The Jazz Ambassadors

The Jazz Ambassadors

DVD - 2018
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In 1955, as the Soviet Union's pervasive propaganda about the U.S. and American racism spread globally, Adam Clayton Powell, Jr. convinced President Eisenhower that jazz was the best way to intervene in the Cold War cultural conflict. For the next decade, Dizzy Gillespie, Louis Armstrong, Duke Ellington, Benny Goodman, and Dave Brubeck traveled the globe to perform as cultural ambassadors.
Publisher: [Arlington, Va.] : PBS, [2018]
Copyright Date: ©2018
ISBN: 9781531705008
Branch Call Number: DVD 781.6509 JAZZ 1DISC
Characteristics: 1 videodisc (90 min.) : sound, color ; 4 3/4 in
video file,DVD video


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Aug 28, 2018

I was unaware of Jazz "Ambassadors" for the U. S, during the cold war of the 1950's and '60's. Rightfully concerned that race relations in this country were harming our image abroad, the government chose jazz to represent a genuinely American form of music. The majority of performers sent abroad were people of color such as the Duke Ellington and Dizzy Gillespie ( later Louis Armstrong - he would not represent the country initially because he was outraged by Eisenhower’s refusal to send troops into Little Rock to guarantee the safety of nine black children attempting to enroll in the local high school. He stated he wouldn’t defend the US constitution abroad if it wasn’t properly enforced at home. ) Dave Brubeck ( he composed "Rondo a la Turk" based upon the rhythms of Turkish musicians ) and Benny Goodman also participated behind the "iron curtain" where Willis Conover's Voice of America show, Music USA (“The Jazz Hour” segment) provided the main source of knowledge for this music. Another amazingly terrible fact of the era was that most of the bands that went abroad could not perform in some cities in the U. S. because they had both Black and Caucasian musicians. I felt proud as I watched these men and women of color travel with their music and speak their truth about our shameful racial history. I grew up in the rural Iowa and almost never even saw a person of color, but I remember seeing the fire hoses, police dogs, and angry white men who could kill with impunity. I also saw the young people simply attempting to get an education, watched the marches, listened to Martin Luther King Jr., and learned of three young men who were murdered for attempting to help establish voting rights. What you see and hear as a child burns a place in you soul and memory. Watching this film filled me with sorrow that we are not further down the road and awe at the dignity, bravery, and talent of these great musicians Terrific documentary. Kristi & Abby Tabby


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