There’s more than one way to promote democracy, says former secretary of state Madeleine Albright:
Albright says her interest in jazz was sparked in the 1980s when as a university professor she traveled to her native Czechoslovakia and met clandestinely with members of the Jazz Section of the Czech Musicians’ Union.
“They started literally as a group of musicians playing jazz because that was a way to oppose the system, and then they actually became a political force,” Albright said. “I visibly saw the role of American music, jazz specifically, in terms of revolting against the regime. … It was a way of expressing support and wanting to be part of the West without going out there and marching.”
In 1994, while serving as U.N. ambassador, she practiced some “jazz diplomacy” on a trip to Prague when she helped arrange for Czech President Vaclav Havel, a former dissident, to present a saxophone as a gift to President Bill Clinton at a jazz club. Clinton played “My Funny Valentine” on his new sax while Havel played maracas “but had no rhythm,” she recalled.
“America’s first female secretary of state is game to give it another go on drums on Sept. 23 when she returns to the Kennedy Center to receive a Thelonious Monk Institute of Jazz award,” the Washington Post reports:
The gala coincides with the finals of the institute’s international jazz competition, the world’s most prestigious jazz contest, which this year is celebrating its 25th anniversary. It has helped launch the careers of such stars as pianist Marcus Roberts, saxophonist Joshua Redman, vocalist Gretchen Parlato and trumpeter Ambrose Akinmusire (above)….The evening will include a star-studded “Women, Music and Diplomacy” gala concert featuring some of today’s top female jazz artists, including singers Patti Austin and Nnenna Freelon, pianist Geri Allen, trumpeter Ingrid Jensen and saxophonist Jane Ira Bloom. They’ll pay tribute to female jazz legends such as Mary Lou Williams, Lena Horne, Ella Fitzgerald and Nina Simone. Aretha Franklin (below), Herbie Hancock and Botti are scheduled to perform a special tribute to Albright.