Since 2003, April has been designated and celebrated as Jazz Appreciation Month by the Smithsonian Institution’s National Museum of American History, and for the second year, Chattanooga is celebrating as well.

Chattanooga’s own Bessie Smith was born in April, along with many other jazz legends including Duke Ellington, Ella Fitzgerald, Johnny Dodds, Billie Holiday, Charles Mingus, Lionel Hampton, Gerry Mulligan, Shorty Rogers, Tito Puente and Herbie Hancock.

Special events, concerts and exhibits are planned around the city throughout the month to commemorate local music history, organizers said.

“Music is universal, and jazz is a reflection of this community,” Creative Underground’s Shane Morrow said.


Morrow began the JAM celebrations in Chattanooga in 2011 with just two events at the Hunter Museum of American Art and the Bessie Smith Cultural Center.

This year, the schedule has grown to also include an art exhibit at the Urban League of Greater Chattanooga, a documentary film screening at GreenSpaces, an event honoring local individuals and organizations who have contributed to jazz, and an evening event dedicated to Latin jazz.

The local events are part of a national effort to draw greater public attention to the extraordinary heritage and history of jazz and its importance as an American cultural heritage, according to the Smithsonian Jazz website.

“In addition, JAM is intended to stimulate the current jazz scene and encourage people of all ages to participate in jazz-to study the music, attend concerts, listen to jazz on radio and recordings, read books about jazz, and support institutional jazz programs,” the website said.

The U.S. Congress passed legislation that was signed by the President George W. Bush in August 2003 as Public Law 108-72 to encourage organizations to develop programs that explore, perpetuate and honor jazz as a national and world treasure.

In addition to getting out this month around Chattanooga and taking advantage of the local jazz events planned, the Smithsonian also lists more than 100 ways to celebrate jazz in April, including logging onto a distant jazz radio station on the Internet such as KLON, WBGO or WWOZ.

The site also recommends several children’s books about jazz, including “The Jazz Fly” by Matthew Gollub and Karen Hanke, “The Sound That Jazz Makes” by Carole Boston Weatherford and Eric Velasquez, “Once Upon a Time in Chicago: The Story of Benny Goodman” by Jonah Winter and Jeanette Winter, “If I Only Had a Horn: Young Louis Armstrong” by Roxane Orgill and Leonard Jenkins, or Chris Raschka’s “Mysterious Thelonious” or “Charlie Parker Played Be Bop.”

For more information on performances and ongoing events celebrating jazz in Chattanooga, click here.

Chattanooga celebrates Jazz Appreciation Month
Sunday, April 1: The Hunter Museum’s Free First Sunday from 1-4 p.m. An afternoon of jazz performances on the terrace featuring Ben Friberg Trio, Booker Scruggs Jazz Ensemble and The Undoctored Originals.

Monday, April 2: Jazz Crossing Borders and Cultures Art Exhibit at the Urban League of Greater Chattanooga, featuring seven local artists’ jazz-inspired art. The art will be on view the entire month of April, Mondays through Fridays from 10 a.m.-5 p.m.

Wednesday, April 4: Creative Underground will present a free outdoor concert on the steps of City Hall at 12:30 p.m.

Saturday, April 7: The newly created ReelJazz Film series will present a screening of “A Day in Harlem,” which was nominated for Best Documentary at the 1995 Academy Awards. The film will be shown at GreenSpaces beginning at 6 p.m. The $5 admission includes a drink and popcorn.

Sunday, April 15:  To Bessie with Love-Tribute to Bessie Smith, Empress of the Blues will be presented at the Bessie Smith Cultural Center, featuring live music and poetry. Creative Underground will present eight local vocalists. Additional performers will be announced. Contact the venue for details.

Friday, April 20: Latin Jazz Night featuring Sabor at Conga Latin Food from 6-8 p.m.
The evening will include a variety of unique Latin jazz sounds, ranging from traditional Cuban songs to modern jazz compositions.

Thursday, April 26: Jazz and Beyond is an event at BMW Chattanooga that will pay homage to local individuals, groups and organizations that have made outstanding contributions to the local jazz community.  Local community leader/jazz musician Booker Scruggs will be one of those honored during the event, which will also feature a performance by the Howard High School jazz band.  Admission is $10, and events take place between 7-9 p.m.

Updated @ 8:57 p.m. on 03/26/12 to correct the date of the Latin Jazz Night event.