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Concerts and Events
Under the artistic direction of maestro Charlie Young, the Smithsonian Jazz Masterworks Orchestra has celebrated some of the greatest jazz music throughout its 33-year history as one of the crown jewels of the Smithsonian’s National Museum of American History. The 2023–2024 SJMO season adds new excitement and luster to that musical tradition.
Important Location Note: Most concerts take place at Baird Auditorium in the National Museum of Natural History, except for the February 10 program, held at the Warner Bros. Theater at the National Museum of American History.
Thad Jones: A Centennial Celebration
December 3, 2023, 7 p.m.
Developing his orchestration aesthetic during his Basie years, for over three decades Thad Jones contributed greatly to the tonal and textural evolution of modern big band composing and arranging. The SJMO kicks off its season by honoring the great Thaddeus Joseph Jones with a centennial tribute. Selections may include “Her Royal Highness,” “A Child Is Born,” and “Tip Toe.” (Full Orchestra)
Ticket Information: https://smithsonianassociates.org/ticketing/tickets/sjmo-thad-jones
The Legacy of Max Roach
February 10, 2024, 7 p.m.
Inspired by Chick Web, Sonny Greer, Jo Jones, and the innovations of Kenny Clarke, during the 1940s Max Roach revolutionized the world of modern drum-set playing. He developed a swing and cymbal technique with dynamic expression that became the template for the creative imagination and technical mastery required to move modern jazz forward. With songs such as “Four-X,” “Cou-Manchi-Cou,” and “Liberté,” the SJMO honors the legacy of Max Roach, who would have turned 100 in January 2024. (Smaller Ensemble)
Ticket Information: https://smithsonianassociates.org/ticketing/tickets/sjmo-max-roach
Aspects of Ellington
April 5, 2024, 7 p.m.
Duke Ellington composed dynamic music that inspired vivid visual imagery and emotion. Combining his unconventional orchestration technique with the unique talent of his individual orchestra members, Ellington was able to transpose everyday life into musical works of art. To mark what would have been his 125th year, the SJMO launches Jazz Appreciation Month by highlighting elements of the Duke's music and his orchestra. Songs may include “East St. Louis Toodle-oo,” “Degas Suite,” and “Jack the Bear.” (Full Orchestra)
Ticket Information: https://smithsonianassociates.org/ticketing/tickets/sjmo-ellington
Sarah Vaughan: The Divine One
June 1, 2024, 7 p.m.
Sarah Vaughan's colorful vocal tone, unparalleled range, elastic stylized phrasing, and all-around dynamic musical interpretation earned her the moniker "The Divine One." Also known as "Sassy," Vaughan became one of the greatest jazz vocalists in the history of the music. To close out the concert season, the SJMO features singer Sharón Clark as we celebrate the centennial year of NEA Jazz Master Sarah Vaughan. Songs may include “After You've Gone,” “It Don't Mean a Thing (If it Ain't Got That Swing)” and “The Lady's in Love with You.” (Full Orchestra)
Ticket Information: https://smithsonianassociates.org/ticketing/tickets/sjmo-sarah-vaughan
Jazz and the U.S. Armed Services
Please Note: This concert is postponed and will be rescheduled in July 2024 (more information to come).
Official military bands date back to 1798 with the establishment of the U.S. Marine Band. In the 1910s, First Lieutenant James Reese Europe infused elements of jazz into military music, and today all branches have an official jazz ensemble. The SJMO salutes the U.S. military jazz bands and the role they play inspiring soldiers, fostering patriotic support, and promoting national interests at home and abroad. Selections include “Memphis Blues,” “American Patrol,” and “Armed Forces Medley.” (Full Orchestra)
Ticket Information: https://smithsonianassociates.org/ticketing/tickets/sjmo-armed-services
Each concert's musical program is subject to change.
The Duke Ellington Orchestra: A Centennial Celebration
June 10, 2023
They’ve been called everything from the Washingtonians to Duke Ellington and His Kentucky Club Orchestra to Duke Ellington and His Famous Orchestra (and more). But the Duke Ellington Orchestra under any name maintains an unparalleled place in the history of American music. This year marks the 100th anniversary of this legendary ensemble, and the Smithsonian Jazz Masterworks Orchestra is ready to celebrate its vast musical legacy. Performance selections include "Rainy Nights,” “Harlem Airshaft,” “Charpoy,” and "The Biggest and Busiest Intersection.”
Jazzed About Art: Jazz Appreciation Month
April 1, 2023
To kick off the annual worldwide celebration of jazz, the Smithsonian Jazz Masterworks Orchestra offers a soundtrack filled with rhythm, texture, and color as it showcases the work of prominent 20th–century visual artists including William Sharp, John Fenton, and Romare Bearden. "Be-Bop" by Dizzy Gillespie, "Crying and Singing" by McKinney's Cotton Pickers, and "Kingdom of Not" by Sun Ra are among the musical selections.
Mamie Smith, Bessie Smith, and the Centennial Year of Race Records
February 18, 2023
The Smithsonian Jazz Masterworks Ensemble delves into the vocal stylings of legendary blues singers Mamie Smith and Bessie Smith, the Queen of the Blues and the Empress of the Blues. Both Mamie Smith and Bessie Smith (no relation) were highly touted in the 1920s for their groundbreaking Okeh “Race Record” recordings. Singer Ekep Nkwelle performs “Crazy Blues" (1920), "Gulf Coast Blues" (1923), and “Jenny’s Ball” (1931).
December 11, 2022
Julian “Cannonball” Adderley’s meteoric rise to stardom was the buzz of the New York jazz scene in 1955, a testament to the unusual abilities of this gifted alto saxophonist. Securing a recording contract only weeks after his arrival, Cannonball paved a career path cemented with a multitude of recordings produced for the Savoy, EmArcy, and Mercury labels. The Smithsonian Jazz Masterworks Ensemble performs selections including "A Little Taste," "I've Never Been in Love Before," and "Spectacular" from Cannonball Adderley’s 1955–1958 recordings.
Themes from Stage, Radio, TV, and Film
October 22, 2022
In anticipation of the opening of the National Museum of American History’s newest exhibition, Entertainment Nation, the Smithsonian Jazz Masterworks Orchestra kicks off its 2022–2023 season with a salute to the museum’s collections and the diverse forms of entertainment in the United States over the last 100 years. Musical selections include themes from “M*A*S*H,” “I Love Lucy,” The Wizard of Oz, the musical Chicago, and many more.
New Recording: Bernstein Reimagined
The Smithsonian Jazz Masterworks Orchestra explores the vast, diverse repertoire of legendary composer Leonard Bernstein on the stunning, revelatory new album, Bernstein Reimagined, on MCG Jazz. Bernstein once called jazz “the ultimate common denominator of the American musical style.” This album explores lesser-known Bernstein pieces through the transformative lens of innovative new arrangements.
The album features none of the usual suspects, the oft-explored West Side Story songs (“Maria,” “Somewhere”) or those that have become jazz standards (“Some Other Time,” “Big Stuff”). Instead, the project’s five gifted and inventive arrangers—Jay Ashby, Darryl Brenzel, Scott Silbert, Mike Tomaro, and Steve Williams—find inspiration in the lesser known corners of Bernstein’s output: the symphonic works, spiritual music, operas, lesser-known musical theater pieces, and even his sole film score, for the classic On the Waterfront. The results are, as the title promises, surprising acts of re-imagination as revelatory to Bernstein aficionados as they will be to newcomers unfamiliar with the original compositions.
Bernstein Reimagined is available at www.mcgjazz.org
The Bernstein Reimagined recording was made possible by David C. Frederick and Sophia Lynn.
Support for jazz programming is made possible by
LeRoy Neiman and Janet Byrne Neiman Foundation
The Argus Fund
Ray and Vera Conniff Foundation
Ella Fitzgerald Charitable Foundation
founding donor of the Smithsonian Jazz Endowment
David C. Frederick and Sophia Lynn