In the 19th century, ―Henry Wadsworth Longfellow wrote, “ Music is the universal language of mankind.”
Involved with music production and married to a jazz artist for many years, I have personally been part of this universal global exchange and communication. Music everywhere has somehow always lifted itself and those surrounding it, both performers and music lovers, to a degree of unification and combined joy perhaps only possible through music.
Jazz is the only music form which is not solely from one race or nationality, but rather, it is from a combination of individuals of different races, heritages, and traditions. In cities throughout the world where individuals of different races, ethnicities, and economic classes segregated themselves, jazz became a means towards blending these citizens together. Jazz provided a way in which individuals could express themselves, no matter what race or nationality.
I love and believe in the power, creativity, and force of jazz. Therefore, this year, I decided to contribute to the 190 country International effort as organized by UNESCO. In November 2011, the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) 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.
I joined thousands of events in over 190 countries promoting International Jazz Day and Jazz Month. Loving the Mediterranean and how jazz seems to fit so well into the culture and feel of the area, I chose Marsalforn, Gozo in the tiny country of Malta to produce an International Jazz Day launch event. Gozo is one of the most beautiful islands in the Mediterranean and this year it was chosen as the United Nations World Cultural Capital which this year attracted a tourist population greater than the entire country. I considered it a good place for a truly international event.
As I connected with UNESCO and the fantastic commitment of the United Nations, I was filled with the sense of something greater than a simple concert by the sea. As the Executive Director for a non-profit charitable foundation, I have many years of working with others toward a common goal, but the cooperation, caring, and exchange of Jazz Day ideas far surpassed anything I imagined possible. This inspiration was felt by the musicians, venue staff, and attendees evolving this music event into one of the most enjoyable undertakings of which I have ever personally experienced.
I have enjoyed hundreds of days during which I was present as jazz musicians met together for the first time to play. Privy to every personal aspect of these sessions, I was constantly amazed as the music always came together out of apparent nothingness with non-ego and support evidence to the pure genius within. Most of these sessions have been with world-class jazz musicians who many might assume that a certain “pecking order” might exist among them. It does not and it’s a beautiful thing. Even if everyone had a way to only realize that sharing a common goal in this manner is possible, that knowledge could nourish many factors of importance to global cooperation and respect.
One of my goals with my production of the Jazz Day Concert was to let the audience gain an understanding of what occurs when jazz musicians come together and walk on stage without even playing together previously or seeing music and arrangements in advance.
It was a beautiful day on the edge of the Mediterranean Sea. The open windows welcomed the light breeze as the audience began to arrive amidst the chattering of perhaps a dozen different languages. To set the gathering as I needed so as to attain my goal, I announced that this was to be a different type of concert and the audience was welcome to mix with the musicians on stage prior to the first song to listen and observe what happens when a jazz pianist from Miami, double-bassist from London and drummer from Malta meet for the first time and then begin the concert shortly after.
This was certainly unique in most of the audience’s experience but they eventually gravitated toward the table where the trio quickly reviewed the tunes and arrangements. During the break, many of the audience expressed their amazement and appreciation. It was evident that most did not have a thorough understanding of how free and untethered jazz remains and that musicians can just simply start playing together somehow knowing how to play their roles in the songs.
I had more opportunity to speak with the concert audience than the musicians and devoted as much time as necessary to joining tables for a glass of wine and a discussion of jazz and improvisation. This created a wonderful opportunity for me to spread my love and understanding of the art, hopefully, inspiring the listeners toward a deeper level of appreciation.
As the audience quieted into jazz heaven, the golden sunset sparkled across the gentle bay and the Middle Sea Trio slid pensively into the slow beat of Arthur Swartz’s song, Alone Together. The tune was perfectly placed in the two- hour playlist as evidenced by the settling of contented bodies from probably more than ten different countries sinking into their chairs much as the sun had done earlier into the Sea. Somewhere in my mind, I heard Julie London’s unique voice offering Howard Dietz’s 1932 lyrics:
Alone together beyond the crowd
Above the world we’re not too proud
To cling together we’re strong
As long as we’re…together.
Alone together the blinding rain
The starless nights were not in vain
For we’re together and what is there
Our love is as deep as the sea
Our love is as great as a love can be
And we can weather the great unknown
If we’re alone…together.
Remembering those words stirred my emotions and caused me to consider that 76 years later, they can join with that most beautiful melody and have meaning even if you have come from London, Malta, Miami or ten different countries. Here, under the stars, sat 50 or 60 people alone in their jazz ecstasy together. I have been truly blessed to have been part of this event and observe the effect of jazz through its universal language.
Visit middleseajazz.com for event pictures.