In 1955, the U.S. Government charged Dizzy Gillespie to be a jazz ambassador. Gillespie gathered a band and traveled to Southern Europe, the Middle East and South Asia to jam with other country’s bands, play for country leaders and mingle with locals to learn their customs. It wasn’t so rare back then to get government support for artists to go out on missions and share their work. Artists recognized as political ambassadors worthy of serious funding? It sort of seems like an alien concept now.
In the next few weeks you can attend a ridiculous number of jazz events in Missoula including Jazzoula, the Buddy DeFranco Festival and ongoing concerts with Daly Jazz and Jazz Martini night at the Badlander. But Jam Session: America’s Jazz Ambassadors Embrace the World is a must-see exhibit that gives some history about jazz that most people haven’t heard much about. That exhibit is showing at the Montana Museum of Art and Culture at UM’s PARTV Center.
The photos are pretty stunning: Louis Armstrong playing trumpet surrounded by children in Egypt. Duke Ellington and Paul Gonsalves smoking hookahs in Iraq. Gillespie playing for snakes in a market in Pakistan.
Check out the exhibit through Saturday, April 24. MMAC gallery hours are Tuesday—Thursday: 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. and Friday—Saturday: 4 p.m. to 8:30 p.m.