Good evening and welcome everybody. We are especially pleased to welcome you tonight at our home for an evening of American Jazz. It is small part of how we wish to support Suriname’s Jazz Festival.
About 70 years ago, The United States Department of State began to sponsor American jazz musicians to tour Eastern Europe, the Middle East, central and southern Asia and Africa as part of its cultural diplomacy initiatives to promote American values globally. Starting in 1956, leading American jazz musicians such as Louis Armstrong, Dizzy Gillespie, Dave Brubeck, Benny Goodman and Duke Ellington toured as “ambassadors” for the United States overseas. This program has continued and evolved in 2012 into the American Music Abroad program. The purpose of this program is to bring a new generation of musical ambassadors overseas to reach beyond concert halls and to interact with other musicians and citizens around the globe. Approximately 10 ensembles of American musical groups are currently tour around the world at this time. They engage with international audiences and artists through public concerts, performances and collaborations with local musicians, lectures and demonstrations, workshops, jam sessions, and media interviews. You get the idea – these guys are busy! And the American Music Abroad embraces all genres of music including Blues, Bluegrass, Cajun, Country, Folk, Latin, Native American, Gospel, Hip Hop, Indie Rock, Punk, R&B, Zydeco, and most importantly for tonight, Jazz. The American Music Abroad program bands have traveled to over 130 countries around the world since 2012.
Tonight we are honored to have with us the Jazz quartet, Birckhead. Birckhead was formed in 2015. It is a group that prides itself in being uninhibited in their embrace of experimentation and its diversity of musical genres and provocative topics.
Birckhead is led by woodwind artist and composer Brent Birckhead. It pulls from the rage of punk and political activism to the nuanced soul of classic R&B, and joins the murky wobble of funk with the unbridled freedom of Out Jazz. Joined by bassist Romeir Mendez, pianist Noble Jolley and drummer Carroll Dashiell III, the group pools their respective dialects to play with a fluidity that suggests to many people that the members of the group are used to finishing each other’s statements.
Birckhead is committed to a set of American and musical values that comes through in their performances. It believes that democratic principles are what makes a band work. Everyone’s input is important and imperative to the forward movement of the ensemble. When one person solos, the band comes together to elevate one another. These democratic principles are what they strive for as musicians and Americans.
Birckhead is also committed to the value of mutual understanding. It believes that mutual understanding comes from a place of love. Having empathy for someone’s path that you haven’t walked creates space for understanding and conclusion. Many of Birckhead’s songs are rooted in this message.
And Birckhead is rooted in the values of diversity, equity, inclusion, and accessibility. They believe that these are the four elements that allow voices to be heard. They allow for greater overall understanding and change in the appropriate directions.
Birckhead’s performance shows us that America’s history reminds us that without commitment to these elements and values, oppression is around the corner. But by honoring and living these values, we can have beautiful music.
Ladies and Gentlemen, please welcome Birckhead.