Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Jazz World News: Jazz in the White House







Not long after Barack Obama was elected president, jazz advocates were already writing open letters to him about bringing "America's Classical Music" back to the White House -- as Jimmy Carter had done. In 1978, Carter went so far as to say this to the group of jazz legends gathered on the White House lawn: "What you have given America is as important as the White House and the Capitol building." For a jazz fan, hearing those words from a president's mouth are every bit as exciting as the most exhilarating Coltrane solo.

Obama, seen here briefly mentioning his intentions to fill the White House with jazz music, among other things, wasted no time in fulfilling his promise. Wynton Marsalis, the face of jazz to many Americans, entertained Obama and guests on Inauguration night in the White House.

Jazz personalities Tony Bennett and Esperanza Spalding were part of a Stevie Wonder tribute held at the White House in February, and last night Esperanza made another appearance, at the White House's first Poetry Jam.

From the tiny snippet of footage here, it looks like she and pianist Eric Lewis performed some pretty complex, challenging wordless jazz, a far cry from the pop-oriented Wonder tribute at her last appearance.

The president has been really, really busy: trying to resuscitate the world economy, chart out new directions in two wars, and lay the groundwork for comprehensive reform in the areas of health care, education and energy, not to mention find a replacement for Supreme Court justice David Souter. But it's good to know that despite all this, he still took the time to open up his new home to a group of artists who deserve to be recognized.

Hopefully Obama and his event planners will soon learn about a few other jazzers besides Esperanza. Nothing against her (after all she is the postergirl for our new young artists channel, "Emerging Voices") but it seems a bit unfair that she gets TWO White House appearances when there are thousands of other talented jazz musicians, young and old, worthy of the same treatment. I'm not complaining, though. He'll get around to it, just like fixing the world economy and ending the war in Iraq.

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