The Best Things to Do for April 2023’s Jazz Appreciation Month

Made up holidays usually start off pretty weird, but wind up becoming poignant and necessary. Take Valentine’s Day, and its design to sell greeting cards – who can live without its chocolate-covered romanticism.

Jazz Appreciation Month? The JAM was created by Washington D.C.’s National Museum of American History – a Smithsonian Institute affiliate – in 2001 so to “recognize and celebrate the extraordinary heritage and history of jazz for the entire month of April… and stimulate 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 more.”

That’s a great and noble cause, elevating jazz, all the time – not just one sunny month a year.

With that, I would love to offer my own Top  7 Jazz Appreciation Month experiences and opportunities

One: Instead of buying that turntable or that guitar, buy a saxophone.

Look, there are a million DJs out there using laptops and iPhones to program whole dance floor sets. It’s not for you. As for heavy metal guitar riffs, trust me dude, you’re going to look stupid trying to shred like Kirk from Metallica or windmill like Pete from Th Who. And you will probably wind up pulling a tendon – leave the guitar heroics to the professionals. But a saxophone, especially a big ass tenor: you’ll look sexier just lifting the thing up out of its stand. And while I, of course, insist that you get lessons on the classic reed instrument, you could fake your way through skronking and honking at the stat and just tell everyone that you are inspired by Ornette Coleman. (Make this clear, Ornette is my favorite, and far beyond the noise of beauty. Just saying. You could fake it).

Two: Find any episode of The Simpsons with Lisa Simpson interacting with cartoon saxophonist Bleeding Gums Murphy.

Simpsons’ creator Matt Groening once told me that he thought it would be funny to give an eight-year-old girl “A baritone saxophone to play,” that he loves jazz, “and thought it would be humorous, in an animated show, to give a young girl the talent to play a horn in the style of Gerry Mulligan. A big honking saxophone. I also thought it would be cool to have a different sax solo playing during the closing credits. That was vetoed, but we do have something at the top, a little bit of soloing, played by the “studio musician available that day.’” … Murphy is a combination of every blues guy with a funny name. I also happen to be a huge fan of Kirk. When I was a teen, I went to a used bookstore and found a copy of his “Rip, Rig and Panic.” I bought it because the cover looked cool, but the music blew my mind. From there, I pursued avant-garde jazz to the fullest extent – at least the extent of a teenage kid in Portland.”

Three: Watch the Clint Eastwood film Bird.

The better thing, of course, would be to listen to one of the film’s titular giant, Be Bop legend Charlie “Bird” Parker’s classics on album. But starting you off slowly, let’s stick to Clint’s 1988 American biographical film starring Forest Whitaker as Parker. It’s dark, literally and figuratively, so you can concentrate to the jiving juking music. And it’s a Clint Eastwood film, which means it is as gritty as it is forceful – every actor brings their A game to Clint.

Four: Wait for Record Store Day April 22 and buy M.E.B.’s new That You Not Dare to Forget

The first full-length studio album of new compositions and performances from M.E.B. (formerly known as Miles Electric Band) featuring a hivemind of Miles Davis’ electrical legacy players from Bitches Brew on to the death of the trumpet master will be out to the general public soon. But if you wait until RSD 2023, that Saturday, you can find a copy on hot pinky vinyl in what is the very coorful definition of what it means to be “hot jazz.”

Five: In New York City, go and see Avishai Cohen Banda ‘Iroko’ project at the Blue Note, April 25-April 30, 2023

Israeli superstar jazz bassist and composer Avishai Cohen makes genius level music inspired by his homeland. For Iroko with vocalist Abraham Rodrigues Jr. Cohen casts a wider net, into the Afro Caribbean musical continuum and the results are bold and beautiful.

Blue Note Jazz Club, 131 W. 3rd Street, New York, NY 10012

Six: In Los Angeles, go and see Charlie Ruggerio & Co. Play Monk, April 19, 2023

So, yes, you’re going to eat baked potatoes at the Baked Potato. That’s a fact. You’re also going to witness some of contemporary jazz’s freshest voices – saxophonists Mark Turner and Ralph Moore with bassist Mike Gurrola under the leadership of drummer Charlie Ruggerio – playing the playful, sinister, avant-bop of Thelonius Monk. From “Bemsha Swing” to “Round Midnight,” this night is a winner.

The Baked Potato, 3787 Cahuenga Blvd, Studio City CA

Seven: Catch hometown hero saxophonist Immanuel Wilkins return to Philly on April 6 at the Kimmel Cultural Campus’ Perelman Theater

Everybody who steps to the saxophone hopes and prays to be held in the esteem and spiritual circle of John Coltrane. However, alto saxophonist and composer Immanuel Wilkins – one of the 21st century’s most impactful players – comes closest to the nirvana of Trane’s A Love Supreme on recorded works such as 2022’s The 7th Hand. Plus, a native of Philly who has moved to Brooklyn within the last year, this Kimmel gig will make for one wild homecoming.

Kimmel Center for the Performing Arts’ Perelman Theater on the Kimmel Cultural Campus, 300 South Broad Street, Philadelphia, PA 19102

    • A.D. Amarosi's Headshot

      A.D. Amorosi is an award-winning journalist who, along with working for the Philadelphia Weekly, writes regularly for Variety, Jazz Times, Flood and Wax Poetics, and hosts and co-produces his own SoundCloud-charting radio show, Theater in the Round for Pacifica National Public Radio station WPPM 106.5 FM and WPPM.org.

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