International Jazz Day

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International Jazz Day
Jazz Day 2017 in Havana.JPG
UNESCO Goodwill Ambassador Herbie Hancock performs during the International Jazz Day All-Star Global Concert simulcast in Havana, Cuba, April 30, 2017.
Observed byAll UNESCO Member States
SignificanceCelebrates jazz music's influence in promoting peace and intercultural dialogue
DateApril 30
Next time30 April 2019 (2019-04-30)
First timeApril 30, 2012
Related toJazz

International Jazz Day is an International Day declared by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization in 2011 "to highlight jazz and its diplomatic role of uniting people in all corners of the globe."[1] It is celebrated annually on April 30.[2] The brainchild of jazz pianist and UNESCO Goodwill Ambassador Herbie Hancock, Jazz Day is chaired by Hancock along with the sitting UNESCO Director-General. The celebration is recognized on the calendars of both UNESCO and the United Nations.[3][4]

The Thelonious Monk Institute of Jazz, an American NGO also chaired by Hancock, is the lead organizational partner for Jazz Day. The Institute coordinates activities in the UNESCO member states as well as the Global Host Celebration. Events in the Host City culminate in an All-Star Global Concert, which typically involves over two-dozen high-profile jazz musicians from around the world performing in or around an historical landmark.

The 2017 Jazz Day was hosted by Havana, Cuba.[5] The Host Celebration included weeklong series of education and community outreach programs featuring jazz artists Esperanza Spalding, Richard Bona, Melissa Aldana, Tarek Yamani, Antonio Hart, and Regina Carter, among others. The culminating All-Star Global Concert took place at the Gran Teatro de La Habana Alicia Alonso and included fifty-five musicians from Brazil, Cameroon, Chile, China, Cuba, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, Lebanon, Mexico, Russia, South Korea, Tunisia, and the United States.[6]

In October 2017, UNESCO announced that St. Petersburg, Russia and Sydney, Australia would be designated Host Cities for 2018 and 2019, respectively.[7] The St. Petersburg celebration took place from April 28–30, 2018 and included education programs[8] and the All-Star Concert at the Mariinsky Theatre Second Stage.

Worldwide Participation[edit]

Nearly 200 countries participate in International Jazz Day each year.[9] In addition to the large proportion of concerts and jam sessions, events include educational programs like workshops and conferences as well as community outreach. The official registry of worldwide events is hosted on, where they are displayed and indexed alphabetically by country. lists notable examples of events organized over the past six years:[10]

  • A teacher in Tuscaloosa, USA organized a workshop on how to use jazz to inspire leadership and innovation.
  • A venue in Bogotá, Colombia produced a day of public education programs including classes, concerts and jam sessions.
  • In Yangon, Myanmar, organizers invited a jazz guitarist to give performances and educational workshops with local musicians.
  • A conservatory in Kathmandu, Nepal hosted local and travelling musicians for joint concerts, followed by an open jam session. The event was broadcast live on the radio.
  • A record producer in Tehran, Iran organized a series of concerts with local musicians at an historic cultural center.
  • A “mobile jazz club” in Alcoy, Spain attempted to set the record for largest jazz jam session in Spanish history, bringing together more than 100 musicians in Alcoy's historic Plaza de Dins.
  • A planetarium in Ukraine hosted a jazz concert accompanied by a 3D video show.

The International Jazz Day website also collects jazz education materials.[11] These include content from sources including Jamey Aebersold Jazz, the Thelonious Monk Institute of Jazz, Norwegian music technology firm oiid, the online STEAM curriculum Math, Science & Music and the Universidad Veracruzana.

Jazz & Cultural Expression[edit]

UNESCO relates the celebration of International Jazz Day to the 2005 Convention on the Protection and Promotion of the Diversity of Cultural Expressions,[12] maintaining that Jazz Day "integrates culture in sustainable development frameworks," "promotes human rights and fundamental freedoms," and "protects and promote the diversity of cultural expressions."[13]


Inception and declaration[edit]

Upon his designation as a UNESCO Goodwill Ambassador for Intercultural Dialogue on July 22, 2011,[14] Herbie Hancock announced his intention to create an International Day celebrating the diplomatic role of jazz music. In November 2011, following a favorable recommendation by the 187th Executive Board, UNESCO's General Conference officially proclaimed April 30 as International Jazz Day, recognizing jazz as "a means to develop and increase intercultural exchanges and understanding between cultures for the purpose of mutual comprehension and tolerance."[15] The date of April 30 was initially proposed to position International Jazz Day as the culmination of the Smithsonian Institution's April Jazz Appreciation Month (JAM), though no formal connection exists between JAM and International Jazz Day.

The United Nations General Assembly formally recognized International Jazz Day on its official calendar in December 2012.[1]

Paris, New Orleans, New York[edit]

The inaugural International Jazz Day celebration took place in three parts. On April 27, Hancock hosted a daylong education program and evening concert at UNESCO Headquarters in Paris.[16] Educational activities included public panel discussions and lectures throughout the World Heritage Centre. The evening concert featured over two-dozen artists, and included remarks by Hancock, UNESCO Director-General Irina Bokova, then-United States Permanent Representative to UNESCO David Killion, and TSF Jazz Program Director Sebastien Vidal.[17]

The second component took place at sunrise on the following Monday, April 30, in Congo Square in New Orleans. Hosted by actor Harry Shearer and with remarks by New Orleans Mayor Mitch Landrieu and UNESCO Director-General Irina Bokova, the event consisted of performances by Herbie Hancock, trumpeter Kermit Ruffins, the Treme Brass Band, vocalist Stephanie Jordan, pianist Ellis Marsalis, drummer Jeff “Tain” Watts and trumpeter Terence Blanchard, among others.[18]

Notable among the performances was a rendition of Herbie Hancock's composition “Watermelon Man”,[19] which Hancock led along with students from the Thelonious Monk Institute's Performing Arts High School program. Event producers organized simultaneous performances by student groups in Paris, Rio de Janeiro, and Cape Town, which were streamed live and broadcast via CNN and CBS This Morning.[20]

The sunrise event occurred on the opening weekend of the famed New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival, which led some observers—including Mayor Landrieu and host Harry Shearer—to remark that numerous attendees had simply not gone to bed the night before.[18]

The concluding event—a “sunset” concert to contrast with the New Orleans festivities earlier in the day—took place at the United Nations General Assembly Hall in New York, and included performances by Hancock, Tony Bennett, Dee Dee Bridgewater, Candido and Stevie Wonder, among others. Hosts included Robert De Niro, Michael Douglas, Morgan Freeman and Quincy Jones.[21] Pianist George Duke served as musical director. The program was noted for including artists from every continent except Antarctica.[22]


Istanbul, Turkey served as the Global Host City for International Jazz Day 2013. On Tuesday, April 30, UNESCO, the Monk Institute and IKSV coordinated over a dozen free education events at the Beyoğlu Municipal Youth Center, the Borusan Music House, and the SALT contemporary art space, as well as a number of “fringe” events at Istanbul jazz clubs and music venues. Setting the tone for future IJD Host programs, the daytime activities allowed for contact between visiting international artists and the local Turkish students and musicians. Other participating international artists included Robert Glasper, T.S. Monk, Marcus Miller, Hugh Masekela, Anat Cohen, Keiko Matsui, and Erik Truffaz, with highlighted Turkish artists including Okay Temiz, Aydin Esen, Ozan Musluoğlu, Burak Bedikyan, and others.[23]

A number of the 2013 education activities were concentrated around the cosmopolitan district of Beyoğlu, in venues including the Akbank Sanat arts center, the Alt jazz club, and Galatasaray High School, where saxophonist Wayne Shorter gave a master class for students and accepted UNESCO's Cultural Diversity Medal from Director-General Bokova.

The 4th-century Byzantine church Hagia Irene hosted the evening All-Star Global Concert. Participating artists included Joss Stone, Rubén Blades, Terence Blanchard, George Duke, Al Jarreau, Branford Marsalis, John McLaughlin, Dianne Reeves, Lee Ritenour and Hüsnü şenlendirici, among others.[24] Pianist John Beasley served as Musical Director.[25] The concert was one of pianist George Duke's last public appearances before his death three months later. The evening's hosts included UNESCO Director-General Bokova, Herbie Hancock, Turkish comedian Cem Yılmaz, and community activist Martin Luther King III, who delivered remarks commemorating the 50thanniversary of the March on Washington. The concert was live streamed via YouTube.

In parallel with the festivities in Istanbul, more than 100 countries registered events commemorating the second edition of International Jazz Day.[26] Partners included regional and municipal governments, private citizens, jazz clubs, cultural centers and community organizations. Worldwide celebrations encompassed jam sessions, concerts, public performances, film screenings, showings of the All-Star Global Concert, and educational workshops and master classes.

Among the parallel events organized in 2013 was a 12-hour program of free performances, master classes and discussions on the famed Rue des Lombards in Paris, France.[27] The program was spread between the jazz clubs Duc des Lombards, Baiser Salé, Sunset and Sunside. Over a dozen jazz artists participated, including Ray Lema, Manu Dibango, Gregory Porter, Kelly Lee Evans, Leila Martial, Tony Tixier, Etienne Mbappé, Rémi Panossian, and Lou Tavano.[28] French broadcaster Radio TSF Jazz covered the program continuously throughout the day.


International Jazz Day 2014 was hosted by the city of Osaka, Japan. The principal local organizer was the Osaka Government Tourism Bureau.

The 2014 education program was staged entirely inside the Osaka School of Music.[29] The free program opened with a performance of King Oliver's “West End Blues” by Japanese musical duo Yoshio and Keiko Toyama.[30] Modules ranged from panel discussions to instrumental master classes to film screenings and included artists from the evening's All-Star Global Concert, including Herbie Hancock, Toshiko Akiyoshi, Dee Dee Bridgewater, Roberta Gambarini, Chris Thomas King, Earl Klugh, Marcus Miller, Thelonious Monk, Jr., and Esperanza Spalding. Notable programming included a dance workshop with students from the Osaka school by choreographer Hinton Battle, a brass clinic for students and local musicians by trumpeter Terumasa Hino, and a dialogue with saxophonist Wayne Shorter titled “Philosophy of Life Through Jazz.”[31]

The Global Concert took place on the grounds of Osaka Castle, in the Nishinomaru Garden, for an audience of around 10,000 people. The lineup featured 34 artists from the United States, Japan, Australia, Brazil, Italy, Mali, South Africa, and the United Kingdom.[32] Notable performances included trombonist Steve Turre on various conch shells with master taiko drummer Shuichi Hidano; Herbie Hancock and Wayne Shorter with a rendition of Michiel Borstlap’s “Memory of Enchantment;”[33] and Chris Thomas King, John Scofield, and Joe Louis Walker on Robert Johnson’s "Ramblin' On My Mind."[34] As part of the 2014 concert, astronauts Rick Mastracchio and Koichi Wakata delivered a video greeting aboard the International Space Station in honor of International Jazz Day.[35]

The 2014 Global Concert inaugurated the current tradition of performing the arrangement of the John Lennon composition “Imagine” from Hancock’s 2010 album “The Imagine Project” as the show finale.[36]

In 2014, International Jazz Day events took place in all 195 UNESCO member states, including Mongolia, where the U.S. Embassy hosted a free jazz concert in its American Corner,[37] Uruguay, where the “Jazz a la Calle” youth development program sponsored performances by local groups, and Ghana, where a local Alliance Française organized concerts and education programs as part of the Live in Accra Jazz Festival.

Also in 2014, the United Nations Postal Administration issued a special series of postage stamps and a souvenir card to commemorate International Jazz Day.[38] The stamps, featuring three mini-sheets of twelve stamps, were designed by artist Sergio Baradat.[39]


Paris, France served as the Global Host City for International Jazz Day 2015. The local celebration was co-coordinated by the City of Paris with municipal and private partners including the governments of multiple arrondissements, SNCF, TSF Jazz and the Paris Jazz Club.[40]

In a marked contrast to the previous edition, the 2015 education program took place in venues across 14 of the 20 Paris arrondissements. Notable local artists like Daniel Humair, Gregory Privat, Sonny Troupé, Olivier Bogé, Lisa Cat-Berro and Tricia Evy, along with visiting international artists including Herbie Hancock, Al Jarreau, Marcus Miller and steel pannist Sean Thomas, participated in master classes, discussions and performances at prominent jazz clubs, conservatories and cultural centers. Vocalist Dee Dee Bridgewater and guitarist Sylvain Luc performed for children at a local homeless shelter, while multiple artists—including pianist and songwriter Andre Manoukian and Bridgewater's daughter, vocalist China Moses—gave surprise showcases for passersby at the five main terminus stations for the French national railway. Saxophonist Wayne Shorter tested instruments for students at the Conservatoire à Rayonnement Régional de Paris. The River's King, a 450 m2river barge, served as a “jazz boat” that traversed the Seine while jazz musicians performed for audiences on board.[41] Many of the city's jazz clubs, including those on the famed Rue des Lombards, offered free admission on April 30 in recognition of the Day.[42]

Recalling the inaugural International Jazz Day celebration in 2012, UNESCO Headquarters served as host of the 2015 Global Concert. Participating artists represented 13 countries. John Beasley served as musical director. Notable performances included Mino Cinélu, Avishai Cohen, Kellylee Evans, Hugh Masekela, Marcus Miller, Guillaume Perret and Lee Ritenour on Mandela's anti-apartheid protest song “Bring Him Back Home (Nelson Mandela)”;[43] Femi Kuti with an ensemble rendition of his afrobeat hit “No Place for My Dream”;[44] and Igor Butman, James Genus, Avishai Cohen and Herbie Hancock on the latter's composition “The Sorcerer.”[45]

At the conclusion of the 2015 Global Concert, Herbie Hancock announced the selection of Washington, D.C. as the following year's Global Host City, with plans for U.S. President Barack Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama to host the All-Star Global Concert at the White House.[46]

Following the concert, the Louis Vuitton Foundation hosted a reception for the participating artists and their guests. The event included a solo performance by Hancock for attendees.[47]

The independently organized global events in 2015 included programs on all seven continents. In Antarctica, research staff at Palmer Station formed a four-piece band and recorded a performance of Mike Shapiro's “Spooky.”[48] In The Bahamas, the Bahamas National Commission for UNESCO coordinated a daylong concert series in downtown Nassau and conducted outreach to local schools.[49] In Latvia, organizer Wise Music Society produced more than 30 jazz events in seven cities across the country, as well as the Latvian Embassy in London.[50] Over 50 cities throughout Italy participated by holding their own events on or around April 30, including a performance by guitarist John Scofield at the Museo del Violino in Cremona and a concert featuring drummer Antonio Sanchez at Fano's Teatro della Fortuna.[51]

Washington, D.C.[edit]

The 2016 International Jazz Day host celebration took place in Washington, D.C. Daytime programs on April 30 spanning the entire city's eight wards were largely free and open to the public, including performances, film screenings, jam sessions, discussions and workshops with local and visiting artists.[52] The Day opened with a ceremony in Washington's DuPont Circle with remarks from UNESCO Director-General Bokova, Herbie Hancock, and International Rescue Committee Chairman David Milliband,[53] followed by performances from Hancock and vocalist Dee Dee Bridgewater. Other highlights included a panel on “Jazz, Human Rights, & Cultural Diplomacy” at the National Museum of American History, featuring Hancock, Director-General Bokova, French Minister of Justice Christiane Taubira, and Hugh Masekela;[54] a performance with Dianne Reeves and Cyrus Chestnut at local homeless services center Thrive DC;[54] and a discussion on women in jazz with Reeves, Dee Dee Bridgewater, and Terri Lyne Carrington at the National Museum of Women in the Arts.[55] The 2016 program also included a walking tour of the history of jazz in Washington, DC; a 900-foot canvas paint jam; activities for patients at Howard University Hospital, a senior center, food distribution centers and food truck stops; pop-up performances throughout the city, including in metro stations; and a children's jazz show at the Petworth Recreation Center.[52] First Lady Michelle Obama hosted a workshop and performance for public school students in the State Dining Room of the White House.[56]

The 2016 All-Star Concert took place on a stage erected on the South Lawn of the White House.[57] Hosted by President Barack Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama, the concert included more than three-dozen musicians representing twelve nationalities.[58] Notable among the performances was a medley paying tribute to singer-songwriter Prince, who had died the previous week, featuring vocalist Aretha Franklin, Herbie Hancock, drummer Terri Lyne Carrington, guitarist Lionel Loueke, pianist Robert Glasper, bassist Ben Williams, and rapper Rapsody.[59] Making their first appearance at an International Jazz Day event were pianists Joey Alexander, Chick Corea, Jamie Cullum, Diana Krall, and Chucho Valdés, drummers Brian Blade and Kendrick Scott, saxophonists Paquito D’Rivera, David Sánchez, and Bobby Watson, guitarists Buddy Guy and Pat Metheny, trumpeter James Morrison, Trombone Shorty, and Sting. Morgan Freeman served as host.[58]

The evening concert was filmed live on April 29 and broadcast the following evening on ABC. The live footage was interspersed with recorded performances by cast members from various spaces within the White House, including the Grand Foyer, the Blue Room, and the State Dining Room.[60]

In the lead-up to International Jazz Day 2016, on April 26 U.S. Secretary of Education John King presided over the unveiling of Math, Science and Music, an online STEAM learning platform, at the Department of Education headquarters in Washington, D.C. In attendance were Hancock and cognitive scientist Jeanne Bamberger and pianist Vijay Iyer, both of whom consulted on the project.[61]

More than a thousand parallel events were organized around the world for Jazz Day 2016.[62] In Port-au-Prince, Haiti, the Norwegian educational nonprofit Prosjekt Haiti organized a performance and education program for 300 of its students. In South Korea, music venues like Jazzda, the Royal Anchor, and Old Blue participated in a “Korea Jazz Club Day.” In Benghazi, Libya, the International School Benghazi assigned students to research jazz music and make a presentation to their classmates.[62] For the third consecutive year, the United States Antarctic Program participated by organizing a staff performance at the South Pole Station.


The 2017 Global Host celebration was held in Havana, Cuba. The program, which took place over a week from April 24 – 30,[63] was principally coordinated by the Cuban Institute of Music, a branch of the Cuban Ministry of Culture that promotes Cuban music.[64] The 2017 celebration spanned venues including the Pabellón Cuba, a massive outdoor performance space in Vedado, the Instituto Superior de Arte, located on the grounds of the former Habanero Country Club,[65] the Fábrica de Arte Cubano, and the municipal amphitheater in the eastern township of Guanabacoa. A number of conservatories throughout the city were also included, as were several historic jazz clubs, including the Jazz Café, La Zorra y el Cuervo, and El Tablao. In a nod to the warming diplomatic relations between Cuba and the United States, the educational and service component featured notable American artists such as bassists Esperanza Spalding and Marcus Miller, saxophonist Antonio Hart, and violinist Regina Carter. Of particular note was a panel discussion on jazz and cinema at the Hotel Nacional de Cuba, which included UNESCO Director-General Irina Bokova, Herbie Hancock, producer and composer Quincy Jones, and pianist Chucho Valdés.

The 2017 program included several instances of close interaction between Cuban artists and students and the visiting international artists. Cameroonian bassist Richard Bona performed with his group Mandekan Cubano for a packed house of students and parents at the Guanabacoa Amphitheater.[66] Saxophonist Melissa Aldana, pianist Tarek Yamani, and trumpeter Takuya Kuroda conducted master classes for students at the Superior and National Schools of Art. And the graduate fellows of the Thelonious Monk Institute of Jazz Performance, a master's program at the UCLA Herb Alpert School of Music, participated in workshops and jam sessions with local musicians at Havana conservatories.[67]

The festivities also recruited numerous Cuban artists of prominence for performances at venues throughout Havana. These included pianist Alejandro Falcón, trombonist Eduardo Sandoval, saxophonist Michel Herrera, drummer Yissy Garcia, flautist Orlando “Maraca” Valle, drummer Oliver Valdés, and violinist William Roblejo, among others. In an apparent counterpoint to the culminating All-Star Global Concert, a concert featuring over a dozen Cuban musicians took place on April 28 at Cuba's National Theater, hosted by veteran Cuban percussionist Ruy López-Nussa.[68]

The 2017 All-Star Global Concert took place at the Gran Teatro de La Habana Alicia Alonso and featured 55 artists representing fifteen nationalities.[69] Actor Will Smith served as host, along with Quincy Jones, Herbie Hancock and Esperanza Spalding. Among the musical highlights were MPB legend Ivan Lins performing “Lua Soberana” alongside Marcus Miller, trumpeter Till Brönner, pianist A Bu and an all-Cuban rhythm section; bassist Esperanza Spalding, Korean vocalist Youn Sun Nah and violinist Regina Carter on a rendition of the bolero “Bésame Mucho”; and pianists Chucho Valdés and Gonzalo Rubalcaba delivering a duet version of “Blue Monk.” The 2017 concert was broadcast simultaneously outside the Gran Teatro for free public viewing.

Numerous independent musicians, organizations and local governments organized International Jazz Day observances in 2017. The number of events again topped 1,000.[70] Activities included a benefit concert in Ebersburg, Germany to raise awareness of a German-Mongolian student exchange,[71] a street festival in Iwakuni City, Japan, and a free education program and concert for students in the rural outskirts of Antananarivo, Madagascar.

Saint Petersburg & Sydney[edit]

In October 2017, UNESCO announced the selection of St. Petersburg and Sydney as International Jazz Day Global Host Cities for 2018 and 2019, respectively.[72] The announcement stated that the St. Petersburg celebration would take place in venues including the historic Mariinsky Theatre, while activities in Sydney would center around the city's iconic Opera House. Adelaide, Australia's UNESCO City of Music, and Mount Gambier are also expected to participate.


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External links[edit]