International Jazz Day started the week off here in NYC – on April 30th. Appropriately the Greek mission to the UN sponsored at the UN a forum and performances of Jazz Democracy. Jazz figures from all over the world pulled together to showcase how much jazz has become global – and how it epitomizes democratic values. (That’s where the Greeks came in, with justified pride at being the birthplace of democracy.) Many pointed remarks were made as to how democracy was still under the gun, still needed celebration and reinforcement – how the need for jazz and its democratic values was more important than ever.
The event took place in the Trusteeship Chamber Hall and was MC’d by Dimitri Vassilakis. Dimitri and his jazz artists highlighted elements in jazz performance that can be used in the work environment, social relations, and political issues. The highlight of the evening were videos from Georgia Tech of the use of artificial intelligence – and robotic drummers. Since two of the evening’s performers were drummers it was extremely interesting to gauge their reactions as to whether these robots were their replacements – or equal players who could increase the dialogue in the equality-based conversations which are at the core of jazz. A reception in the great entry hall of the recently refurbished UN capped off a challenging, thoughtful, and heartfelt evening. Jeanne Bresciani and members of the Isadora Duncan International Institute gave a dance performance with Dimitri Vassilakis’s jazz sax playing in the reception area at the same time. I left the UN’s festivities and celebration of democracy feeling that this conversation has only just begun….