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International Jazz Day


Happy International Jazz Day!


International Jazz Day is the world's largest annual celebration of jazz that’s celebrated every year on April 30, highlighting jazz and its diplomatic role of uniting people in all corners of the globe. It also marks the end of Jazz Appreciation Month (fondly known as “JAM”). So, what better way to pay tribute to America’s earliest and iconic art forms!

As I came up with the idea for this blog entry, I was trying to remember my first exposure to jazz music. As a child of the 80s & 90s, a lot of my music consumption was mostly whatever my folks were listening to on terrestrial radio or had playing in the car’s tape deck, whether I enjoyed it or not. So, it began with what was popular at the time, and that title goes to the commercial form of jazz music, the hybrid between fusion, pop, and R&B, none other than the smoothest of the smooth, Smooth Jazz! Think “Mountain Dance” by Dave Grusin, “Another Place” by Hiroshima, Kenny G’s entire ‘Duotones’ album, and my mom’s personal favorites “Give Me the Night” by George Benson and “Smooth Operator” by Sade (both forever bangers!). I admit that it wasn’t my cup of tea at the time, relating it to “boring party music for grown-ups.” So, a big hard pass for this kiddo. I was perfectly fine with my Yo! MTV Raps, thank you very much!


Fast forward to college. I was about halfway through getting my BA in theatre (and subsequently going through a mid-college crisis), when I decided to delay growing up a little more and add on a minor in music. I was already a classically trained pianist and vocalist, so along with taking classes on advanced theory and composition, I was required to take music history and appreciation courses. And how awesome they were (think, a whole semester of a class on The Beatles!). Along with that came a survey of jazz course taught by internationally renowned Australian jazz saxophonist Andrew Speight and a jazz appreciation masterclass led by saxophonist, composer and former Tonight Show bandleader Branford Marsalis. Coincidentally, this was the exact same time the epic Ken Burns Jazz documentary first premiered and I was all in. It was fate, and I was soaking it all up like a sponge, being especially drawn to the piano mastery of Jelly Roll Morton, Duke Ellington, Bill Evans, and Oscar Peterson, and the prowess of drummers Gene Krupa, Max Roach, and Elvin Jones. I dug it all! And jazz continued to follow me everywhere, from my first job out of college working at a record store all the way to Pandora and present-day.


As Pandora’s Head of Jazz Programming, I have the honor of being the face and ears of jazz music on the platform. I maintain and foster relationships with all the major players in the jazz music space, including major artists, labels, and distributors, along with championing independent artists and labels. It’s a very exciting time for jazz music with talented young artists adopting and reinventing the sound, fusing elements of hip-hop, lo-fi, neo-soul, Afrobeats, alternative, and other musical genres into the mix. To get a good idea of what that sounds like – and the direction jazz music is going – check out our Horizons: Tomorrow’s Jazz station where you’ll hear hits and new releases from modern day artists like Kamasi Washington, Samara Joy, Shabaka, Mary Halvorson, Ezra Collective, and many more.


If you’re not quite sure where to start, Pandora’s suite of jazz genre stations is here to help! Might I recommend –



Jazz – featuring all the essential players, from classic to contemporary.




Big Band – offering up a boogie-woogie glimpse of the postwar swing era.




Latin Jazz – some of the finest Afro-Latin and Brazilian-inspired jazz pieces performed by a slew of legendary artists.




Women In Jazz – highlighting the female luminaries of jazz music.




Gypsy Jazz – the swinging “hot jazz” sound created by guitarist Django Reinhardt and violinist Stephane Grappelli.



Afro-jazz – bringing Ethio-Jazz, South African jazz, and more from all over the continent.




Dinner Jazz – the perfect station to play while hosting a dinner party or gathering, with mellow, upbeat instrumentals and jazz vocals for people with varied musical tastes.


And in case you were wondering what some of my favorite jazz albums of all time were, my answer would probably be “don’t ever ask me that!” Kidding (not kidding). Truly it depends on the time of day or what headspace I’m in. It’s everchanging and ever evolving with time and experience but, since you insisted, I typically always include these magnum opi in my rotation:


Cal Tjader’s Modern Mambo Quintet – Mambo With Tjader (1954)

Erroll Garner – Concert By The Sea (1955)

Ahmad Jamal Trio – At the Pershing: But Not for Me (1958)

Ella Fitzgerald & Louis Armstrong – Porgy And Bess (1958)

Miles Davis Quintet – Workin’ With The Miles Davis Quintet (1960)

Yusef Lateef – Eastern Sounds (1962)

John Coltrane & Johnny Hartman – John Coltrane And Johnny Hartman (1963)

Wes Montgomery – A Day In The Life (1967)

Donald Byrd – Ethiopian Knights (1971)

Duke Ellington – The Afro-Eurasian Eclipse (1971)

Jimmy McGriff – Groove Grease (1971)

Tropea – Short Trip To Space (1977)


Do you have a favorite jazz artist, album, song, or even live concert experience? Or are you a jazz artist yourself? Leave a comment below and let’s keep the conversation going!


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