As the morning sun spilled over the New Orleans skyline on Monday, jazz musicians Herbie Hancock, Ellis Marsalis and others kicked off International Jazz Day with a concert that included ritual drumming and a string of performances.
Trumpeters Terence Blanchard and Kermit Ruffins, singer Stephanie Jordan and others performed On the Sunny Side of the Street and Afro Blue as the sun rose on Congo Square, an area near the French Quarter neighborhood where slaves once gathered on Sundays to play music.
Hundreds crowded the stage, some dancing and waving white handkerchiefs to the music.
The New Orleans concert was one of two held in the United States on Monday. The other was Monday night at the U.N. General Assembly Hall in New York with performances by Tony Bennett, Stevie Wonder and other top musicians, including representatives from Latin America, Africa, Europe and Asia.
In all, thousands across the globe were expected to participate in International Jazz Day at events in Australia, Belgium, Brazil, Japan, Algeria, New Guinea, Russia and elsewhere.
International Jazz Day was launched in Paris on Friday by the U.N. Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization in partnership with the Thelonious Monk Institute of Jazz, of which Hancock is chairman. The Paris event included roundtable discussions, improvisational workshops and performances by artists from various countries.
"Jazz is something very special, and it belongs to the world," said UNESCO Director-General Irina Bokova, who traveled from Paris to New Orleans for Monday's sunrise concert. "Jazz music is an expression of freedom, of human rights and of human dignity."
UNESCO designated jazz a "universal music of freedom and creativity" last fall and said that every April 30 is to be celebrated around the world as International Jazz Day.
"It really touches people's hearts because they can identify and feel the sense of hope and voice of freedom that really comes from jazz," Hancock said. "This is what makes it truly international."