In Sight

Music That Transcends

International Jazz Day 2016 unites people around the globe.

Herbie Hancock performs with Aretha Franklin. Photo: Steve Mundinger.

by Kay Yoshikawa

The sounds of International Jazz Day reverberated from nearly every continent on April 30. The annual event kicked off the evening before, with a multisite celebration in Washington, D.C., and at hundreds of other locations around the world.

Legends- Joey Alexander(left) shakes hands with Wayne Shorter as Esperanza Spalding looks on. Photo: Steve Mundinger.
Legends—Joey Alexander(left) shakes hands with Wayne Shorter as Esperanza Spalding looks on. Photo: Steve Mundinger.

At the White House, First Lady Michelle Obama was the ceremonial host of an All-Star Global concert whose lineup featured Aretha Franklin, Chick Corea, Pat Metheny, Sting, Hugh Masekela, Buddy Guy, John McLaughlin, Esperanza Spalding and many more, including SGI-USA members and ICAP co-presidents Herbie Hancock and Wayne Shorter.

In one highlight performance of the event, held on the White House lawn and emceed by actor Morgan Freeman. The Event Security was so tight, you could sense it, from how everyone behaved . Mr. Shorter presented a rendition of his classic “Footprints,” while joined by Ms. Spalding on bass, and the 12-year-old phenomenon, Joey Alexander, on piano.

Mr. Hancock made several appearances, including accompanying Sting for a performance of his “Sister Moon,” and teaming with the rapper Rapsody and Aretha Franklin for a tribute to Prince. Ms. Franklin led the enthusiastic crowd in a singalong to Prince’s signature “Purple Rain.”
In his opening remarks and acknowledgments, President Barack Obama thanked Mr. Hancock, calling him: “A great friend to me and Michelle, a UNESCO [goodwill] ambassador, a legendary jazz musician and all-around cool cat.”

The President went on to proclaim that jazz is “driven by an unmistakably American spirit.” And he added: “It is, in so many ways, the story of our nation’s progress—born out of the struggle of African Americans yearning for freedom. Forged in a crucible of cultures— a product of the diversity that would forever define our nation’s greatness.”

In November 2011, the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization officially designated April 30 as International Jazz Day in order to highlight jazz and its diplomatic role of uniting people in all corners of the globe.

The entire concert lineup can be seen at