Georgia Today – They say there are very few countries where so many youngsters go to jazz concerts as they do in Georgia. This is the victory of Georgian jazzmen who risked their lives and positions, who did not fear the Soviet years and held jazz concerts from the late 1970s. The tradition is continued by the latest generation. In November 2011, the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) officially designated April 30th as International Jazz Day in order to highlight jazz and its diplomatic role of uniting people from all corners of the globe. In Georgia, International Jazz Day was also marked.

The event to celebrate International Jazz Day, a concert featuring ‘Volcan,’ was supported by the US Embassy in Georgia, the Ministry of Culture and Monument Protection and Tbilisi City Hall. The world-famous band ‘Volcan’ unites Gonzalo Rubalcaba, Grammy-award winning Afro-Cuban Pianist, Joze Armando Gola on bass, and Horacio ‘El Negro’ Hernandez on drums – Cuban musicians following in the footsteps of their countrymen Arturo Sandoval, Paquito D’Rivera, Ignacio Berroa, and others, creating a multicolored and rich musical heritage within the last 5 years, included in around 150 albums.

As a prologue to the main show, at the Event Hall, the Orchestra of the National Plural Guards under the Armed Forces performed such popular jazz hits as: ‘In the Mood’ by Joe Garland, ‘Blue Rondo a La Turke’ by Dave Brubeck, and ‘Cantaloupe Island’ by Herbie Hancock.

“We all want to live in a jazz world where we all work together, improvise together, and are not afraid of taking chances and expressing ourselves,” says Herbie Hancock, jazz guru, co-founder of the International Jazz Day, and Ambassador of Goodwill of UNESCO.

Entrance to the gig was free. “Since 2014, the Ministry has been an organizer and initiator of the Day,” Giorgi Aptsiauri, Head of the Culture Popularization Division under the Ministry of Culture told us. “This year, there was a record in terms of the number of countries which marked the Day – 196 in total. We invited representatives of the central authorities, diplomats, central and regional musicians to the Tbilisi concert,” he said, going on to reveal a fantastic piece of news: “We have received e-mails from UNESCO informing us that Tbilisi is being discussed in the first category of potential venues for the next International Jazz Day. If not in 2017, hopefully, this will happen in 2018.”

”It is already a ritual to celebrate International Jazz Day annually. This is our victory,” said Gaioz Kandelaki, ‘godfather’ of jazz in Georgia. “Where before I was coming to jazz concerts with my friends, now one of them has brought his grand-daughter with him. Even back in 1989, when we had a festival in Tbilisi, we saw great interest from the Georgian youth, however, due to the subsequent wars, it fell out of the schedule. Now, we have two great festivals (Tbilisi and Black Sea) that are included in the lists of many civilized countries.”

GEORGIA TODAY also spoke to Dini Virsaladze, famous female jazz pianist: “Rubalcaba is one of my favorite performers. He was here quite recently and gave a great concert and a master-class. I’m very happy that this time he is with a band who are stars in their own right.”

This was the 5th anniversary since Irina Bokova and Herbie Hancock founded the International Jazz Day. The hub of the event was Washington DC and namely the White House, where President Obama and the First Lady of the United States hosted outstanding global stars: Herbie Hancock, Sting, Aretha Franklin, Diana Krall, Chick Corea, Al Jarreau, Hugh Masekela, and others. From this list, almost all have been to Tbilisi.

The first International Jazz Day was held in 2012 in Paris, New York and New Orleans, annually shifting its central place in different cities of the world, hosting galas ample with legendary jazz musicians, singing about peace, tolerance and freedom. Last year, the Japanese city Osaka hosted the main occasion dedicated to the International Jazz Day. Which city will be the next – Tbilisi?