Doc Jones cements the legacy of jazz through his work making International Jazz Day a holiday in Arizona

Doc Jones cements the legacy of jazz through his work making International Jazz Day a holiday in Arizona

By: Mary Andrews

Jazz music is one of the few genres of music that has been created in the Americas. It has been in existence for more than a century and New Orleans is credited to be the birthplace of the American art form. Over time, it has come to encompass a wide range of musical influences from ragtime to rock fusion. It originated through a blend of Negro and European music. Improvisation plays a major role as well as vitality and spontaneity providing the essence of Jazz.

Jazz has been attributed to the advent of breaking the boundaries of racism in America with the collaboration between white and black musicians. The 1920s saw women playing musical instruments in jazz bands for the first time. WWII saw the emergence of all-female bands when male bandmembers were drafted. The creativity of jazz fostered people of all backgrounds, races, and sexes to blend together for the good of the art. As a result, people have found a common ground in celebrating jazz music.

There are many celebrations of Jazz in the world from France to Switzerland, Istanbul, Cuba, The Netherlands, Finland, Italy, Spain, Africa and many more countries. There was the creation of an International Jazz Day at the White House.

The biggest boost came in 2011 when the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) officially designated April 30 as International Jazz Day. The idea was proposed by jazz pianist and UNESCO Goodwill Ambassador Herbie Hancock. Hancock chairs International Jazz Day and He is the designated UNESCO Director -General. He announced his intention of making International Jazz day a celebration of the diplomatic role of jazz.

Enter Doc Jones

It seemed to be a natural conclusion to Dr. William “Doc” Jones that there should be Jazz celebrations in every state of the country where jazz was born. Jones has been a steadfast proponent for Jazz Day for more than 15 years. The long-term goal is to promote unity in the world through jazz music appreciation. Jones will admit that “music saved my life and it gave me an opportunity to see the world through a different lens. Chicago was all fun and games and gangs go with that. My motto is ‘With Music on Their Mind, There’s No Time For Crime.’”

Looking back at Jones’ career, he has spent the majority of his adult life promoting and giving jazz opportunities to our youth whether it is on the streets of Chicago, New Orleans or Phoenix and now Mexico. He entered the world of jazz at the age of 21 when his wife urged him to enter Loop Junior College (now Harold Washington) to escape the gangs of Chicago in 1972 where he got an Associate Arts Degree in Music Education. He continued his education at Roosevelt University in 1976. Roosevelt University is also Herbie Hancock’s alma mater 15 years prior to Jones. He was highly influenced by and played with Phil Cohran who was in the Sun-Ra Arkestra. “I learned my craft from Cohran.” His teachings continue to influence Jones to the present day. There he started a community workshop called Niambi School of the Arts. He started a big band while he was still in college. His saxophone player was Steve Coleman, world renowned improvisational jazz musician. Jones had the opportunity to play backup keyboards with ‘Pops’ Staples. Jones also started his own record label while in Chicago.

In 1986, Jones moved to Phoenix Ariz. where he played with Abel Valention, Margo and Francine Reed, Michael Reed, Jesse McGuire, and Dave Cook just to name a few. By 1993, he was invited to tour with Otis and The Temptations. My cousin was the musical director and he needed a saxophone player so he called on Jones to fill the position.

In 1998, Jones was teaching at Teen Choice a charter school in Phoenix. A couple of music students got killed and he was motivated to serve the community by using music to recruit the youth to get involved in his after school music program. He started a nonprofit organization called Quick’s Academy of Music. He provided workshops for the organization for four years. He also worked at a school called Summit for nine years.

The year 2000 found Jones starting a school called Next Student Academy.
In 2008, the financial crash came and Jones Parent Corporation lost millions of dollars. After the crash Jones opened a supper club, Doc’s Placer in Phoenix that remained open until 2012.

Jones was drawn to New Orleans when the city offered tax credits if you opened a business in New Orleans. Nola was offering up to 40% in tax credits if you invested in the city. Daughter, Nayo Jones, moved with Jones to New Orleans and he started 504 Multi Media LLC and begin producing magazines. Jones met Herbie Hancock in 2013. They shared their common school experiences and life in Chicago. Hancock suggested that Jones use his 504 Magazine to promote International Jazz Day. International Jazz Day was first kicked off in New Orleans that year.

His time in New Orleans was short lived when he returned to Phoenix in 2013. However, the seeds were ‘planted’ to take International Jazz Day to Arizona and to the International level. Jones formed his band again, added his daughter Nayo as the vocalist. They were introduced to George Benson who resides in the Phoenix area. Benson mentioned that he was on that first International Jazz Day with Hancock in New Orleans. Benson left New Orleans and flew to Paris to perform at the first global International Jazz Day. Benson allowed his image to be used those first two years and he was the guest speaker for those two years.

Meanwhile, Jones produced a concert on International Jazz Day at Cityscape in downtown Phoenix. This happened for four years. The rest is history.

The Status of International Jazz Day in Arizona

From 2014 until the present, they have successfully gotten ten mayors to give proclamations from Phoenix Flagstaff, Glendale, Scottsdale, Tucson, Mesa, Douglas, Tempe and Sedona. Arizona Governor Ducey has since done a public service announcement endorsing International Jazz Day.

On a larger scale, February 13 2020, Jazz Day Arizona saw Representative Reginal Boding’s Bill HB 2697 pass the committee and move the state House of Representatives. From there it will go the Senate and Governor Ducey’s desk to make April Jazz Appreciation Month and April 30 a state holiday for International Jazz Day Arizona.

Jones has traveled extensively throughout Mexico to get International Jazz Day celebrated. Claudia Artemiza Pavlovich Arellano, the Governor of Sonora Mexico, has worked with Jones in supporting ‘Jazz Across the Borders’ and International Jazz Day. The 2020 celebration will take place in Alamos, Mexico on March 7-8.

2020 the festivities will start with the Scottsdale Jazz Festival on Saturday April 4 from 12:00 PM until 6:00 PM. The event will be held at the Scottsdale Center for the Arts in Scottsdale, Arizona. The Latin jazz bandleader, conga player and salsa singer, Poncho Sanchez, is headlining the event. There will be a lineup of local, national and international artists performs with Sanchez. This is a free outdoor event.

On Sunday April 19, there will be a tribute to Russell “Big Chief” Moore and American Indian Jazz Artists at the Heard Museum in Phoenix, Arizona.

International Jazz Day on Sunday, April 26 is hosting two events. Jazz Day AZ opens the Mesa jazz festival. It is the Mesa Gospel Brunch Fundraiser event held between 11;30 AM until 300 PM at the Mesa Arts Center in Mesa, Arizona. There will be great food and music. The proceeds go to the NextStudents Academy of the Arts Scholarship music program.

The second event of the day is presented by the Mesa Arts Center and the International Jazz Day Arizona Foundation. The 9th Annual International Jazz Festival joins the events taking place in more than 190 countries throughout April as a part of UNESCO’s annual International Jazz Day celebration. World acclaimed jazz artist, Emil Vikicky, is headlining the five hours of music that starts at 4 PM- 9 PM. There will be a blend of salsa, jazz, soul, and Latin American music. The lineup also includes jazz keyboardist Bernard Wright, jazz drummer Greg Warner and the Fred Boswell Ensemble.

The final event will be ‘Jazz at Lunch’ taking place at the Arizona state capital lawn on Tuesday, April 28. It will be a celebration of military jazz artists. The festivities will be between 1100AM and 300 PM.

Don’t expect Jones to be resting on his laurels. He has done a fantastic job networking with Arizona and Mexican politicians, organizing annual shows, fundraising for the events and his music youth programs, recruiting volunteers for all of his activities, his own musicianship, teaching, and his business ventures. There is still much to be done and Jones is a relentless, hard worker as he promotes International Jazz Day and the unification of all people around the world.

For more information on International Jazz Day AZ, click here.