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Terence Blanchard Quintet

2700 F St.: Terence Blanchard Quintet
Not only is New Orleans trumpeter Terence Blanchard one of jazz music’s most prominent brass players, he’s also an award-winning composer, arranger, and bandleader. Along with members of his quintet, discover the essentials of jazz improvisation and composition.
Jazz, Music Legends, Music

Time For Three

2700 F St.: Time For Three
Not many groups could pull off such an eclectic mix of music. But the group Time for Three (Tf3) has never let being unusual slow them down. In their case, the result is an exciting, passionate playlist that breaks the barriers of classical music. That might just be why Time for Three is called “America’s favorite classical garage band.”
Jazz, Music, Young Artists

Pinderhughes

2700 F St.: Samora and Elena Pinderhughes
Samora and Elena Pinderhughes are a brother-sister jazz duo who grew up playing music together. Both together and separately, their music is influential in the world of contemporary jazz.
Jazz, Music, Young Artists

Sherrie Maricle

2700 F St.: Sherrie Maricle and the DIVA Jazz Orchestra: Ella Wishes You a Swinging Christmas
Move over “Silent Night,” Sherrie Maricle and her DIVAs are in town.
Jazz, Musical Instruments

Jane Ira Bloom

2700 F St.: Wild Lines: Jane Ira Bloom Plays Emily Dickinson
Jane Ira Bloom is a soprano saxophonist and composer who’s been pushing the boundaries of jazz for more than 40 years.
Composers, Musical Instruments, Jazz, Poetry

Celebrating Great Women of Jazz

Cuesheet: Celebrating Great Women of Jazz: Performance/Demonstration
Contemporary jazz artists come together to honor and celebrate three music legends: Abbey Lincoln, Nina Simone, and Joni Mitchell.
Musical Instruments, Music, Jazz

Jason + Ronald K. Brown & Evidence

Cuesheet: Ronald K. Brown/Evidence with Jason Moran and The Bandwagon: Working Rehearsal
Kennedy Center Artistic Director for Jazz Jason Moran and celebrated choreographer Ronald K. Brown bring together their respective ensembles—Brown’s Evidence, A Dance Company and Moran’s Bandwangon jazz trio—for a performance of dance and live music.
Musical Instruments, Music, Jazz, Dance

Bud Not Buddy

Cuesheet: Bud, Not Buddy
It’s 1936 in Flint, Michigan, and ten-year-old Bud Caldwell sets off on an epic journey of discovery, set to the soulful sounds of jazz.
Theater, Jazz, History, America

Antonio Hart Organ Trio

Cuesheet: Antonio Hart Organ Trio: A Performance and Demonstration
Innovative jazz musician Antonio Hart, bandleader of the Antonio Hart Organ Trio, explores the different techniques musicians use to create their own unique musical styles.
Musical Instruments, Music, Jazz

Katie Ernst: Little Words

Cuesheet: Katie Ernst: Little Words: A Performance and Demonstration
Find out what jazz and poetry have in common with jazz music’s triple-threat Katie Ernst, a bassist, vocalist, and composer who brings the poetry of 1920s American writer Dorothy Parker to life in the original program Little Words.
Music, Jazz, Musical Instruments, Poetry, Young Artists

Chris Brubeck's Triple Play

Cuesheet: Chris Brubeck's Triple Play: Performance/Demonstration
Join bandleader Chris Brubeck and his high-energy ensemble, Triple Play, to explore the history and evolution of America’s music—the blues.
Music, Jazz, Musical Instruments, Poetry, Young Artists

Dizzy Gillespie Afro Cuban Experience

Cuesheet: Dizzy Gillespie™ Afro Cuban Experience: Performance/Demonstration
The Dizzy Gillespie™ Afro Cuban Experience is a jazz ensemble working to continue the legacy of the great jazz master John Birks “Dizzy” Gillespie.
Music, Jazz, Musical Instruments, Poetry, Young Artists

Lewis Nash Quintet

Cuesheet: Lewis Nash Quintet: Fascinating Rhythm—Wonderful Sounds
Meet celebrated jazz drummer and bandleader Lewis Nash and explore the range of rhythms and instrumental sounds in jazz music.
Music, Jazz, Musical Instruments

Terence Blanchard Group

Cuesheet: Terence Blanchard Group: A Performance and Demonstration
Meet Blue Note artist Terence Blanchard, a multi-Grammy Award®–winning jazz trumpeter, bandleader, arranger, and composer.
Music, Jazz, Musical Instruments

Grace Kelly Quintet

Cuesheet: Grace Kelly Quintet: Performance & Demonstration
Join young jazz saxophonist, singer, and composer Grace Kelly for a high-energy concert that guides students in how to listen to jazz.
Jazz, Music, Composers, Young Artists

American Voices

KC Festival: American Voices
Here’s your opportunity to “go backstage” at the Kennedy Center and see and hear about the unique pleasures and pitfalls of classical, musical theater, jazz, gospel, country, and pop singing.
Backstage, Music, Music Legends, Musicals, Opera, Jazz, Popular Culture, Rock & Roll

Alvin Ailey's Night Creature

KC Connection: Alvin Ailey's Night Creature
The stars shine in Ailey’s homage to Duke Ellington
Choreographers, Dance, Dance Legends, Jazz, Composers, Music Legends

Another Night

KC Connection: Another Night by Kyle Abraham
Choreographer Kyle Abraham compares his choreography to gumbo, a Southern soup. Like a stew that includes many separate ingredients, his dances are a mixture of modern, ballet, social dance, and hip-hop.
Choreographers, Dance, Dance Legends, Jazz

Bessie Smith

Article: Hear With Your Eyes: Jazz and Art
Romare Bearden makes music with his art. Learn how to “hear” a painting
Blues, Jazz, Music, Music Legends, Visual Arts

Jazz Trio

Field Guide: A Field Guide to Clubs
Everything you need to know before you go to an arts event in a club setting
Jazz

Young Female Singer

Article: Advice on Taking Care of Your Voice
Debunk myths about singing and learn the ABC's of how your voice works
Young Artists, Broadway, Jazz, Musicals, Opera, Rock & Roll

Kennedy Center

Collection: A Few of Our Favorite Things...
From musical theater to music in space, our media collections reflect the breadth and depth of the performing arts in America and around the world. These are some of our staff favorites--we'd love to hear yours!
Backstage, Dance, Education, Jazz, Music, Theater, Visual Arts, World Cultures

Beethoven graffiti

Collection: Great Composers
Get inside the mind of a composer-- from a popular song, to a Broadway musical, to a symphony, how does a composer write music?
Composers, Jazz, Innovators & Pioneers, Musical Instruments, Music, Music Legends, Opera, Orchestra, Popular Culture

Jazz trumpet

Collection: Jazz & Blues Resources
Foot thumping rhythms, crooning voices, soulful melodies – jazz is a music with a history as rich as its sound. Follow the great migration that lead African Americans to Harlem, meet jazz icons such as Bessie Smith and Charlie Parker, and stop by the Cotton Club and Apollo Theater on a journey through the past of this American art form.
America, Blues, History, Jazz, Music

Dancing feet

Collection: Dance Resources
What’s the difference between troika and hula? How can dance tell stories and preserve histories? Discover dance and its impact on culture by exploring Ancient Egyptian rituals and Native American legends. Learn how dance tells stories and poems through a language of movement and music, and pick up a few moves yourself.
Ballet, Choreographers, Dance, Dance Legends, Hip-Hop, Jazz, World Cultures

Fife & Drummer

Collection: America
Discover the multicultural heritage and history of America through explorations of immigrant life, the lives legendary pioneers like Lewis and Clark, the modern political system, and significant works of American music, including our National Anthem.
America, Blues, History, Jazz, Military, Rock & Roll, Space, Native America

African-American Boy

Collection: African-American History
Learn about the African American experience through the arts — and discover the contributions of African Americans to the history and culture of the United States.
Africa, America, Folklore, Geography, History, Jazz, Music, Playwrights & Plays, Dance, Blues

A Female Singer Performing

Article: Taking Care of Your Vocal Athlete
A resource for parents of young singers with a guide to choosing the right teacher
Musicals, Music, Family, Jazz, Opera, Popular Culture, Rock & Roll

Man playing harmonica

Grades 6-8 Lesson: Twelve-Bar Blues
Learn about the history, key players and musical qualities of the blues
Jazz, Music, Music Legends

John Coltrane in Performance December 2, 1962 Amsterdam, The Netherlands

Grades 9-12 Lesson: Rhythm & Improv: Jazz & Poetry
The musicality of words is an important element of poetry, and many poets carefully consider the sound of the words on the page. Students will listen to and analyze jazz music
Jazz, Poetry, Music

Bessie Smith

Grades 3-4 Lesson: Musical Harlem
Students will learn to identify musical styles and musicians associated with Harlem, focusing on jazz
Geography, History, Jazz, Music, America

Jazz Dancers

Grades 3-4 Lesson: Jazz Music, Dance, and Poetry
In this lesson, students will be introduced to jazz dance and jazz music. They will explore basic jazz dance movements, and will create a cinquain poem inspired by jazz music.
Dance, Jazz, Music, Poetry

The Great Migration

Grades 3-4 Lesson: The Great Migration
In this lesson, students will learn about the migration of African Americans to Harlem
America, Blues, Geography, History, Jazz, Music

Palestinian musician

Video: Palestinian Jazz
Palestinian and Moroccan musicians perform on the Kennedy Center’s Millennium Stage, which offers free shows 365 days a year as part of the Performing Arts for Everyone initiative. See how the musicians go from a sound check to actual performance.
World Cultures, Jazz, Musical Instruments, Music, Young Artists

Swing dance

Video Series: Swing Dance
Get on the dance floor with dance instructors Nina and Bobby! Learn East Coast Swing, Charleston, and Lindy Hop in three instructional videos.
Dance, Music, Jazz, Popular Culture

Dancing feet

Video Series: Five(ish) Minute Dance Lessons
Our collection of Five(ish) Minute Dance Lessons will teach the moves that will let you hit the dance floor looking like a pro. From the African Dinhe, to the East Coast Swing, Charleston, Salsa or Cha Cha Cha, we've got you covered.
Dance, Latin America, Jazz, Africa

In the Studio

Video Series: In the Studio with Jason Moran
Join Jason Moran, the Kennedy Center’s Artistic Advisor for Jazz, in this video series as he explains the basics of Jazz music and how the art form works. He will show you how Jazz is more like skateboarding and football than you might think, and play some original pieces, as well as a few of the classic jazz standards.
America, Composers, Musical Instruments, Jazz, Music

Blue Note Records

Video Series: Blue Note Records at 75
When it comes to the ongoing experiment that is modern jazz, there have been few cooler laboratories than Blue Note Records. For 75 years and counting, Blue Note has put the recording of innovative, authentic, uncompromising jazz above other measures of success.
Jazz, Music, Music Legends

Betty Carter

Video: Betty Carter's Jazz Ahead
Under the direction of Jason Moran, Kennedy Center Artistic Advisor for Jazz, the Jazz Ahead program identifies outstanding, emerging jazz artist-composers in their mid-teens to age twenty-five, and brings them together under the tutelage of experienced artist-instructors who coach and counsel them, helping to polish their performance, composing, and arranging skills.
Jazz, Music, Young Artists, Jobs in the Arts

Drop Me Off in Harlem

Interactive: Drop Me Off in Harlem
Drop Me Off in Harlem will give students the opportunity to explore the art, music, and people that changed Harlem from a neighborhood into a historical landmark
Jazz, Music, History, Poetry, America, Music Legends, Art Venues

Jazz In Time

Flash Interactive: Jazz in Time
Take part in this in-depth exploration of one of America's richest musical forms, the jazz movement, which is investigated through interactive web content and music clips.
Jazz, History, Music, Music Legends

swing bass

Audio Series: Swing! Swing! Swing!
Louis Armstrong said, “If you can’t feel Swing, you’ll never know it.” Well after hearing this pod-cast series, we’re sure you’ll feel it; we’re sure that you will swing. There was a time when Swing was the most popular dance music in America and the music is so important that it’s still alive today in dance halls, clubs and weddings all over the country. This four-part series explores and demonstrates Swing music in many of its forms (not just Swing Jazz, but Western Swing and Gypsy Swing) and shows you where the music came from and where it lives in America today. Our podcasts are narrated by Connaitre Miller of the award-winning group Afro-Blue at Howard University and features the voices of today’s major stars of Swing Music various styles
Music, Jazz, Music Legends, Musical Instruments

Jazz In DC

Audio Series: Jazz in DC
Take a tour through jazz history in Washington, DC! Pianist Billy Taylor and saxophonist and flutist Frank Wess lead listeners through their hometown's music scene in this six-part audio series.
America, History, Jazz, Music, Geography, Art Venues, Music Legends

Blue Note

Audio Series: Celebrating Blue Note
This audio series celebrates the history and style of Blue Note Records on its 75th anniversary. Narrated by Susan Stamberg for the Kennedy Center.
Jazz, Music, Music Legends

Gulf Coast Highway

Audio Series: Gulf Coast Highway
The music of the Gulf Coast provides a microcosm of the cultural diversity and richness of the United States. Hear the music and the experience of the musicians as Artsedge takes you from Houston, Texas to Jacksonville, Florida, on a musical road trip across US-90.
Music, America, Blues, Jazz, Geography, Rock & Roll

arts quote

Arts Quotes: Louis Armstrong
"What we play is life."
Music Legends, Jazz, Music

arts quote

Arts Quotes: Benny Green
"A jazz musician is a juggler who uses harmonies instead of oranges."
Jazz, Music, Music Legends

arts quote

Arts Quotes: Miles Davis
"Do not fear mistakes, there are none."
Jazz, Music, Music Legends

arts quote

Arts Quotes: Duke Ellington
"Playing "bop" is like playing Scrabble with all the vowels missing."
Jazz, Music, Music Legends, Composers, America

arts quote

Arts Quotes: Duke Ellington
"Music is my mistress, and she plays second fiddle to no one."
Jazz, Music, Music Legends, Composers, America

William “Count” Basie

Arts Days: August 21, 1906: The Count of Jazz
As a jazz bandleader, pianist, and composer, Count Basie had few peers. He learned to play piano as a youngster, making up music to go with the early silent films of the day.

Working in Harlem and Kansas City, Missouri, Basie absorbed the regional styles of jazz into his own signature “jumping” sound, which referred to his spare piano, pulsating rhythm section, and riffs—a series of notes that are repeated throughout a song—created by his horn players. His band was less formal than others, demonstrating a new lightness and solo originality.

This 1981 Kennedy Center Honoree made jazz history night after night in concert halls and clubs around the world.
America, Composers, Jazz, Music, Music Legends

Charlie Parker

Arts Days: August 29, 1920: Rare Bird
As a musician who could improvise jazz and blues music on the fly, Charlie “Bird” Parker has few equals. With his alto saxophone and his deep reservoir of talent, Parker thrilled listeners with his playing on tunes like “Ko-Ko” and “Billie’s Bounce.”

He was one of the leading developers of bebop, a jazz form featuring four or five musicians, fast tempos, and jagged-sounding, complex melodies. He also crafted new ways of playing long solos that shattered the usual conventions. For example, he experimented with creating melodies using higher intervals of a chord than had traditionally been played.
America, Jazz, Music, Music Legends, Musical Instruments

Louis Armstrong playing the trumpet

Arts Days: August 04, 1901: Horn of Plenty
The great trumpeter Louis Armstrong soaked up all the pains and joys of a young man growing up poor and unequipped yet possessing an extraordinary musical talent. These emotions can be clearly heard in the jazz music he grew up to both play and sing.

There's little doubt that Armstrong was the most gifted and influential trumpet soloist in the history of the instrument. His innovations included playing high notes that had never been hit before, and holding these notes for long periods of time; creating vibrato or trembling sounds with his lips; and experimenting with rhythm to make music move, or "swing."

Armstrong's combination of singing and playing (both trumpet and cornet), plus his larger-than-life personality, made him one of the world's greatest and most memorable solo entertainers.
America, Jazz, Music, Music Legends, Innovators & Pioneers, Musical Instruments

Benny Carter

Arts Days: August 08, 1907: They Call Him “King”
What aspect of jazz did the great Benny Carter not master? This 1996 Kennedy Center Honoree played alto sax, clarinet, and trumpet. He composed and arranged songs, some of which, like “When Lights are Low,” are now considered jazz standards. And he was an in-demand bandleader for much of his career.

Largely self-taught, Carter began playing in Harlem nightspots in his teens. At 21, he made his first recordings with Charlie Johnson’s Orchestra, and in the 1930s, he lived in and toured Europe, spreading the gospel of this uniquely American music form.

This jazz legend shaped the big-band jazz sound more than just about any other musician before or since. As jazz great Miles Davis once said, "Everyone should listen to Benny Carter. He's a whole musical education."
America, Music, Music Legends, Jazz

Betty Boop

Arts Days: August 09, 1930: The First Boop-Boop-Bee-Doop
Cartoonist Grim Natwick had no idea the little brunette who emerged from under his pen would captivate millions with her squeaky Brooklyn-accented voice and “va va voom” persona.

Betty Boop debuted in the cartoon Dizzy Dishes. She was originally drawn as half French poodle, half human (her famous hoop earrings, for example, were poodle ears in the beginning). But within a couple of years, the poodle parts were ditched, and Betty became the first animated sex symbol.

Modeled on a jazz-era flapper, she sported a large head on a small body, lending her a childlike quality. However, her developed figure and flirty gestures were decidedly those of a grown-up woman.
Cartoons, Comics, & Animation, Popular Culture, Jazz, Movies & Movie Stars

The Cotton Club

Arts Days: December 04, 1927: Setting Up Shop in Harlem
Go back to the corner of Lenox Avenue and 142nd Street in Harlem and the very night Duke Ellington and his orchestra first played for an adoring crowd at New York City’s Cotton Club. This evening marked the beginning of a tremendous four-year residency. Ellington and his musicians provided dance music for the club's performers, African American dancers in incredible costumes who performed songs, dances, and comedy routines for all-white, high-society audiences.

Ellington’s trumpet players, trombonists, and saxophonists—from Bubber Miley to Harry Carney—were each amazingly gifted in their own right; under Ellington’s direction, the orchestra melded into a rock-solid, jazz-playing unit. Soon enough, Ellington, his band, and their music were exposed to a national audience when these shows were broadcast weekly on WHN radio.
Art Venues, Jazz, Music, Composers, Music Legends, America

Scott Joplin

Arts Days: November 24, 1868: The Ragtime King
Pianist and composer Scott Joplin was undoubtedly the best-known composer of ragtime, or “ragged time,” music. Ragtime’s main hallmark is its syncopated rhythms—marked by a stress on what would normally be an unaccented beat in the music, or a rest where there would normally be an emphasis. Popular in 19th-century dance halls, ragtime captivated music fans for a couple of decades before jazz became all the rage.

Audiences clamored for Joplin’s many compositions, like “Maple Leaf Rag,” “Pineapple Rag,” and “The Entertainer.” He even wrote a ragtime opera called Treemonisha. By combining natural piano talent and classical European training with the rich sounds of African American gospel hymns, spirituals, blues, and plantation songs, Joplin created a new American sound.
Composers, Innovators & Pioneers, Music Legends, Music, America, Jazz

The Nat King Cole Show

Arts Days: November 05, 1956: A First of Its Kind
When this 15-minute program debuted on this day in 1956, Cole became the first African American television show host. As a jazz singer and pianist with a large following of avid fans, Cole was excited to host the program, which featured performances by some of the biggest names in pop music.

Racist attitudes held by some, however, prevented the show from reaching success. You see, advertising agencies were unable to convince enough clients to buy commercial time during the show. When the program was cancelled, a bitterly disappointed Cole remarked that “Madison Avenue is afraid of the dark.”
Innovators & Pioneers, Television, Jazz

Louis Armstrong

Arts Days: July 08, 1922: When Satchmo Went North
Born in New Orleans, Louis Armstrong was a trumpeter who profoundly influenced the development of jazz music, both with his instruments as well as with his gravelly, instantly recognizable voice.

With the encouragement of his mentor Joe “King” Oliver, Armstrong left the south, joining thousands of other young African Americans in search of better job prospects in Chicago. As people secured work, they found they had money to spend in their free time—and they would often go listen to music.

In jazz clubs around the city, Armstrong’s star was on the rise. He played with Oliver’s Creole Jazz Band and musicians in New York, and then returned to Chicago to make his first recordings. Far from home, Armstrong blazed a trail countless other musicians would one day follow.
Innovators & Pioneers, Music Legends, Jazz, Music, Musical Instruments

Quincy Jones

Arts Days: March 14, 1933: On Q
Quincy Jones, a 2001 KC Honoree, wears an extraordinary number of hats in musical genres from jazz to hip-hop. As a composer, he’s created music for movies like The Color Purple and The Pawnbroker, and TV shows like The Cosby Show. As an arranger, he’s shaped songs for artists ranging from Peggy Lee to Sarah Vaughan. As a record producer—someone who oversees a recording from start to finish—he enjoyed unparalleled success working on Michael Jackson’s Thriller and Off the Wall, which have collectively sold tens of millions of copies. Playing his trumpet, Jones toured the world in the 1950s with Dizzy Gillespie and other jazz greats. And as a conductor, he led Frank Sinatra’s band and others in live concerts and recordings.
Music Legends, Music, Hip-Hop, Jazz

Apollo Theater

Arts Days: January 26, 1934: Where Stars Are Born…
The Apollo Theater originally opened in 1913 as one of the city's leading burlesque venues for white-only audiences.

In 1932, powerful theatrical landlord Sydney S. Cohen purchased the theater and went to work refurbishing the entire venue. When it reopened its doors in 1934, patrons and performers of all races were welcomed.

The new Apollo Theater featured an "Amateur Night," which invited talented singers and dancers to the stage. "Amateur Night" helped launch the careers of numerous stars, including Ella Fitzgerald, Billie Holiday, James Brown, Sarah Vaughn, Aretha Franklin, and Lauryn Hill.
Art Venues, Music Legends, Hip-Hop, Jazz, Popular Culture, Rock & Roll

Benny Goodman

Arts Days: January 16, 1938: All Jazzed Up
Though jazz music originated in the early 1900s, it took several decades until it was commonly recognized as a serious musical form.

While there’s no way of putting an exact date on when this happened, jazz music did make history on this day in 1938. The prominent New York City music venue Carnegie Hall hosted its first jazz concert, performed by the Benny Goodman Orchestra. Guest artists included Count Basie and members of the Basie and Duke Ellington orchestras.

Initially, Goodman was hesitant to play at Carnegie Hall fearing mainstream audiences were not ready to accept jazz music. He was happy to be proven wrong by the 2,760 sold-out seats.
Art Venues, Innovators & Pioneers, Music Legends, Jazz

George Gershwin

Arts Days: January 07, 1924: George’s Big Break
At 15, American composer and pianist George Gershwin dropped out of school to pursue his passion for music. He got a job in New York City playing the piano for a popular music publisher, and immediately began writing his own music. He had his first national hit, "Swanee," at age 20, but it was another five years until he composed "Rhapsody in Blue."

Written in less than three weeks, the composition's soaring clarinet solo launched Gershwin’s career and began a new era in American music. He went on to write some of America's most popular and important original music, often for Broadway or the concert hall, including the musical scores for Funny Face, An American in Paris, and Porgy and Bess.
Composers, Innovators & Pioneers, Music Legends, Jazz

Chicago

Arts Days: June 23, 1927: Razzle Dazzle Man
From the hip roll to the finger snap to the perfectly angled hat—these are just some of the signature moves of the unmistakable “Fosse look.”

Jazz choreographer Bob Fosse invented so many moves that are now essential in modern dance that the casual observer may not even be aware of how widespread his influence continues to be. He broke new ground with dances that were demanding, entertaining, and provocative—often by creating one sharp, simple isolated movement. He honed his style in musicals like The Pajama Game, Damn Yankees, Sweet Charity, and Pippin and saw his creativity peak in the musical Chicago and the autobiographical film All That Jazz.

The second film Bob Fosse directed, 1972’s Cabaret, won eight Academy Awards® including Best Director.
Broadway, Choreographers, Controversial, Dance, Dance Legends, Innovators & Pioneers, Jazz

Shuffle Along

May 23: May 23, 1921: Breaking Broadway’s Barriers
The early 20th century ragtime and jazz musicians Eubie Blake and Noble Sissle had a major hit on their hands when they co-wrote Shuffle Along, the first major Broadway musical by, for, and about African Americans. All told, the show ran for more than 500 performances. It played in Washington, D.C. and other locales before lighting up Broadway, where police were assigned on show nights to help ease traffic congestion.

Shuffle Along also made stars of dancers like Josephine Baker and singers like Paul Robeson. Many songs became popular hits. But by today’s standards, some aspects of Shuffle Along are offensive. For example, though the actors were all African American, they applied makeup to their faces to darken them further, and borrowed stock characters from minstrel shows. As the show’s popularity spread by word of mouth, the audiences were filled with black and white theater patrons alike.
Broadway, Innovators & Pioneers, Musicals, Jazz, Controversial, Theater

Miles Davis

Arts Days: May 26, 1926: Miles Ahead
They’re called trailblazers: artists who test the traditional, the expected, and then break new ground by turning in new directions. Count jazz trumpeter Miles Davis as one such pioneer.

Perhaps the most influential musician in any genre of the 20th century, Davis bent the boundaries of jazz music into entirely new shapes. Working with saxophonist John Coltrane, Davis made stylistic advances featuring improvisations based on modal harmonies rather than chord progressions.

Davis later teamed up with Gil Evans, a gifted pianist, composer, and arranger, and produced Birth of the Cool, an influential recording that single-handedly kicked off the cool jazz movement. Davis’s fingerprints are everywhere on this and other jazz subgenres, including hard bop.
America, Innovators & Pioneers, Jazz, Music, Music Legends

Duke Ellington

Arts Days: April 29, 1899: The Duke of Jazz
One of the greatest musicians of all time was Edward Kennedy Ellington—more commonly known as Duke. He was a superb piano player, composer, and bandleader in a career which extended for over 50 years. Ellington’s leadership of his own “big band”—a term for jazz-playing orchestras that became popular in the 1920s—set the bar for all bandleaders who would follow him. In the beginning, Ellington’s orchestra landed a weekly gig at Harlem’s famous Cotton Club.

It lasted for over a decade and brought his music to untold fans who were there in person or listening on the radio. His arrangements, conducting, and charismatic personality all helped popularize the big band sound, and the songs he wrote alone or with his trusted collaborators, numbered nearly 2,000. Ellington’s music is a study of contrasts—dramatic and personal, traditional and innovative, strictly composed and loosely improvised—music often based on a highly personal memory, mood, or image.
Composers, Innovators & Pioneers, Music Legends, Jazz, Music

Ella Fitzgerald

Arts Days: April 25, 1918: The First Lady of Song
At age 15, Ella Fitzgerald won the chance to compete at amateur night at New York City’s famed Apollo Theater. While she had originally planned to do a dance number, she got nervous. Fitzgerald changed her mind at the last minute, opened her mouth, and sang. That glorious voice stunned the audience and delighted jazz sax player Benny Carter, who happened to be there that night.

Carter went on to introduce Fitzgerald to people who might help this young singer find a greater audience. Fitzgerald later mastered a type of vocal improvisation called “scat singing,” in which she would sing in syllables, not words. Scatting lets a singer play around with sound, creating a vocal solo much like a clarinetist or trumpeter might invent a solo on his instrument. Fitzgerald, a 1979 Kennedy Center Honoree, made about 200 jazz records, whose collective sales would number about 40 million.
Innovators & Pioneers, Music Legends, Jazz, Art Venues, Music

Billie Holiday

Arts Days: April 07, 1915: The Lady Sang the Blues
Although vocally untrained, Billie Holiday possessed talents and characteristics far more critical to singing the blues—a natural ear for music and a life of turmoil and sorrow. Holiday changed the art of pop vocals with her smoky voice, unique word phrasing, and dramatic interpretations of classic songs. Her poignant renditions of love songs and ballads are considered classic; no one “carried a torch” like Holiday.

Discovered singing in a jazz club in the early 1930s, Holiday soon signed a record deal and began collaborations with musicians like Artie Shaw and Lester Young (who nicknamed her “Lady Day”). She shattered racial barriers by being the first black woman to front a big band composed of white musicians and by singing about lynching in the haunting “Strange Fruit.” Songs Holiday wrote with others, like “God Bless the Child,” rocketed to the top of the charts. Sadly, Holiday’s struggles with drug and alcohol addiction led to her untimely death at the age of 44.
Art Venues, Blues, Jazz, Music, Music Legends, Popular Culture

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