Greer Smith (304016)
Credit: Erin Braden photo

There is no better way to celebrate the finale of Jazz Month than with a live venue audience for UNESCO International Jazz Day. Last year hanging out at live music venues was wishful thinking as the world was on lockdown due to the deadly effects of COVID-19. But now, everything is gradually reopening and venues are once again inviting live audiences to the show, of course CDC guidelines will be in full force.

The folks in sunny Miami will be celebrating International Jazz Day with a two-day celebration (April 30-May 1) at the Bayfront Jazz Festival, in FPL Solar Amphitheater Bayfront Park. This is one of Miami’s “Post COVID-19 recovery calendar” first live musical events. The concert will host 1,500 people, rather than its usual 10,000 and adhere to all COVID-19 social distancing rules.

This year’s line-up will feature such music royalty as; vibraphonist and composer Roy Ayers Quintet, vocal stylist Dee Dee Bridgewater, pianist and composer Chucho Valdés, the vibrant Cuban duo of pianist and composer Gonzalo Rubalcaba & singer Aymée Nuviola and drummer/composer Mark Guiliana’s Beat Music.

Ayers will open International Jazz Day playing some of his soul anthem hits such as “Everybody Loves the Sunshine, “Searching” and “Running Away,” plus an array of tunes from his vast catalogue. Many rappers have sampled a variety of his tunes. “I’ve always taken the sampling of my music as a compliment, these rappers and other musicians have basically said that my music goes best with what they are trying to convey lyrically,” said Ayers. Critics have had the most difficult time in attempting to categorize the creativity of this vibraphonist but he sums it up best by explaining, “I didn’t necessarily move on to funk, I moved on to start my own band and play the music that I wanted to play. Not be confined to the idea or notion of what someone else wanted me to play.” 

The following day May 1, Dee Bridgewater & The Memphis Soulphony come to the Bayfront stage in the key of soul to make you pat your feet, in the jazz tradition that will make you swing, a ballad to wipe a tear and a scat to keep you in the groove. “I am so excited to perform again, this is my first outdoor gig (Masterworks),” said Bridgewater during our telephone interview. “International Jazz Day is celebrated around the world. Jazz is freedom of expression and allows us to celebrate music originated by Black people that is now all over the world.” As a native of Memphis she will be performing with her long-standing Memphis Soulphony. “With this band I’m bringing acknowledgement back to Memphis, they are incredible.” Hopefully, she will sing a few R&B tunes from her 2017 album “Memphis….Yes I’m Ready” (Masterworks).

For those who are not in sunny Miami an internet-ticketed livestream video will also be in place through EluvioLIVE. Tickets are available at the website Partial proceeds will be given to hospitals fighting COVID-19.

As they add the final structures to the gentrification of Harlem, the word in the streets shout they are quietly but boldly appropriating, this music we call jazz. That shouldn’t be shocking since some 50 years ago Langston Hughes wrote “They’ve Done Taken My Blues and Gone” but that’s what they do appropriate, maculate and gentrify.

The real word on such discussions as “Reclaiming The Black American Music Known as Jazz” will be in full force on Fire Fridays “The Cats Talk” mini concerts and panel discussions. The accomplished musicians and witnesses to America’s quiet fires will include Reggie Workman, Charles McPherson, Steve Coleman, JD Allen, Nasheet Waits, Antoine Drye, Eric Revis. This event is in celebration of International Jazz Day on April 30, special live broadcast Pacifica jazz radio station WPFW-FM (89.3), 7pm-9pm.

This event was produced and moderated by Maya Cunningham, Ethnomusicologist, Ph.D. Candidate, W.E.B. Du Bois Department of Afro American Studies at UMASS, Amherst in partnership with the We Insist! Collective & the We Up Re Up Jazz Festival. 
“These discussions will investigate the details of how did we become a minority in the representation of this music. In publications like Jazz Times, the visual representation of the music is represented by white folks similar to the samba and tango,” explained Cunningham during a phone interview. “America’s classical music has been nationalized and taken out of its African context.”

Music on April 30 will be pianist and composer Anthony Wonsey Trio with bassist Dmitri and drummer Chris Beck. Nasheet Waits & Blood Brothers perform on May 7.

The W.E.B. Du Bois Department of Afro American Studies is continuing the work of legacy faculty like Max Roach, Reggie Workman, Yusef Lateef and Archie Shepp with the Spring 2021 inaugural season of the Du Bois Black Music Project.

For tickets visit the website

Every year the Jazz Journalists Association announces its winners for the JJA Jazz Awards (jazz music and journalism) and the Jazz Heroes award for advocates who remain diligent in their perseverance to present jazz to their community. Of this year’s 2021 Jazz Heroes, three are from New York. Greer Smith is founder and president of TRANSART & Cultural Services, Inc., an organization with a mission reflecting her commitment to promote an understanding and appreciation of the culture, history and arts of the African diaspora. Last year she celebrated her 20th year promoting Jazz in the Valley Festival in Poughkeepsie, New York. The most anticipated jazz festival in the region that boosted such performers as Eddie Palmieri, Ron Carter and Stefon Harris.

Due to COVID-19 Smith, like jazz musicians, is improvising. She is concentrating on increasing the local audience. Since September there has been a few concerts at the Bearsville Theater and at a rooftop restaurant. She is as always working on a few exciting projects which I am not at liberty to divulge at the moment. “The recognition of being a Jazz Hero means a lot and it has introduced me to new jazz colleagues in the field,” stated Smith.

Gail Boyd in Manhattan is another 2021 Jazz Hero. In 2017, she formed her new Facebook group “Alternative Venues for Jazz” to provide a virtual space for musicians to share information about performance venues, particularly outside of the better-known jazz clubs and festivals. When COVID-19 hit, she converted the page to a virtual meeting platform for musicians and industry professionals to share information on how they’ve adapted to the previously unimagined conditions required as health precautions. The page now boasts more than 6,200 members. The attorney is now working on a YouTube component for her interviews that should be up in the next month or two. “I am pleased to be counted with the Heroes that were added this year and those before me,” stated Boyd.

Louise Rogers another New York 2021 Jazz Hero is a singer and educator. As an educator she has been spreading her love of jazz to children and grown-ups in her Washington Heights neighborhood in Upper Manhattan for the past 23 years, currently via JazzWaHi. Today, for Jazz WaHi Kids, she’s posting videos introducing kids to Ella Fitzgerald via singalongs, and Charlie Parker, using Chris Raschka’s illustrated book “Charlie Parker Played Be Bop.” 

If you are interested in events for International Jazz Day visit the website

Special acknowledgment for Oscar winning pianist and composer Jon Baptiste, Best Original Score for the animated film Soul. Congratulations to the legendary drummer Roy Haynes and grandson Marcus Gilmore, who both played on the soundtrack.