Calendar: Jazz Appreciation Month 2015

March 31, 2015

JAM is an annual event that pays tribute to jazz both as a historic and living American art form. The lead sponsor for JAM 2015 is the LeRoy Neiman Foundation. Generous support is also provided by the Argus Fund and the Ella Fitzgerald Charitable Foundation. More information about JAM can be found at

Editor’s Note: All programs are free and open to the public unless otherwise noted.


LeRoy Neiman’s Big Band painting
Indefinite display starting March 31
The LeRoy Neiman Jazz Cafe, National Museum of American History
Constitution Avenue, between 12th and 14thStreet, N.W.

Artist LeRoy Neiman (1921–2012) was best known for colorful paintings and illustrations that presented scenes of sports, culture and entertainment. Among his work is a distinctive body of paintings of American jazz legends and music of the 1950s to 1960s. “Big Band,” is an epic jazz mural (9-by-13 feet) and features 18 iconic American jazz musicians, including Miles Davis, Billie Holiday, Duke Ellington, and Ella Fitzgerald.

Duke Ellington’s Wurlitzer electric piano
On display indefinitely
First floor Artifact Cases, National Museum of American History

Legendary jazz composer and pianist Edward “Duke” Ellington used this piano during many of his travels and would use it to compose and play music, sometimes in the middle of the night.

Gene Krupa’s bass drum
On display indefinitely
First floor Artifact Walls, National Museum of American History

The iconic jazz drummer behind the famous piece “Sing Sing Sing,” Gene Krupa is considered the first “star” drummer who transformed the role of the drums in jazz. Also highly regarded as a band leader, this bass drum is from his primary set for the years with his own band.


What It Means to Be American – Are Americans Risk-Takers?
Tuesday, March 31; 6:30 p.m.
Warner Bros. Theater, First Floor
National Museum of American History
Free tickets Required:  reserve at

From 18th century political revolutionaries to the first dudes to skateboard down a half pipe, Americans have risked life and limb in pursuit of greater glory. Even our popular music – from jazz to freestyle rap – prizes improvisation and daring. Do Americans really possess a propensity for risk – and, if so, what explains it, and how does it differ from that of other nations? The “What It Means to Be American” project celebrates Jazz Appreciation month with a discussion including Latin jazz 2015 GRAMMY Award-Winner Arturo O’Farrill, Adventure Divas host Holly Morris, author Megan McArdle, and author Jack Hitt.


Annual Jazz Appreciation Month at the National Portrait Gallery
Thursday, April 2; 6:30 p.m.
McEvoy Auditorium, National Portrait Gallery
Eighth and F Street, N.W.
Reservations Recommended

This annual collaborative program pays tribute to Thelonious Monk, Sonny Rollins and Ornette Coleman as interpreted by Howard University Jazz Ensemble members, pianist Donald Brown and guitarist Mike Stern.

Jazz in Flag Hall
Thursdays in April; performances at 12:30, 1:30 and 2:30 p.m.
Flag Hall, Second Floor
National Museum of American History

Live jazz performances in Flag Hall Thursdays in April performed by local jazz small groups. Members of the Smithsonian Jazz Masterworks Orchestra will perform on April 2 and April 30. The U.S. Air Force Band’s Airmen of Note will perform in their small groups on April 9 and 23. The April 16 performance features a special appearance by the George Washington University Latin Jazz Band.

The Smithsonian Jazz Masterworks Orchestra presents:
Lush Life–Billy Strayhorn’s Centennial

Saturday, April 11; 7:30 p.m.
Baird Auditorium, National Museum of Natural History
10th Street and Constitution Avenue, N.W.
Tickets Required: $25 each; visit

Duke Ellington said that Billy Strayhorn was “my right arm, my left arm, all the eyes in the back of my head, my brainwaves in his head, and his in mine.” This is borne out through Strayhorn’s enormous contribution to the Duke Ellington Orchestra, from early compositions “Something to Live For,” “Chelsea Bridge,” and, of course, “Take the A Train” to collaborative works like “The Far East Suite” and “Such Sweet Thunder.” In celebration of Strayhorn’s centennial year and his 27-year collaboration with Ellington, the Smithsonian Jazz Masterworks Orchestra delves into the considerable treasure trove of Strayhorn music found in the American History Museum’s Archives Center.

Take 5! Jazz Series
Saturday, April 16; 5:00 p.m.,
Saturday, April 25; 2:00 p.m.
Kogod Courtyard, American Art Museum

Relax and Take 5! with free, live jazz in the Kogod Courtyard. Stop by the Courtyard Café for refreshments and borrow a board game to play during the concert. The Smithsonian Jazz Masterworks Ensemble will perform on April 16, highlighting the iconic music Billy Strayhorn wrote with Duke Ellington. The Brad Linde Expanded Ensemble will perform on April 25 in an annual celebration in honor of Ella Fitzgerald on her birthday.

Solo Piano in LeFrak Lobby
Monday, April 20; Tuesday, April 21; Wednesday, April 22; Friday, April 24; 12:30 p.m.
LeFrak Lobby, First Floor
National Museum of American History

For the week of April 20, Smithsonian Jazz partners with Blues Alley of Georgetown to present four days of free solo piano performances at the museum. Designed to highlight the extensive work of Billy Strayhorn, each performance will feature a local pianist. Tony Nalker will perform on April 20; Jon Ozment will perform on April 21; Bob Butta will perform on April 22; and Wade Beach will close out the series with his performance on April 24. All performances start at 12:30 and run for an hour.

About the Museum

The National Museum of American History explores the infinite richness and complexity of American history through its collections and research. The museum helps people understand the past in order to make sense of the present and shape a more humane future. For more information, visit The museum is located on Constitution Avenue between 12th and 14th N.W., and is open daily from 10 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. (closed Dec. 25). To learn more about the museum, check Admission is free. For Smithsonian information, the public may call (202) 633-1000.