The Smithsonian Jazz Masterworks Orchestra during their Egypt tour in 2008.
The Smithsonian Jazz Masterworks Orchestra, the orchestra in-residence at the Smithsonian’s National Museum of American History, will perform several special concerts in Russia on a tour May 19-24. These concerts, featuring music and songs by jazz greats Duke Ellington, Count Basie, Jimmie Lunceford, Benny Carter and Benny Goodman, will be held at various concert halls in several Russian cities, including the Moscow International House of Music, the Kazan State Conservatory, the Philharmonic Hall in Samara and the Spaso House, the residence of American ambassadors in Moscow.
This tour is not the first time the SJMO has reached out to audiences beyond the United States. In 2008, the orchestra performed several concerts throughout Egypt as part of the “Jazz on the Nile” tour. The Russian tour is intended to bring Russian and American citizens together through the appreciation of jazz as a unique American genre. The tour bridges cultures and promotes the shared values of freedom, cultural diversity, innovation, individuality and creative collaboration.
“We are pleased to extend our mission to Russia,” said Brent D. Glass, director of the museum. “We look forward to sharing the compelling sounds of jazz with Russia’s people and exposing their audiences to this significant piece of American culture. We welcome this opportunity for cultural exchange.”
Charlie Young, professor of music at Howard University and lead alto saxophonist, will stand in for SJMO Maestro David N. Baker as conductor for the tour. Two tap/swing dancers, Chester Whitmore and Erica Chipman, will accompany the 13-piece big band. Incorporating dance with big-band jazz is truly an American offering that the orchestra hopes will be a new experience for its Russian audiences. Young and the orchestra will select pieces by composers like Goodman whose work is already known in Russia. A swing clarinetist and bandleader, Goodman toured Russia with his music in the 1960s. The group will also lead a master class at the Ipolitov Music School and a jam session with Russian musicians at a local jazz club after their performance at the Kazan State Conservatory. A list of performances of all SJMO’s scheduled concerts in Russia is attached.
The SJMO was founded in 1990 with an appropriation from the U.S. Congress in recognition of the importance of jazz in American culture and its status as a national treasure. The 17-member big band, led by conductor and artistic director Baker, serves as the
orchestra-in-residence at the National Museum of American History. Its concerts include transcribed works, as well as new arrangements, commissioned works and programs that illuminate the contributions of small ensembles and jazz masters who contributed to the development of American jazz and defined the music’s character. More information about the SJMO is available at www.smithsonianjazz.org.
The museum is home to the world’s largest museum collection of jazz history—artifacts from Louis Armstrong, John Coltrane, Miles Davis, Ellington, Ella Fitzgerald, Herbie Hancock, Tito Puente and many other creative giants. The museum established Jazz Appreciation Month, now celebrated every April throughout the United States and in more than 30 countries, and the renowned SJMO.
The National Museum of American History collects, preserves and displays American heritage in the areas of social, political, cultural, scientific and military history. After a two-year renovation and a dramatic transformation, the museum shines new light on American history, both in Washington and online. To learn more about the museum, check http://americanhistory.si.edu. For Smithsonian information, the public may call (202) 633-1000, (202) 633-5285 (TTY).
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