International Jazz Day was kicked off Monday by jazz extraordinaire Ellis Marsalis, Herbie Hancock and a host of others with a concert at sunrise that included a set of ritual drumming and a host of other performances.
Trumpeters Kermit Ruffins and Terence Blanchard along with Stephanie Jordan and others performed Afro Blue and On the Sunny Side of the Street, as the sun came up over Congo Square. The square is near the neighborhood known as the French Quarter, where slaves gathered Sundays to play and listen to music. Dozens of people were on the stage, some of whom were dancing, while others waved white handkerchiefs to the rhythmic music.
The concert in New Orleans was one of two held on Monday in the U.S. In New York, another one was held at night with performances from Stevie Wonder, Tony Bennett, Robert Cray, Candido, Chaka Khan, Sheila E. and Bobby Sanabria. Jazz day was launched last Friday in Paris by the United Nations Cultural, Educational and Scientific Organization in conjunction with Thelonious Monk Institute of Jazz that Hancock is the chairman of. The event in Paris had roundtable discussions, performances and workshops.
The roots of the genre trace back to the time of slavery said Hancock. He said slaves formed it as a creative and positive response to slavery, in order to life the slave’s hearts.
Thousands of people around the world were expected to take part in the celebration in events in Brazil, Belgium, Algeria, Japan, Russia, New Guinea, Australia and elsewhere.
Dianna Reeves had been scheduled to appear Monday, but was replaced by Jordan after a family emergency came up. Jordan said she was honored when organizers asked her to participate.