DC.