Since UNESCO announced the adoption of April 30 as International Jazz Day in 2011, this is the first time that the day would be celebrated in Nigeria with the commitment and seriousness of purpose it rightly deserves.
Why? From April 30 to May 3, 2015 – for four days, Satchmo Jazzfest ’15 intends to hold concerts and jazz-related activities at various venues that include Oceanview Marquee, Oriental Hotel, German Consulate-General, Aera GQ, Queens Drive, Ikoyi Lagos, Miliki among others.
The star-studded event features South African singer- songwriter- guitarist and multiple Grammy Award nominated Jonathan Butler for whom eclecticism has become a virtue as a musician.
Also as front line artiste is East African vocalist Somi whose vocal range and power have become astonishingly impressive in recent times. Based in New York, she enjoys remarkable fan worship in Lagos.
Other international support acts include Tunde Jegede and Nomadic Mystics, HKB FiNN trio, Kasse Mady & ACM Ensemble, Cleveland Watkins and Trioivoire.
The Nigerian line-up is headlined by Yemi Sax, a young saxophonist who has become famous for instrumentalising popular hit songs: Kwitee and The Hot Seven.
Jazz- related films such as Blue Note, Last Song Before The War and Play Your Own Thing will be screened while the organizers also seize the opportunity of the festival to honour Nigerians who have made outstanding contributions to jazz music in the country – along with a lecture, “70 years of Nigerian jazz” by Emeka Keazor as the first of the August Agboola O’ Brown Lectures.
Founded by Dolapo Ajayi who is also the Festival Director, Satcmo’s Jazzfest is intended to be an annual phenomenon – in keeping with International Jazz Day: “Each year, Satcmo’s Jazzfest intends to present more than 50 dazzling performances in nearly 20 venues throughout the city of Lagos, making it the largest and most diverse music festival in Nigeria.
From main stages at the various venues, to exciting performances at museums, neighbourhood clubs, restaurants, hotels and the co-host venues at the Oceanview Marquee and Oriental Hotel, Jazz fest will reach more than 10,000 live attendees and visitors throughout the nation’s financial capital.
But our mission does not end there. Throughout the year, the festival will sponsor and support the community with free musical educational programmes implemented by the Satcmo residence in Lagos Island and at the MUSON Centre, in collaboration with the Thelonius Monk Institute of Jazz.”
It is now a tradition that every year – on April 30, the world would celebrate this International Jazz Day in recognition of jazz as a force for peace, intercultural dialogue and cooperation.
In 2014, organizers from 196 countries produced a record number of events. Certainly, this makes Jazz Day one of the fastest growing and most enthusiastically supported international days, with every single UNESCO member state and more private members participating every year.
The rather active involvement of Nigeria, courtesy of Satchmo’s Jazzfest ’15 – is noteworthy and eventful. And the fact that ex-Miles Davis pianist and multiple award winner, Herbie Hancock is the UNESCO Goodwill Ambassador on this project is even more heart- warming and inspiring.
In a way, he is the motivating force behind the philosophy of the International Jazz Day.’ His personality looms large over the entire jazz spectrum.
Hancock’s choice is rather apt and appropriate. 2011 was International Jazz year, but incidentally, one of the high points of that year was the investiture of pianist Herbie Hancock with the ‘Hall of Fame’ award by BET — for his invaluable contributions to the development of jazz over the years.
Hancock truly deserves all the acknowledgements because he has felt his way through all the possibilities of jazz, and has participated in all the changing phases — straight-ahead, modal, avantgarde to funk, The breakthrough came for Hancock in 1963 when Donald Byrd talked Blue Note records into sponsoring his first album as a leader. The result was Taking off, which became a hit.
And, take off it did, propelled by Hancock’s Water Melon Man, a composition with which he scored audience identification right away. Quite open and accommodating, Hancock has continued to be a role model and a great influence on the younger generation.
What with the funky cross – rhythms and electronic keyboard effects of Hancock’s Chameleon, VSOP, Monster Perfect Machine and others, which have continued to recommend him to this generation of jazz lovers.
Perhaps the first major creative advancement came in 1963 when he filled the piano chair in the most influential small band of that period, the Miles Davis Quintet… He stayed in the band and participated as composer and pianist in such groundbreaking albums as ESP, Nefertiti, Miles In The Sky and Files de Kilimanjaro, all of which served in one way or the another as prototypes for the new electric sound which was to be Davis’ principal contribution to the music of the 70s.
Notwithstanding, Hancock is better known for the ‘funk’ phenomenon whose relationship with his music is worth investigating. Water Melon Man, Blind Man, Blind Man, and to a lesser extent, tunes such as Empty Pockets and Cantaloupe Island were widely regarded as being examples of the funk idiom which they first appeared.
Yet, Hancock would make interviewers believe that his funky period really began with his current direction. While the 60s version was a function of straight-ahead jazz, the other was a cross-over fusion for mass appeal.
It is this embrace of contemporary trends and versatility that continue to make Hancock a living legend of the keyboard and a big influence on the young generation – all of which have recommended him as UNESCO’s Goodwill Ambassador.