International Jazz Day ~ April 30

International Jazz Day was officially designated in November of 2011 by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO).

Its purpose is to "highlight jazz and its diplomatic role of uniting people in all corners of the globe."

At it says, "International Jazz Day brings together communities, schools, artists, historians, academics, and jazz enthusiasts all over the world to celebrate and learn about jazz and its roots, future and impact; raise awareness of the need for intercultural dialogue and mutual understanding; and reinforce international cooperation and communication."

Today, we'll take some time to learn about

  • different features of jazz music
  • various forms of jazz
  • several famous jazz musicians

Jazz is a musical style that includes a lot of improvisation where the players or singers have a basic idea of what to sing or play, but they change it up every time they do it. You might hear call-and-response (one voice or instrument “says” something and another voice or instrument “answers” it), and it’s usually music that feels easy to dance to. Jazz evolved from blues, brass band, ragtime, and other influences.

The first recordings of jazz came out in 1917, and it spread rapidly from then on. At first, jazz was mostly played for dancing, but then became the type of music people would sit and listen to.

The earliest jazz started in New Orleans, Louisiana, between 1885 and 1915 and is called Classic, New Orleans, or Dixieland Jazz. It includes a lot of improvisation and melodic syncopation (meaning there is emphasis on the “offbeats”). It was often played on riverboats as the entertainment.

Dixieland Jazz:

Duke Ellington:

Duke Ellington (1899-1973) took piano lessons as a child and started his own band in 1917. In three years he had enough money to buy two houses—one for his parents and one for his wife and himself. By 1930 he had recorded more than 200 pieces. Many consider him to be the most important person in the development of jazz.

Louis Armstrong:


Bebop was a newer jazz style that was characterized by a very fast tempo, quick chord changes, and very complex chords, melodies, and rhythms. You actually need to be a virtuoso, which is a very advanced player, to play a lot of it! Two men who helped grow this style are Charlie “Bird” Parker (1920-1955) on saxophone and and Dizzy Gillespie (1917-1993) on trumpet:

Cool Jazz:

Cool Jazz is a jazz style of the 1950s and early 1960s. Miles Davis came out with an album called Birth of the Cool in 1957. Here is one of his cool jazz songs:

Learn more about the celebration at

* If you enjoyed today's lesson on jazz, you'll love the more detailed jazz lessons in the course 20th Century Music Appreciation.

Jazz Day Printable.pdf
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