“Jazz washes away the dust of everyday life”
— Art Blakey
The first time I read the above quote by the jazz drumming extraordinaire Art Blakey, it was in my jazz music history course at UM-Dearborn. At the time, I didn’t know exactly what Mr. Blakey was talking about and why he thought jazz was so important that it could erase the obstacles in a person’s life. I was still very much a jazz novice, and did not understand the legacy of this music and why it was so important to people. But, throughout my history class, I learned just how important jazz is and why it should be appreciated by everyone.
The history of jazz itself is one of the greatest stories every told and truly showcases the legacy of a triumphant group of people who didn’t let society keep them from expressing their creativity. If anything, their struggles resulted in great music and it has helped to shape the overall spectrum of American music.
While many may think that music, jazz in particular, cannot rid someone of pain or issue s in their life, just ask any musician or fan of jazz, and they will quickly attest to the truth in Blakey’s statement. There is peace in jazz melodies and rhythms, and it does have the power to change a person’s mood. Louis Armstrong once said that “what we (musicians) play is life and that jazz is played from the heart. You can even live by it.”
Armstrong is one of many who has benefited from the music’s healing power. Armstrong is one of the most, if not the most revered musician in jazz, period. His superior skills on the trumpet shaped the sound of jazz and he has influenced tons of musicians from all types of genres. But, judging from his legendary status, its hard to imagine that he was abandoned by his parents and even spent time in a juvenile facility in New Orleans because of his behavior. It was in this facility that Armstrong fully devloped his skills on the cornet, and later on the trumpet. Despite his difficult childhood, he went on to become a jazz legend. And my guess is it was his love of the music that kept him going and even with the intense racism that he, as well as tons of other African American musicians endured, they continued to fight their battles using music as their swords.
When I listen to jazz, I not only find peace and inspiration in the hard driving or soft rhythms and soothing melodies, but I also think about how much passion and work these artists put into making this music.
This is one of the reasons why jazz should be celebrated. Every April is Jazz Appreciation Month and it was created to be an annual event that would pay tribute to jazz as both a living and as a historic music. In honor of JAM, concerts are hosted by various organizations, jazz lectures are held at academic institutions and the music itself is celebrated in various ways.
To learn more about how you can participate in Jazz Appreciation Month, visit Jazzapril.com.