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Musical Ambassadors: America Exports Jazz
January 25, 2018

A silhouette of a trumpet on yellow background

Beginning in the 1950s, the U.S. Department of State sent dozens of America’s greatest jazz musicians to tour the globe becoming known as “the Jazz Ambassadors.” These American jazz artists were embraced by enthusiastic audiences from Africa to the Middle East, Europe, Asia and Latin America. Many of the Jazz Ambassadors were equally eager to learn about the music and culture of their international hosts and often held impromptu jam sessions with local musicians. This selection of posters from the exhibition Jam Session organized by the Meridian International Center in Washington, D.C. several years ago. Find more on this past exhibition at http://www.meridian.org/jazzambassadors.

Recognizing the cross-cultural appeal of jazz, American Jazz Ambassadors were able to transcend national boundaries, build new cultural bridges, and tell a larger story about freedom in America. Jazz Ambassador Louis Armstrong explained it best as he sang on the album, The Real Ambassadors, produced in collaboration with fellow Jazz Ambassador Dave Brubeck and his wife, Iola: The State Department has discovered jazz; It reaches folks like nothing ever has. Like when they feel that jazzy rhythm, They know we’re really with ’em. That’s what we call cultural exchange. 

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