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The Jazz Ambassadors (PG*) + ScreenTalk

EFG London Jazz Festival 2018

Jazz Ambassadors

This documentary tells the little-known story of how the US used jazz as a Cold War secret weapon.

Post WW2, America and the USSR competed to win the allegiance of countries around the world. Culture was part of this effort.

In 1956, Congressman Adam Clayton Powell Jr suggested the US send its greatest jazz musicians overseas on state-sponsored tours. No time was wasted: in 1956, the first ‘jazz ambassador’, Dizzy Gillespie, was blowing America’s horn in the Middle East. He was followed by Louis Armstrong, Benny Goodman, Dave Brubeck and Duke Ellington.

Using archive footage, photos and radio clips, this film tells the story of this jazz diplomacy, and explores the moral dilemma the musicians faced: promoting an image of a tolerant America abroad while the civil rights struggle raged at home.

We are joined after the screening by director Hugo Berkeley and composer Mike McEvoy, interviewed by Sebastian Scotney (London Jazz News).

US/UK 2018 Dir Hugo Berkeley 90 min Digital presentation

*This film has been locally classified by the City of London Corporation

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