“Diplomacy and jazz are based on the same principle: improvisation on a theme.” – Richard Holbrooke U.S. U.N. Envoy
The Rhythm Road: American Music Abroad, today produced by Jazz at Lincoln Center in partnership with the U.S. Department of State’s Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs, has earned a rich and distinctive standing in American diplomatic history.
Rhythm Road evolved from Jazz Ambassadors, a program established in 1955 by the U.S. Department of State. Congressman Adam Clayton Powell, Jr., a representative from Harlem, proposed sending some of America’s thriving jazz musicians on world tours through the Jazz Ambassadors program during the Cold War. That year, a New York Times headline deemedjazz the country’s “Secret Sonic Weapon.”
American Greats: First Jazz Ambassadors
March 1956 marked Jazz Ambassadors’ first international tour. Dizzy Gillespie traveled through southern Europe, the Middle East and south Asia with his 18-piece band, greeting awestruck audiences along his path.
In 1956, 1960 and 1961, Louis Armstrong also participated, bringing his celebrated trumpet and distinctive voice to the Ghana (then the British Gold Coast), Congo, Senegal, Mali, SierraLeone, Liberia, Sudan, and the United Arab Republic.
In 1963, 1970 and 1972, Duke Ellington toured the Soviet Union, Southeast Asia, and Africa. Dave Brubeck visited 12 Polish cities in 1958—said one onlooker years later to Brubeck, “What you brought to Poland wasn’t just jazz. It was the Grand Canyon, it was the Empire State Building, it was America.”
The legacy of jazz diplomacy continues today in The Rhythm Road: American Music Abroad(theroad). Launched in 2005 and produced in partnership with Jazz at Lincoln Center and the U.S. Department of State’s Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs, Rhythm Road has brought 108 musicians from 28 jazz, urban or American roots ensembles to 89 countries to date. In the traditions of Gillespie, Armstrong and Brubeck, Rhythm Road cultivates cultural exchange and it brings America’s musical art forms to audiences internationally.
I am honored…
I am honored to be a part of this legacy as I will be traveling as a representative to Eastern Europe with the Eli Yamin Blues Quartet (Eliyamin.com). We will be traveling through Romania, Albania, Monte Negro and Bosnia for a month. We will be doing a combination of concerts as well as workshops/clinics in communities and conservatories alike. I am also deeply honored to be part of a tradition where the function of music is to connect and communicate with people. I will be documenting my experiences daily while I am away and I invite YOU to travel with me through this blog.
For Every Rhythm*
Thankyou from the bottom of my heart to Vater Percussion(BRANDO) and Sabian Cymbals(MR. P.C.) & West Wheeler at Taye drums for supporting me on my journey. Also I would like to send a shout out to GLOB (Gorgeous Ladies of BUST) and Mindy of TOMTOM MAGAZINE.