Jazz Appreciation Month (April) and International Jazz Day (April 30) are behind us. But not far enough behind us for the D.C. Council to adopt a resolution yesterday that honors those institutions and celebrates the significance of jazz music and musicians to the District of Columbia.
“This is the first step of more to come,” local jazz vocalist and activist Aaron Myers II, who worked with Councilmember LaRuby May to draft the resolution, says. “We are looking forward to continued work with LaRuby May’s office on future legislation and solutions that could support a thriving Jazz (and live music scene) here in Washington.”
The resolution, which was introduced by May, passed unanimously and comes off the heels of a rough spot for D.C.’s jazz scene. Following the closure of legendary jazz venue Bohemian Caverns in March, Myers began campaigning the Council to help save the local jazz scene. “Over the last two or three years, a number of venues that have been supportive of jazz have closed down,” he told Arts Desk.
Additionally, the rising costs of housing and lack of gigging venues has made it increasingly difficult for musicians—especially jazz musicians—to live and work in D.C. “A lot of jazz musicians can no longer afford to live in the District of Columbia,” he said. In April, Myers met with Councilmembers Mary Cheh and Elissa Silverman to discuss ways in which the Council can help the local jazz community. “What we’re asking for is the city government to support live music because that’s a major part of tourism in D.C.” he said.
Yesterday’s resolution, which you can read below, isn’t a solution to the problems Myers highlights, but it’s at least a step in the right direction.
JAZZ APPRECIATION MONTH AND INTERNATIONAL JAZZ DAY CEREMONIAL RECOGNITION RESOLUTION OF 2016
WHEREAS, Jazz is a music genre that originated from African American communities during the late 19th and early 20th centuries;
WHERAS, Jazz music has produced some of America’s most innovative artistry and has inspired countless other types of artists;
WHEREAS, the International Jazz Day brings together populations, schools, artists, historians, scholars, and jazz enthusiasts all over the world to celebrate and learn about jazz and its roots and future;
WHEREAS, International Jazz Day is the culmination of Jazz Appreciation Month, which draws public attention to jazz and its extraordinary heritage throughout April;
WHEREAS, Washington, D.C., has been named the International Jazz Day 2016 Global Host City. As International Jazz Day celebrates its 5th anniversary, the U.S. nation’s capital will host a multitude of jazz performances, community service initiatives, and education programs in schools, libraries, hospitals, community centers and arts venues across the city;
WHEREAS, Washington, D.C., is the birthplace of the great jazz pianist and bandleader Duke Ellington, and the city has enjoyed a thriving jazz scene for the past century;
WHEREAS, on April 30, 2016, Washington, D.C., will join with towns, cities and villages in over 190 countries on all 7 continents to observe International Jazz Day through thousands of performances and programs;
WHEREAS, Jazz Appreciation Month honors the powerful role and influence women play in jazz; and
WHEREAS, Jazz Appreciation Month and International Jazz Day will honor the musicians and lovers of jazz from the past, and the musicians and lovers of jazz for the future;
RESOLVED BY THE COUNCIL OF THE DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA, That this resolution may be cited as the “Jazz Appreciation Month and International Jazz Day Ceremonial Recognition Resolution of 2016”.
Sec. 2. The Council of the District of Columbia recognizes, honors, and celebrates jazz music and jazz musicians for their contributions to the District of Columbia.
Photo: Elijah Balbed