“THE JAZZ AMBASSADORS”

Louis Armstrong, Dizzy Gillespie, and Duke Ellington, were more than music legends, they were “the jazz ambassadors.” And now we share their untold story.

Aired on May 04, 2018. 

TRANSCRIPT

> JAZZ MUSICIANS BE FOUGHT IN THE COLD WAR AND WON WITH THE MOST PEACEFUL OF WEAPONS, MUSIC.

ENLISTED BY THE STATE DEPARTMENT AND PROMPTED BY THE VISION OF FORMER NEW YORK CONGRESSMAN ADAM CLAYTON POWELL JOOR.

JAS GRAEDS GLI GILESPIE AND ELK TON AND ARMSTRONG TRAVELED AS AMBASSADORS SPREADS THE WONDERS OF AMERICAN DEMOCRACY, EVEN AS SEGREGATION WAS IN PLAY HERE IN THE UNITED STATES.

A NEW DOCUMENTARY EXPLORES THIS LITTLE KNOWN COLD WAR TACTIC AND ITS IMPACT BOTH ON THE WORLD AND ON THE MUSICIANS THEMSELVES.

HERE IS A CLIP OF THE JAZZ AMBASSADORS.

THE PEOPLE WHO WE'RE PLANNING TO USE MY FRIEND DIZZY GILESPIE, THE FATHER OF MODERN JAZZ.

WHAT DO YOU THINK ABOUT THAT DIZZY.

I DON'T THINK WE HAVE ANY TROUBLE VERTIGO THE PEOPLE TO OUR STYLE OF MUSIC.

YOU THINK THEY'LL DIG IT.

THIS MIGHT BE A COOL WAR INSTEAD A COLD WAR.

VERY GOOD.

THE WEAPON WE USE IS THE COOL THE WEAPON WE USE IS THE COOL ♪♪ ♪♪

AND IT'S MY PLEASURE TO WELCOME TO THE PROGRAM THE JAZZ AMBASSADORS DIRECTOR HUGO BERGLY.

WELCOME TO THE PROGRAM.

THANK YOU FOR HAVING ME.

SUCH A GREAT PIECE OF AMERICAN HISTORY AND OF COURSE IN HOW OUR CULTURE PLAYS A PART IN THE WAY WE ARE SEEN IN THE WORLD.

BEFORE HE GET TO THAT.

LET'S TALK ABOUT CAN YOU PAINT A PICTURE FOR OUR AUDIENCE OF WHERE AMERICA WAS OR WHERE THE WORLD WAS LET'S SAY IN THE '50s.

BECAUSE ONE OF THE THINGS THAT STRUCK ME WAS PART OF THIS WAS BECAUSE THE SOVIET UNION WAS KIND OF BLOWING UP AMERICA'S SPOT IN TERMS OF HOW WE WERE ACTUALLY HANDLING DEMOCRACY IN OUR OWN CULTURE.

THE '50s IS SUCH A FASCINATING PERIOD OF WORLD HISTORY I THINK.

UM-HUM.

THERE ARE SO MANY THINGS GOING ON THAT ARE DEFINING THE MODERN WORLD COMING OUT OF WORLD WAR II.

AND THIS FILM REALLY RELIES ON THREE DIFFERENT THINGS THAT HAPPENED.

THE FIRST THING IS THE COLD WAR AND THIS ENTREFRMGMENT OF THE OPPOSITION OF SOVIET COMMUNISM AND AMERICAN DEMOCRACY.

THE SECOND THING IS THE CIVIL RIGHTS MOVEMENT WITHIN THE UNITED STATES AND THE PUSH FOR FREEDOM FOR EQUAL RIGHTS TREATMENT FOR ALL AMERICANS.

VERY IMPORTANT.

EN AND THAT'S ALLIED TO AN INTERNATIONAL LIBERATION STRUGGLE AROUND THE END OF CLONIALISM AND COUNTRIES LIKE INDIA, AFRICAN COUNTRIES ASIAN COUNTRIES TRYING TO END CLONIALISM.

WE HAVE THE THREE CURRENT OF WORLD HISTORY HAPPENING TOGETHER.

AND IT'S A CALL DRAWN IN WHICH LOTS OF TENSIONS PERK LATE.

LET'S MOVE BACK TO THE STATES AND TALK ABOUT CONGRESSMAN CLAYTON POWELL JR.

HOW DID HE COME UP WITH THIS IDEA?

IN 195 A ALL OF THESE COUNTRIES, WHAT THEY CALLED THE NON-ALIGNED COUNTRY ASIAN, AFRICAN WITHIN INDIAN COUNTRIES GOT TOGETHER IN INDONESIA FOR A CONFERENCE.

AND IT WAS REALLY A LANDMARK GATHERING OF COUNTRIES REPRESENTED OVER HALF THE WORLD'S POPULATION.

FROM THE AMERICAN POINT OF VIEW THIS WAS SOMETHING TO BE WORRIED ABOUT, THAT ALL OF THE COUNTRIES WERE GETTING TOGETHER AND FIGURING OUT THEIR OWN POLICY AGENDA.

AND THEY VERY MUCH HAD THE IDEA THAT IF THESE COUNTRIES WERE NOT EXPLICITLY IN FAVOR OF AMERICA IN THE COLD WAR THAT THEY WERE AGAINST THEM.

SO AMERICA DECIDED NOT TO SEND ANYBODY TO THE CONFERENCE IN INDONESIA AND TRIED TO IGNORE IT.

ADAM CLAYTON POWELL JR. HAD DIFFERENT IDEAS.

HE GOT CREDENTIALED AS A JOURNALISTS.

FLEW TO THE MEETING AGAINST THE EE DIKTS OF THE STATE DEPARTMENT WHO DIDN'T WANT HIM TO GO.

AND HE WENT AND REACHED OUT TO THE COUNTRIES AND SAID WE AMERICANS WE'RE NOT PERFECT.

WE'RE ENGAGED IN A RACE STRUGGLE IN OUR OWN COUNTRY AND DRIVING TO IMPROVE.

BUT WE WANT TO BE FRIENDS WITH YOU.

AND WE'D LIKE TO FORGE COMPACTS WITH YOU THAT WENT OVER WELL.

HE CAME BACK TO WASHINGTON.

HE WAS TREATED TO A STANDING OVATION IN CONGRESS.

AND ALL OF A SUDDEN PEOPLE IN THE STATE DEPARTMENT SORT OF THOUGHT MAYBE HE IS RIGHT WE SHOULD ENGAGE WITH THE OTHER COUNTRIES RATHER THAN BEING FRIGHTENED OF WHERE THEY MIGHT GO IN THE COLD WAR.

AND THAT-

WELL YB YEAH, THAT SORT OF BRINGS US TO WHY JAZZ?

THAT'S WHAT I FOUND SO FASCINATING.

BECAUSE JAZZ WAS NOT A FORM OF MUSIC WELL ACCEPTED OR WELL RESPECTED BY EVERYONE IN THE COUNTRY AT THAT TIME.

THAT WAS LIKE ALTERNATIVE MUSIC.

SO WHY JAZZ MUSICIANS?

I THINK THERE ARE A COUPLE OF THINGS.

ONE, PARTICULARLY ADAM CLAYTON POUM'S HISTORY WAS IN HARLEM.

HE WAS FRIENDS WITH JAZZ MUSICIANS.

HE WAS MARRIED TO A JAZZ PAYENIST.

HE SAW THE POWER OF THE ARTISTS TO COMMUNICATE WITH ALL OF THESE NON-WHITE COUNTRIES IN THE WORLD.

HE SAW THAT AS A VERY STRONG CULTURAL CONTRIBUTION OF AMERICA THAT OTHER PEOPLE REALLY RESPECTED.

THE SECOND THING IS ON VOICE OF AMERICA RADIO WHICH WAS THE AMERICAN GOVERNMENT PROPAGANDA RADIO STATION BROADCAST OUTSIDE OF THE UNITED STATES IN 195 A RADIO DJ BY THE NAME OF WILLIS CONOVER HAD LAUNCHED A JAZZ PROGRAM AND THE STATE DEPARTMENT AND VOA STARTED TO RECEIVE THOUSANDS OF LETTERS SAYING HOW MUCH PEOPLE AROUND THE WORLD LOVED LISTENING TO THIS JAZZ SHOW.

SO THERE IS KIND OF TWO THINGS GOING ON THERE.

BUT ALL OF A SUDDEN PEOPLE IN THE STATE DEPARTMENT THINK, WOW, JAZZ COULD HELP US OUT IN THIS PROBLEM WE ARE HAVING BUT ALSO COULD APPEAL TO AUDIENCES AS A MEANS OF ENGAGING WITH AMERICA AND WHAT WE STAND FOR.

THIS IS A FASCINATING FILM.

AND AGAIN A LITTLE KNOWN PIECE OF AMERICAN HISTORY ACTUALLY REALLY IMPORTANT.

THANK YOU FOR MAKING THIS.

THANK YOU VERY MUCH FOR HAVING ME.

ABSOLUTELY.

THE JAZZ AMBASSADORS AIRES FRIDAY MAY 4th AT 10:00 P.M. ON PBS.

FOR DELTS AND VIEWING OPPORTUNITIES VISIT OUR WEBSITE AT METROFOCUS.ORG.

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