THE WHITE HOUSE
Office of the Press Secretary
REMARKS BY THE PRESIDENT
AND THE FIRST LADY
AT THE WHITE HOUSE MILLENNIUM EVENING LECTURE SERIES
The East Room
7:30 P.M. EDT
MRS. CLINTON: Good evening and welcome to the White House. The theme we have chosen for the millennium is "Honor the Past, Imagine the Future." This lecture continues a series of millennium evenings with scholars, scientists and other creative individuals which we are holding to commemorate and celebrate this milestone.
THE PRESIDENT: With the millennium, we must now decide how to think about our commitment to the future. Thomas Payne said, a long time ago, "We have it in our power to begin the world over again." We have always believed that in this country, and we must now take it upon ourselves to take stock as we approach this new millennium to commit ourselves to begin the world over again for our children, our children's children, for people who will live in a new century.
It is to the people of that new century that we must all offer our very best gifts. It is for them that we will celebrate the millennium. (Applause.) (A film clip is shown.) (Applause.)
MRS. CLINTON: Thank you and welcome to the White House. We are so delighted to have you here this evening. We have a wonderful millennium performance and lecture that celebrates Jazz, an American metaphor. Willis Conover, whose Voice of America program brought jazz to the world during the Cold War, once said, jazz is people talking, laughing, crying, building, painting, abstracting, extracting, giving to, taking from, making of. In other words, living. Jazz is the quintessential voice of America, and we are honored to bring it to you tonight.
This is the fourth in a series of White House millennium evenings, where we've brought together scholars and artists, scientists and other creative individuals, to help us explore who we are as Americans and who we want to be as we approach this milestone in history.
Professor Bernard Baylin (phonetic) started off by challenging us to think about the everyday people who founded America and shaped the enduring values that define us still. Physicist Stephen Hawking stretched our minds to the farthest reaches of the universe. And some of America's greatest poets
pulled at our hearts, showing us the power of words to connect us, torment us and make us fully human.
And tonight, we will celebrate the boundless creativity that has fueled the arts, sparked innovation and defined the American experience by filling our ears with the music of jazz.
I think most Americans will never forget the first time they heard the swing of Benny Goodman and the scat of Ella Fitzgerald, the jamming of Lionel Hampton and the sophisticated jazz of Duke Ellington. The language of jazz was born and raised in America, always reflecting our deepest aspirations as individuals and as a nation.
Through the darkest days of racism and segregation, its language of diversity told us we were stronger together than apart. Through wars and depression, its language of hope inspired us never to give up. And its language of freedom has given voice to people chained in by oppression everywhere and continues to bring our world closer together.
It is a great honor to have with us tonight one of the world's most eloquent and powerful voices of freedom and a real jazz fan, President Havel of the Czech Republic. We're also joined in the East Room of the White House by Secretary Albright, Secretary Riley, Secretary Slater, Congressman Conyers and so many other very special guests. In fact, I think this is the greatest gathering of jazz musicians ever assembled in the White House, and perhaps even the largest number of jazz presidents, namely two, ever assembled anywhere. (Laughter.)
I want to say a word of welcome to the millions of viewers who are watching us. And a special thanks to VH-1 and its "Save the Music" program, and to C-SPAN, which are broadcasting this live; and to Sun Microsystems for enabling us to cybercast this event so that people all over the world can log on and even ask questions later in the program.
None of this would have been possible without the support of the National Endowment for the Humanities, the Howard Gilman Foundation, Sun Microsystems and the National Endowment for the Arts which, in addition to everything else, helped bring three of their jazz master awardees here tonight -- Wayne Shorter, Ron Carter and James Moody. It wouldn't have been possible without the Library of Congress, which loaned us the photos and film clips that will enrich this evening and help our hosts, the dynamic duo of Wynton Marsalis and Marian McPartland to guide us on this journey.
But there is one person in particular who is responsible for all of us being here tonight. It is my great honor, as always, to introduce America's First Jazz Fan, our President and my husband, Bill Clinton. (Applause.)
THE PRESIDENT: Thank you very much. Ladies and gentlemen, I want to join Hillary in welcoming all our musicians here tonight and all the jazz fans. I thank, in particular, President Havel and Mrs. Havel for being here. When I was in Prague, the President took me to a jazz club, gave me a saxophone he had personally inscribed and provided me with a band that covered my sins. (Laughter.) And then he accompanied me on the tambourine, made a CD of it and sent it to me, so I'm actually a recording artist -- (laughter) -- thanks only to Vaclav Havel. I also want to thank the First Lady for having the idea for these millennium evenings and for agreeing eagerly to my entreaty that at least one of them ought to be devoted to this unique American contribution to the creativity of the world.
A little more than a century ago, a famous composer arrived on our shores and was amazed by what he heard. African American music, blues and spirituals, street songs and work songs. It was unlike anything he had heard in Europe or, in fact, anywhere else in the world.
After hearing these new, uniquely American sounds, he wrote: "America can have her own music. A fine music, growing up from her soil and having its own special character. The natural voice of a free and great nation." Those words were written by the great Czech composer, Antonin Dvorak, in 1892. It is especially fitting, therefore, that we have a worthy successor of Czech greatness in the President of the Czech Republic here with us tonight.
In time the music Dvorak heard became what we know today as jazz. And jazz became the soundtrack of this, the American century. Like America itself, it is inventive and bold, vital and free, respectful of its roots; yet always changing, always becoming, always reinventing itself. The great drummer and band leader, Art Blakely, once said, "No America. No Jazz." This was no mere boast. Jazz could have only have happened here because it is music borne of the American experience, and it gives voice -- eloquent, insistent voice -- to our American spirit.
Like our country, jazz is a cultural crossroads, where the rhythms of Africa meet the musical instruments of Europe; where black meets white and Latino; where New Orleans meets the southside of Chicago and 52nd Street. And like our democracy, jazz provides a framework for flowing dialogue, a basis for brilliant improvisation. a point of reference and a point of departure. It poses challenges and seeks resolution, finding it in the coordinated efforts of the community as well as in the unique voice of the individual, syncopation, and solo. Like me you're probably eager to hear some of the music, so please join me in welcoming two remarkable musicians who are our hosts for this evening.
Marian McPartland, as you all know, plays improvisational jazz piano and has now been playing it quite wonderfully for over seven decades. With just as much energy and enthusiasm -- I should not have said that. I had the chart here, that's the point where I should have ad libbed, but I didn't. (Laughter and applause.) The thing that I really appreciate is that Marian has long been introducing young students to jazz, even introducing them to Duke Ellington himself a number of years ago.
And in the great tradition of Duke Ellington, Wynton Marsalis is a distinguished composer, big band leader, devoted advocate for the arts and education. It is no wonder that last year he became the first jazz artist to win the Pulitzer Prize for music. And he may be the only musician in our lifetime to be virtually universally acclaimed as the finest player of his instrument in either classical or jazz mediums.
Wynton, Marian, the stage is yours. (Applause.) ("Blues in the Key of F" performed.)
MR. MARSALIS: Thank you very much. Thank you all very, very much. That was the "Blues Played in the Key of F," and it's one of the first compositions played by jazz musicians, W.C. Handy, entitled "St. Louis Blues," and it's a good piece of us to begin our discussion of jazz as an expression of democracy.
Now, we wouldn't have our democracy without the foundation of our Constitution, and we certainly wouldn't have jazz without the foundation of the blues. Now, the blues is a musical form. It's a form, like it's 12 bars long; that's what we just played, is 12 bars. The blues is also a feeling. I want you all to notice that that piece didn't sound sad or depressing in any way; maybe some of the notes I hit, but -- (laughter) -- in general, the piece is happy. It's important to understand the difference between having the blues and playing the blues. (Laughter.)
The music poses a problem, then the music wrestles with that problem, and then we resolve it. That's what we try to do in democracy. This form of government gives us the latitude to solve problems.
Now, having the blues is sad, but listening to the blues is like taking a vaccine. Just like you take a little bit of smallpox, and you give it to yourself and it inoculates you against that disease, that's why you listen to the blues; it keeps you from getting the blues. (Laughter.) Or when the blues comes, you can recognize them and you can chase them away.
Now, people have been playing the blues for more than a century. And one of the places it was played the best -- and they're still playing it down there -- was in the Crescent City, the town where jazz was born. I'm talking about New Orleans, Louisiana, which also happens to be my hometown.
Now, in our democratic way of living, our central concern is how to balance what we want to do with what needs to be done, and that's a big concern. In other words, "I" versus "we." Jazz musicians on bandstands around the world struggle with this nightly, and believe me, it's a great struggle. Because you want to play loud and you want to play long solos. So does everybody else on the bandstand.
So in order to sound good, you have to be cognizant of "I" and how "I" am going to relate to "we." We have choice. You can solo as long as you want. You make up with your plan. You can do what you want. So do you choose to be a drag and it pulls what you're doing on everybody, or do you choose to say, "Well, okay, maybe five choruses is enough. Let somebody else in the band play."
Now, we're going to play a piece that is composed by one of the first great masters of the New Orleans trumpet tradition, Joe Oliver. He was called "King" Oliver because of the dignity of his sound. This is also a blues in the 12-bar form, and it demonstrates very well the balancing of "I" and "we." I will be the improvised solo, and that's when you try to say through your instrument "I feel like this." You declare your individuality. And the way that I feel is unlike anyone else in the world.
"We" is what we call "polyphonic improvisation." This is unique to New Orleans jazz, and it's when we all improvise different melodies at the same time. It's very easy for this to sound like noise, so you have to try to say, "Let me get together with everybody else," because you don't know exactly what they're playing. This is the challenge of jazz and it is the challenge of democracy. This piece is entitled, "The Dipper Mouth Blues," King Oliver.
(The "Dipper Mouth Blues" is performed.) (Applause.)
MS. MCPARTLAND: Believe it or not, I used to play that tune with my husband, Jimmy, who was a great cornetist. And when we were living in Chicago, that was in his repertoire. This is one of those great old tunes written by King Oliver. And of course, when he left New Orleans and moved up to Chicago, he took a young trumpet player with him, named Louis Armstrong who, of course, turned everybody around. He was so wonderful and somebody that actually inspired me a great deal, because I'm from England and I had listened to a lot of jazz on the BBC and on the radio, and we had records, and so of course, I got to hear a lot of Louis Armstrong before I ever came over here. He really has been a tremendous influence on me and somebody I've always loved and admired.
MR. MARSALIS: Now, the (inaudible) allows for more personalized and direct communication across class, race, and gender -- I'm talking about democracy. That's why Louis Armstrong, who was from the poorest and most disrespected class of people in the country, could become its greatest communicator, and nobody could do anything about. When people felt that soul, they immediately loved him. He represented all of us to the world through improvisation, syncopation and soul. He transformed popular ditties into short masterpieces that astonished audiences all over the world, including this wonderful clip that we're about to see -- it's a Tin Pan Alley favorite entitled, "Dinah."
Now, Louis Armstrong was the only artist in western musIC, who could be considered a genius as an instrumentalist and as a singer. And he was an unbelievable singer. This clip captures the magic of Armstrong in his youth -- we always hear him when he's over 60, when he was older. But we got to check him out when he was young, too, because he was bad his entire life. (Laughter.) Now, he displays his skills as an entertainer also. I want you all to notice how the entire band is being recorded through one microphone and notice how effectively Louis Armstrong uses it when he sings and then when he plays his horn.
Also for you musicians, I want you to all notice how soft that band plays when he comes in singing, and let's try to start playing our instruments softer. This is Louis Armstrong, "Dinah."
(Film clip is shown.) (Applause.)
MR. MARSALIS: Yes, indeed. Now, through the visionary genius of Louis Armstrong, the American era in music asserted itself in all of its native glory, and soon it took possession of the world. That was a pickup band. Louis Armstrong could go anywhere in the world and he'd say, I'm looking for a band, and there would be a pile of musicians in line -- pick me, Pops.
Armstrong manifested the rhythmic style known as Swing. And he manifested it again and again and again. He developed the coherent improvised solo as the highlight of a performance, and he demonstrated the durability of the Blues sensibility, which is we're going to make it all right, no matter how bad things get. And it's going to be all right because we know how to improvise. We know how to work with whatever is available. And Lord knows where he was from, he had to figure that out.
Improvisation means the power to choose. This freedom of choice gives us the power to improve things. Even more, it gives us the opportunity to do something that maybe has never been done before. Armstrong always said that jazz and I grew up together, and his popularity on stage, recordings, radio, TV, and in films enabled him to forever alter the idea of the modern artist. By the time Louis Armstrong made his way to New York City to join the Fletcher Henderson Orchestra, he encountered a burgeoning jazz scene that included the likes of great musicians such as Coleman Hawkins, tenor saxophonist; the pianist, James P. Johnson; and Fats Waller.
MS. MCPARTLAND: You know I was lucky enough to hear all the records of Fats Waller in England, when I was growing up. And I used to see posters of him appearing at places like the Palladium in London and, of course, I knew I couldn't go because my parents probably wouldn't let me. But I did have the records, and I learned all his tunes. And he was such an amazing musician because he composed such great songs, and his style of playing was something I always tried to emulate. I always wanted to try to play stride piano.
And I think probably the greatest thing about Fats Waller was his sense of humor. He had this wonderful, insouciant air, and you know, just making everything seem so light and wonderful -- all of his songs -- and they all had a message. And I'd like to play one of my favorites for you, and this one is "Ain't Misbehaving."
("Ain't Misbehaving" is performed.) (Applause.)
MR. MARSALIS: Please welcome jazz authority and scholar -- and he'll sneak a trombone out and play it if you don't watch him -- Dr. David Baker. (Applause.)
DR. BAKER: We've heard how jazz reflects American society. But it also had a role in changing how we live together. Especially in matters of race, jazz led rather than followed societal trends. African American soldiers returned from World War I to a segregated society, having fought for freedoms that they themselves did not possess.
During this time, America was virtually completely segregated: the schools, the armed services and even theaters and music halls. Musicians had to live and work under those conditions. But in many instances jazz musicians, both black and white, found ways to work together -- jam sessions, recording sessions and other gatherings often brought together black and white musicians as equals.
Jazz musicians were more likely to judge each other by their ability to play than by the color of their skin. As early as 1923, the African American pianist and composer, Jelly Roll Morton, teamed up with the popular white group known as the New Orleans Rhythm Kings -- so what was possibly the first racially mixed recording session.
In 1929, trumpeter and American icon, Louis Armstrong, teamed with Jack Teagarden, a brilliant white trombonist from Vernon, Texas, to record the jazz classic, "Knocking a Jug." The years 1933 and 1934 saw white clarinetist and band leader, Benny Goodman, record with such African American artist as Bessy Smith, Billie Holiday, Ethel Waters, Teddy Wilson and Coleman Hawkins.
Beginning with the decade of the 1930's, African American arrangers and composers often provided the material that helped lead to the success of many of the great white bands of that era. Benny Goodman had Fletcher Henderson, Jimmy Monday, (phonetic) and Edgar Samson (phonetic). Gene Cooper and Artie Shaw enlisted the services of Jimmy Monday and Cy Oliver (phonetic). Cy Oliver (phonetic) was also the chief architect of the Tommy Dorsey style during the late 1930's and early 40's. Recordings, radio and films spread jazz music to everyone. A dance hall, a night club, might be segregated; but no one could stop white kids from listening and dancing to jazz on the radio or from buying records.
While Hollywood did stereotype both black and white musicians, it often showed them playing together as equals, and that was progress. The film, "Hollywood Hotel," was made in 1937, one year before the famous Carnegie Hall event that brought together in concert some of jazz's greatest players, irrespective of race.
In the clip of the Benny Goodman quartet, which we are about to see, Goodman, Lionel Hampton, Gene Cooper, and Teddy Wilson played together. I might add, predictably, when this film was shown in the South, this clip was omitted.
(A film clip is shown). (Applause.)
MR. MARSALIS: Now I would like to ask Lauren Shornberg, (phonetic) who was one of the world's foremost lovers of Swing and of swinging to step away from the tenor chair and say a little bit about that subject.
MR. SHORNBERG: Thank you, Wynton. If there's been one definition about Swing, there's been 100. But to me, the best one is purely the feeling that Louis Armstrong brought to American music. Swing can be used as a noun as in, "It don't mean a thing, if it got that Swing." It can also be used as a verb as, "Swing that music." But what it boils down to is that certain rhythmic feeling that happens when all the musical gears are turning in the same groove.
Jazz has always challenged the established order -- that's a very American concept. Swing is dance music -- of course you know the Lindy Hop, and you know the Jitterbug. But above all, the American Big Band is very much like our democratic process -- 17 people all playing together and all making their individual contributions. And probably the best example of an American jazz Big Band was, of course, the Duke Ellington Orchestra.
Edward Kennedy Ellington was born right here in Washington, D.C. in 1899. And not only is he the greatest jazz composer, but he's also one of the greatest composers of the 20th century, regardless of genre. And he made up his band by hiring musicians from Massachusetts, from Alabama, from New York, from Louisiana, from Puerto Rico and all over the United States.
And that didn't satisfy his need for exotic music; he asked the musicians to bring in music from their specific regions into the Ellington Orchestra. And it didn't stop there because beyond that, when the Ellington Band toured around the world, which they did for 40 years, they brought American music and the principles it represents to wherever they went. And it didn't stop there. They added those things that they heard around the world and brought it right back to American music.
Every member of Ellington's band had the responsibility of bringing their own musicality into whatever the band played. And in the same way, our Democratic system places obligations on each citizen. Before you can play in the band, you have to know the music. And here's some Duke Ellington music -- this is Duke Ellington's "Harlem Airshaft."
("Harlem Airshaft" is performed.) (Applause.)
MR. MARSALIS: Thank you very, very much ladies and gentlemen. Thank you. Please welcome the doctor of jazz and also a man who insists on the playing of left hand if you're going to play the piano. I'm talking about Dr. Billy Taylor. (Applause.)
DR. TAYLOR: Thank you, Wynton. The next style to follow swing was bebop. Bebop was created by musicians who came out of bands like this, huge bands. They wanted a chance to express themselves because jazz is a means of personal expression. So in the late '30s and early '40s -- as a matter of fact, in the very late '30s in the Earl Hines Band, I met Dizzy Gillespie and Charlie Parker right here in Washington, D.C. at the Howard Theater. And they were doing something that was quite different from what anybody else was doing. They were taking notice of the chords that Art Tatum (phonetic) and Duke Ellington were using, and they were -- (demonstrates piano chords).
In those days, those were kind of weird chords. People said, what are those notes? And what they would do was to take different parts of the chord and use different intervals. (Demonstrates notes). And they would go to strange places with that music. So taking chords and using the notes of those chords and making special types of self-expression, they came up with something that was different and an expansion of what swing and the music that preceded them were doing -- people were doing in that style.
What they did was to take the bass, for instance, and take what Jimmy Blanton was doing and take it a step further. They were playing the bass-playing melodies like this. (Cello notes demonstrated.) The drums, in the hands of people like Kenny Clark (phonetic) and Max Roach (phonetic) took on a totally different kind of feeling, because the drummer always had to do something different.
Drummers were always, by this time, using all four appendages. But they began to do things like this, using the right foot like this. (Drum demonstration) Adding the left foot like this (demonstration); adding the right hand like this (demonstration); adding the left hand like this (demonstration). So he was quite busy, you see. (Laughter.) On top of that, the pianist had to do something with those chords that I was talking about.
Dizzy Gillespie said that when he discovered this chord -- (piano chord played) -- he heard this melody -- (piano notes played). From many of the things that he and Charlie Parker and Thelonious Monk and other early innovators were to do -- well, one thing they were to do was to get the rhythm section to play together and have someone like John Faddus (phonetic), who wasn't even born in those days, play something like this. We're going to play the blues like this. (Jazz song performed.) (Applause.)
Thank you. John has something very special, and as you can see, he uses many parts of the trumpet very high. On the clip that we heard before with Teddy Wilson, Teddy Wilson was using his left hand. (Demonstration.) Playing tense and really running all over the place with his right hand. I learned a lot from Teddy Rose and from Art Tatum, Duke Ellington. And one thing I learned from then was that you have to do your own thing with all of the information that they gave you.
This is something I learned. (Piano demonstration.) (Applause.)
MS. MCPARTLAND: You know, we've heard so much of the music tonight that I listened to when I was in England growing up, and Duke Ellington, of course, was one of my favorites. I also wanted to hear some of the women musicians. Well, I did hear them, actually. Louis Armstrong had, when he made the record, "The Hot Five," his wife, Lil, was on piano and nobody said anything about, Oh, there's a girl in the band, and so she was somebody I listened to early on.
And then when I came over here with Jimmy, there were all these people that I wanted to hear as well as Louis Armstrong, as well as Duke Ellington. Mary Lou Williams, for instance, and Cleo Brown, and I couldn't wait to get to clubs to hear where all these people were performing. And we were lucky enough to be in Chicago and being the opening band for Billie Holiday and things like that are such fantastic memories of working with Billie and then working with Ella Fitzgerald and different musicians, and I was really involved in trying to hear all the women players I could and all the women singers, and I'm still doing it, as a matter of fact.
We have one of the great singers here with us tonight, and she's going to perform for you. Miss Diane Reeves. (Applause.)
(Ms. Reeves sings.) (Applause.)
THE PRESIDENT: Thank you, Diane. Thank you, Billie. Thank all of our wonderful musicians. And I want to say a special word of thanks to Marian and to Wynton for showing us how much jazz can tell us about our country, our century, our deepest aspirations.
I did grow up loving jazz. I was inspired, moved by the agility of Charlie Parker and Sonny Rollins, by the inventiveness of Thelonious Monk, by the incredible inventive genius of John Coltrane and the incomparable Miles Davis. They and many others opened my ears and opened the ears of millions of our fellow citizens to a music that was profoundly human and distinctly American.
But if jazz is an American invention, it certainly travels well. From club to concert hall, from coast to coast, across the oceans and back, returning with the imprint of other cultures and new influences. Music that began as American at the core truly has become now the music of the world. Jazz is also, as it has long been, the international language of liberation. What a man named Willis Conover (phonetic) called the "Music of freedom."
For more than 40 years during the Cold War, Willis Conover hosted the jazz program on the Voice of America. Dictators banned it and jammed his broadcasts because they understood the power of jazz to unleash the human spirit. But they could not stop the music. Six nights a week, as Conover started his show with the first bars of "Take the A Train," 30 million listeners in the Soviet bloc would join him for the ride.
As far away as China and as recently as 1989, students at Tiananmen Square hummed the tunes they heard on the Voice of America. Charlie Parker, Dizzy Gillespie. It became sort of a not-so-secret code in the struggle for human rights.
Tonight, we are honored by the presence of someone who has stood at the front line of that struggle and who can tell us the meaning of jazz for those yearning to be free. A few years ago, as I said tonight, when we were in Prague, we even performed a few tunes together. Please join me in welcoming an artist and a leader whose work is a tribute to the human spirit, and who perhaps will tell us a little bit about the impact of jazz on his Velvet Revolution -- President Vaclav Havel of the Czech Republic. (Applause.)
PRESIDENT HAVEL: My country was, before the war, free. And in 20's and 30's, this freedom was identified with jazz and Swing. I think that a lot of people in that time didn't know exactly if the founder of our free country was our first president named Masaryk or Satchmo. (Laughter.)
Later came Nazis. They occupied our country. Of course, immediately this was forbidden. And a lot of our Benny Goodman's played in very secret, secret, secret cellars. Totalitarian government hates music. Why? Because it is free, perhaps. After the war, once more, have Benny Goodman go to cellar because our dictatorship came -- a communist one. And in 70's and in 80's, once more, the music born in your country had to go in cellars. It was rock and roll. I think I would like to thank your President. that I had the possibility two days ago see one of the legends in my country in this house, a rock musician. And I would like to thank my dear friend, Hillary, for opportunity now to listen to jazz in this place. I thank you. (Applause.)
MS. LOVELL: People all over the world and the country have been listening to this, and they're sending us questions on the Internet. Should we take the first question Mrs. Clinton?
MRS. CLINTON: Yes, this question is from Washington. My question for the artists is the secret in playing jazz in that you must know your instrument well enough that you don't think about the notes, that your heart or soul begins to play the music?
MS. LOVELL: Wynton, would you answer that one?
MR. MARSALIS: Well, I'd have to say yes. (Laughter.)
It's exactly like speaking. When you talk, you have certain phrases you're used to using and you rely on them. You take a little pause and you get your thoughts together, but you don't think about each individual word. If you're doing that, you're going to be in a world of trouble. (Laughter.) That's the same thing we do on the bandstand. And speaking is a matter of your facility with the words and the language, and also, it is a matter of your intent. If your intent is pure, benign, if it's soulful, then when you speak to people, they will listen to you. And if you have something to say, they'll learn something, or they'll get away from you, one or the other. (Laughter.)
And the same thing is true in our music; it's a matter of us being able to play our instruments on the one hand, and the other is our intent, and our belief in the music. The more belief you have, the more powerful a statement you can make.
Now, we're going to -- as a matter of fact, we're going to play a tune now which really demonstrates that our music is about communication, because every musician that plays speaks in their own way. We have something that -- a way of playing together in jam sessions and in other places where each musician stands forward and makes their statement. And the other thing about jazz music is, it is -- the generation doesn't make a difference.
We have everyone from Al Gray, who is one of our most esteemed veterans. I'm not going to say what generation he's from, because after Marian dropped that 70 years on me, I got nervous and my palms started sweating. (Laughter.) But let me just say, Al is not too far behind. (Laughter.) And we're going to go from Mr. Al Gray on the trombone to our youngest lion out here from New Orleans, Louisiana, a great trumpeter, Mr. Nicholas Payton (phonetic), who is in his early '20s. We have Mr. John Faddus (phonetic), who owns the air waves. When you see him with a trumpet, you stay down low. (Laughter.)
I'm going to be down there. We're going to play -- now, this is -- we are playing -- we have like a conversation. But sometimes, somebody reaches for a blade and it becomes a cutting contest. And that's the thing that makes you understand the importance of practicing your instrument, because nobody wants to get their head cut. This is a song composed by Sonny Rollins entitled, "Sunny Moon For Two."
("Sunny Moon For Two" is performed.)
MS. LOVELL: We just heard some great instrumental voices, but now let's go to a voice from Canada.
MRS. CLINTON: This is from Alberta, Canada. Subject: Influences of jazz. Question: Mr. President, how did jazz influence your choice of going into public service over private business? We love you in Alberta. Respectfully. (Laughter.)
THE PRESIDENT: Well, my first thought is that when I was younger in my teens, I used to do this a lot. And I was honest enough to know when I was doing it that while I was never happier doing anything else, I knew I'd never be as good as these guys, so I figured I had to get a day job. (Laughter.)
That's a very good question. I had never thought about it before, but I think the answer is, my association with music and the discipline and long hours of preparation it took and the joy it brought, particularly when I got into jazz, had a lot in common with what I love about public service. It is about communication, it's about creativity, but cooperation, as Wynton said earlier. And like jazz, I don't think you can be really, really good at it unless you care about other people and have a good heart, like these guys do. Thank you. (Applause.)
MRS. CLINTON: This question is from Oswego, New York. And the question is for Miss McPartland: I am 13 years old and want to pursue jazz music at school. How would you suggest our school begin a class that would help me?
MS. MCPARTLAND: Well, you know, they could get some records. I think that would be really a good thing to get some records of some of the people we've talked about and heard music played tonight and let them get a feel for the music from the early days, from like the tune played by the band, "Dipper Mouth Blues," right up to present day and listening to people like Dizzy Gillespie or Herby Hancock.
Actually, I think that's really the best idea is to start listening, and actually, my husband did this years ago when they had this little band in Chicago, the Austin High School Gang, Jimmy and Bud Freeman, (phonetic) and the rest of them. That's how that got started listening to recordings in a candy store somewhere where they had a record player. And they all took their different parts from the records -- and Jimmy picked out the trumpet part, and the piano player would pick out the piano. And probably this is the way to go because I think you can learn music as I did a little bit from actually reading music, although I'm not very good at that.
But really the natural way to learn is by listening and then try to perform something, try to play something -- don't be afraid. Don't say, I can't do it. Sit down at a piano and play what you hear in your head. Oh, I could go on for hours about this, but I better stop because -- (Laughter and applause).
MRS. CLINTON: That's great. This is a question from Bernard Smith from Bath, England. During World War II, American jazz played on the Voice of America to the great joy of the boys in the field, what style of music do you envision being played to the future democracies?
MS. LOVELL: Wynton, will you take that one?
MR. MARSALIS: Well, I don't know. The direction we're going in, they might just blow up something. There might not even be music. That's a very difficult question for me to answer because we have a tremendous strain in our culture right now, in terms of what direction we're going to go in with music. We need a lot more education, and we need to get much deeper into the mythology of our music and understand what we have been given and deal with it and develop it instead of the way that we're presenting music now. So that depends on which way it goes, if I have to answer honestly.
I hope it's going to be something swinging, but you never know what's going to happen out here, you know. I'm going to be doing my best to try to help us to swing, but we have a long way to go in terms of that, my good brother, in England.
MRS. CLINTON: You know, that's one of the reasons why the VH1 "Save the Music" program is so important because just as Wynton said, there have to be opportunities for young people to hear good music and learn their instruments and then, we have to have some faith in them. But they have to have that good grounding.
This is a question from Hawaii. How do you feel the history of jazz in America can best be preserved into the millennium?
Well, one of the reasons we're doing this show, Jill, is to preserve the history of jazz in America into the millennium because I think it's so important that all Americans and people all over the world like President Havel was saying appreciate the contributions that jazz has made to our democracy and to the spread of freedom around the world. And that, to me, is something that really needs to be preserved and honored for the future.
MS. LOVELL: Well, Mrs. Clinton, you answered the question. And Mr. President, I can't believe this evening has gone so fast. Do you have any final comments?
THE PRESIDENT: Well, we should probably end with a question. You know, one of the things that I'd like to say, I'd like to compliment the recording companies who had put CD's recently -- all of Ella Fitzgerald's recordings for example. And I would like to encourage all the people who are involved in this business to think about as a way of celebrating the millennium to look at all the great jazz music that is still available in any condition over the last decades and think about packaging anything that is not, yet, now in mint condition -- the best available condition -- in making it widely available because I think that is very, very important.
A lot of young people will listen to this, will carry it on, will imagine it and play it -- as Marian said -- if they have access to it. So that's a great, great question and a great way to end. We can't know everything that will happen in the new millennium, but I'll bet you one thing we know. When you hear American jazz coming back transformed as Brazilian music or African music as Hillary and I have in our trips around the world, I think jazz will be a big part of it. And all of you who are part of this night tonight will know that all of your work will live well into this new century and into this new millennium. And the world will be a better place because of it.
Thank you very much. (Applause.)
MR. MARSALIS: Thank you very much, Mr. President. Now, we're going to conclude with a classic blues composed by the great Charlie Parker. It's entitled, "Now Is the Time."
("Now Is The Time" is performed.)