By Ed Masley
Doc Jones is a man on a mission.
No sooner had International Jazz Day ended in late April than Jones, a music educator who plays saxophone and keyboards, was making plans for 2018, which he hopes will be the biggest year yet for the annual event here in the Valley.
“My wife says, ‘You don’t ever stop,’” Jones says. “But it’s all one thing. It’s all about Jazz Appreciation Month and International Jazz Day. I done got caught up in this for the last seven years. And I think it’s wonderful, man.”
Herbie Hancock, the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) and the Thelonious Monk Institute of Jazz “to highlight jazz and its diplomatic role of uniting people in all corners of the globe” founded International Jazz Day in 2011.
Jones held the first International Jazz Day celebration in the Valley in 2013, a year after attending Jazz Day in New Orleans.
“They had 7,000 people out there at about 8 o’clock in the morning,” he recalls. “It was a phenomenal site. And after the concert, which was simulcast around the world, I had an opportunity to talk to Herbie Hancock for 5 or 10 minutes. I showed him my 504 jazz magazines that I published in New Orleans. And Herbie said, “Doc man, you’ve got a platform. You need to be marketing this day. It’s gonna be big one year.”
After getting City Council member Michael Johnson on board, Jones arranged an introduction with a well known famous musician living in the Valley, who as Jones says, “allowed me to use his personality and his image for the first two years as my guest speaker and we were off and running.”
This past April, Governor Doug Ducey declared April 30 International Jazz Day, a proclamation he presented at the day’s events at Cityscape.
In the proclamation, Ducey called jazz “the universal language of freedom spoken eloquently by people in the United States and abroad” and “an international language that bridges differences and brings people together regardless of race, age, gender or socio-economic class.”
This year’s Jazz Day Celebrations will begin on April 7 at the Scottsdale Center for the Performing Arts at 3:00 p.m. (Tickets now on sale at events.jazzdayaz.com and at the gate) followed by the 2nd Annual Jazz at Lunchtime event at the Arizona State Capitol on April 18 from 11:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m. before concluding a month-long celebration of the music on April 29 at Mesa Arts Center at 4:00 p.m. Jones is currently looking for sponsors and partners to underwrite his efforts.
“To do it correctly, we need to raise $150,000 to $200,000, to do what I’ve been trying to do,” he says. “The biggest cost is the talent. Eventually, when we have the budget, we’ll be able to put super talent on. I’ve been talking with Kenny Garrett, Jonathan Butler, Stephanie Jordan, Azar Lawrence. I’ve got artists ready to go. And then the model I believe in, some people have been mentoring me out of New Orleans, they said, “Doc, man, always have 80 percent local talent.” That’s what they do in New Orleans.”
Eventually, Jones says, he’d like to do a Jazz Day celebration that felt a little more Viva PHX but for jazz, held on multiple stages, with artists playing different kinds of jazz in different locations.
To learn more about Jazz Day here in Arizona, you can visit Jones’ site at: jazzdayaz.com