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For Immediate Release
Office of the First Lady
April 16, 2002

Remarks by Mrs. Bush, Wynton Marsalis and the Lincoln Center Jazz Orchestra at the Kennedy Center

Thank you very much, Wynton, and welcome, everyone, to the Kennedy Center for tonight's performance by the Lincoln Center Jazz Orchestra led by one very talented music director.

This evening coincides with two important events in our nation's history and culture. 140 years ago today, on April 16, 1862, Abraham Lincoln signed into law the D.C. Emancipation Act, and April is Jazz Appreciation Month. Tonight we celebrate both events with a little swing and a lot of song.

Jazz is truly American music, and its roots are entwined with our history.

  • In Harlem, in 1892, one of the first ragtime compositions sprang to life on Tommy Turpin's piano. A decade later in New Orleans, Lincoln Park opened as a center for ragtime and early jazz performances and Jelly Roll Morton appeared on the scene.

  • In 1904, a year after the Wright brothers made their first successful flight, a new kind of sound was taking off in New Orleans: It was a fusion of ragtime and blues performed by Buddy Bolden and his coronet.

  • The 20s brought about change in music and society. In 1920, master composer Duke Ellington and Sonny Greer had our nation's capital swinging when they formed a dance band here. Americans had other reasons to dance that year: the 19th Amendment was passed, and it guaranteed women the right to vote.

  • Later, Louis Armstrong gave America the "Heebie Jeebies" with his pioneering scat sounds (in 1926), and in 1932 Duke Ellington told us that it "Don't Mean a Thing if It Ain't Got That Swing"the same year Radio City Music Hall opened in New York.

  • In 1947, barriers were broken in sound and science, when Dizzy Gillespie introduced us to Afro-Cuban jazz and Chuck Yeager flew faster than the speed of any jazz sound.

  • The 50s brought us the unforgettable Nat King Cole Show, and everyone was listening to Benny Goodman, Charlie Parker, Chet Baker, Miles Davis, John Coltrane, Thelonious Monk and many others.

  • The 60s and 70s gave rise to the sounds of atonal jazz, jazz-rock (fusion), and pop jazz. Herbie Hancock was "Takin' Off" on a "Maiden Voyage" with his early albums. And, in 1966, Duke Ellington received the President's Gold Medal of Honor.

In 1975, a 14-year-old prodigy named Wynton Marsalis sat down with the New Orleans Symphony Orchestra and began a prominent career that continues to flourish after more than two decades.

He's been a Jazz Messenger and a history maker with simultaneous Grammy awards in both jazz and classical music two years in a row. He's brought home 9 Grammy awards and a Pulitzer Prize in music for his work Blood on the Fields.

As artistic director of Jazz at Lincoln Center, Wynton continues to educate and entertain people worldwide through the organization's 450 annual performances and educational events. He and countless jazz fans look forward to the completion of the world's first education, performance and broadcast facility for jazz being built by Jazz at Lincoln Center in New York City.

These are just a few of the high notes of jazz history and the man who plans to share some of it with us tonight. What you will see tonight is the world-renowned Lincoln Center Jazz Orchestra led by an incredibly gifted Music Director. What you will hear is the language of America. Thank you, and enjoy the show.

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