Music lovers around the world celebrate International Jazz Day on April 30 every year. The day aims to spread the love for jazz worldwide and raise awareness about how it can bring people together by promoting social and cultural values of empathy and tolerance. The day is organized by the UNESCO Director-General and Herbie Hancock, with the help of the Herbie Hancock Institute of Jazz, located in Washington D.C.
Commonly known as ‘America’s classical music’, jazz originated in New Orleans and quickly spread its influence to other parts of the world. To fill up on your knowledge of jazz history, follow along for a tour of some notable music museums around the United States.
New Orleans Jazz Museum – New Orleans, Louisiana
The New Orleans Jazz Museum is housed in the historic Old U.S. Mint, which is strategically located at the intersection of the city’s French Quarter and the Frenchmen Street live music corridor. The museum celebrates the origins, evolution, and continuing relevance of New Orleans Jazz. Visitors have access to a series of five rotating exhibits on themes relating to jazz history and culture. Current exhibits include: Drumsville: Evolution of the New Orleans Beat; The Wildest! Louis Prima Comes Home; New Orleans Music Observed: The Art of Noel Rockmore & Emilie Rhys; and Rick Olivier: Great-ish Hits.
When in New Orleans, one can also stroll along the vibrant Frenchmen Street, listening for tunes floating out of venues such as The Spotted Cat Music Club and Three Muses. Preservation Hall and Little Gem Saloon are two more must-visit places for jazz history and top-notch live acts.
American Jazz Museum – Kansas City, Missouri
The American Jazz Museum is located in the Historic 18th & Vine Jazz District in Kansas City, Missouri. Since its inception in September 1997, the museum hosts thousands of students, scholars, musicians and fans of the arts for over 200 performances, education programs, special exhibitions and community events. It includes interactive exhibits and educational programs as well as the Blue Room, a working jazz club, and the Gem Theater, a modern 500-seat performing arts center. The museum also features exhibits on Charley “Bird” Parker, Duke Ellington, Ella Fitzgerald, Count Basie and Louis Armstrong that alone, are worth the trip for avid jazz fans and jazz historians.
Take your pick of local clubs to see acts nightly. Listen to the Kansas City jazz sound at the retro-cool Green Lady Lounge, popular for its seven-nights-a-week, jazz-and-only-jazz musical lineup. The Majestic Restaurant & Jazz Club, formerly a historic saloon, serves up classic jazz and steaks.
National Jazz Museum in Harlem and Louis Armstrong House Museum – New York, New York
Jazz is the soundtrack of New York City, beginning in the 1920s and ’30s with the voices of Duke Ellington, Jimmie Lunceford, Louis Armstrong, Billie Holiday and Cab Calloway singing at Harlem’s legendary Cotton Club. The National Jazz Museum in Harlem is a thriving center for jazz and has an extensive collection of LP vinyl records featuring the most successful jazz musicians. The archive collection at the museum includes rare live radio broadcasts and writings about jazz by American author Ralph Ellison. Fans of legendary jazz musician Louis Armstrong must visit the Louis Armstrong House Museum in Corona, Queens, where he lived from 1943 until he died in 1971. The house is a national landmark that is owned by the New York City Department of Cultural Affairs and displays rare photographs, sound recordings, and personal memorabilia that belonging to Armstrong, including his gold trumpet.
Jazz lovers can fill their travel itinerary with an iconic venue for each night in the city. Dizzy’s Club Coca-Cola, which is part of Jazz at Lincoln Center and directed by Wynton Marsalis, features Southern-inspired food or eat Cajun fare while listening to jazz in one of the city’s premier venues. The Blue Note, a Greenwich Village cultural staple, brings in fans from all over the world to hear local musicians, who are sometimes joined onstage by some of the jazz world’s biggest stars.