Smithsonian Jazz Masterworks Orchestra

Last updated
Smithsonian Jazz Masterworks Orchestra
Jazz orchestra
Short nameSJMO
Founded1990 (1990)
Location Washington, D.C,
Concert hall National Museum of American History Auditorium
Music directorCharlie Young

The Smithsonian Jazz Masterworks Orchestra (SJMO) is the national jazz orchestra of the United States. It is based at the National Museum of American History in Washington, D.C., where it is the orchestra-in-residence. The SJMO was founded in 1990 with the dual mission of performing and preserving American jazz masterworks and raising public awareness and understanding of the genre. [1]



An Act of Congress established the orchestra in 1990 with an appropriation to the Smithsonian Institution of $242,000. In 1991 Gunther Schuller and David Baker became the original artistic and musical directors of the orchestra, which began performing in 1991. Five years later Baker became its sole artistic and musical director. [2] [3]

The inaugural season, jointly conducted by Schuller and Baker, consisted of six weekends of free concerts for which the conductors collected or commissioned transcriptions of the original arrangements of the works to be presented and provided the orchestra's members with tapes of the original performances. [4] [5] [6]

David Baker leading the Smithsonian Jazz Masterworks Orchestra during the NEA Jazz Masters awards ceremony and concert in 2008 David Baker (far left) leading the Smithsonian Jazz Masterworks Orchestra.jpg
David Baker leading the Smithsonian Jazz Masterworks Orchestra during the NEA Jazz Masters awards ceremony and concert in 2008

Since 1991 the SJMO has performed in nine foreign countries and twenty-six U.S. states, in addition to numerous free concerts in Washington, D.C. Appearances outside their base at the National Museum of American History have included a performance at the White House in 1993 to celebrate the 40th anniversary of the Newport Jazz Festival; the Cultural Olympiad at the 1996 Summer Olympics in Atlanta, Georgia; and a 1999 tour of the United States to present concerts in tribute to the 100th anniversary of Duke Ellington's birth that included a concert performance at the Monterey Jazz Festival featuring Ellington's Suite Thursday, which was commissioned for the festival. [1] [7] Among the orchestra's notable performances under Baker's leadership outside the United States was a concert in Egypt in 2008, when it played at the Cairo Opera House, the Alexandra Opera House, and at the Pyramids. [3]

In 2012, at the age of 80, Baker concluded his tenure as the SJMO's artistic director, and was named maestro emeritus in December 2012. The occasion was marked by a special concert consisting entirely of Baker's compositions. Charlie Young, a jazz saxophonist and educator at Howard University, became artistic director after Baker's retirement. [3] [7]


As of 2015, the orchestra's principal members were: [8]

Artistic and Musical Director

Executive Producer







The orchestra's recordings include: [9]

Related Research Articles

Duke Ellington American composer, pianist and jazz orchestra leader

Edward Kennedy "Duke" Ellington was an American composer, pianist, and leader of a jazz orchestra, which he led from 1923 until his death over a career spanning more than six decades.

Claudio Abbado Italian conductor (1933–2014)

Claudio Abbado was an Italian conductor who was one of the leading conductors of his generation. He served as music director of the La Scala opera house in Milan, principal conductor of the London Symphony Orchestra, principal guest conductor of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra, music director of the Vienna State Opera, founder and director of Lucerne Festival Orchestra, music director of European Union Youth Orchestra, and principal conductor of the Berlin Philharmonic orchestra.

John Lewis (pianist)

John Aaron Lewis was an American jazz pianist, composer and arranger, best known as the founder and musical director of the Modern Jazz Quartet.

John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts United States national cultural center in Washington, D.C.

The John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts is the United States National Cultural Center, located on the Potomac River in Washington, D.C. It was named in 1964 as a memorial to assassinated President John F. Kennedy. Opened on September 8, 1971, the center hosts many different genres of performance art, such as theater, dance, orchestras, jazz, pop, and folk music.

David Baker (composer)

David Nathaniel Baker Jr. was an American jazz composer, conductor, and musician from Indianapolis, as well as a professor of jazz studies at the Indiana University Jacobs School of Music. Baker is best known as an educator and founder of the jazz studies program. From 1991 to 2012, he was conductor and musical and artistic director for the Smithsonian Jazz Masterworks Orchestra. He has more than 65 recordings, 70 books, and 400 articles to his credit.

Gunther Schuller American composer, conductor, horn player, author, historian, educator, publisher, and jazz musician

Gunther Alexander Schuller was an American composer, conductor, horn player, author, historian educator, publisher, and jazz musician.

Newport Jazz Festival

The Newport Jazz Festival is a music festival held every summer in Newport, Rhode Island. Elaine Lorillard established the festival in 1954, and she and husband Louis Lorillard financed it for many years. They hired George Wein to organize the first festival and bring jazz to Rhode Island.

Jazz at Lincoln Center

Jazz at Lincoln Center is part of Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts in New York City. The organization was founded in 1987 and opened in October 2004. Wynton Marsalis is the artistic director and the leader of the Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra.

The Spokane Symphony is a 70-piece professional orchestra based in Spokane, WA that performs more than 65 concerts per year for more than 150,000 listeners. It was originally incorporated in 1945 as the Spokane Philharmonic before being renamed the Spokane Symphony in 1962.

Monterey Jazz Festival

The Monterey Jazz Festival is an annual music festival that takes place in Monterey, California, United States. It was founded on October 3, 1958 by jazz disc jockey Jimmy Lyons.

Chuck Redd is an American jazz drummer and vibraphonist.

Buselli–Wallarab Jazz Orchestra is a jazz orchestra consisting of seventeen pieces.

James Chirillo

James Louis Chirillo is an American jazz guitarist, banjoist, composer, arranger, and band leader.

James Williams (musician)

James Williams was an American jazz pianist.

Third stream is a music genre that is a fusion of jazz and classical music. The term was coined in 1957 by composer Gunther Schuller in a lecture at Brandeis University. Improvisation is generally seen as a vital component of third stream.

West Wind Records was a jazz record label that released albums by many notable musicians during the 1980s. Some of these albums were previously issued on labels such as Circle Records.

Charles Davis (saxophonist)

Charles Davis was an American jazz saxophonist and composer. Davis played alto, tenor and baritone saxophone, and performed extensively with Archie Shepp and Sun Ra.

John Morris Russell is an American orchestral conductor best known for his association with the Cincinnati Pops Orchestra and the Buffalo Philharmonic Orchestra. He lives in Cincinnati with his wife and two children.

Jack Towers was in charge of radio broadcasting at the U.S. Department of Agriculture from 1952 to 1974 and became a noted remastering engineer of musical recordings after his retirement.

"Django" is a 1954 jazz standard written by John Lewis as a tribute to the Belgian-born jazz guitarist Django Reinhardt. It was a signature composition of the Modern Jazz Quartet, of which Lewis was the pianist and musical director.


  1. 1 2 Herzig, Monika, and Nathan Davis (2011). David Baker: A Legacy in Music. Bloomington: Indiana University Press. p. 281. ISBN   9780253356574.CS1 maint: multiple names: authors list (link)
  2. Fox, Margalit (March 29, 2016). "David Baker, Who Helped Bring Jazz Studies Into the Academy, Dies at 84". The New York Times . New York, New York. Retrieved June 29, 2018.
  3. 1 2 3 Mansky, Jackie (March 28, 2016). "Jazz Legend David Baker's Soaring Legacy". Smithsonian Institution. Retrieved July 2, 2018.
  4. Martin, Henry, and Keith Waters (2013). Essential Jazz. Cengage Learning. p. 217. ISBN   978-1285415536.CS1 maint: multiple names: authors list (link)
  5. Kirchner, Bill (2005). The Oxford Companion to Jazz. Oxford University Press. p. 518. ISBN   9780195183597.
  6. Broder, David (August 28, 1991). "Smithsonian Jazz Orchestra Keeps Music Of Masters Alive". Spokane Chronicle . Spokane, Washington: B7. Retrieved April 27, 2015.
  7. 1 2 Stevens, Joann (December 2012). "Smithsonian's Very Own Maestro David Baker is All That's Jazz". Smithsonian Magazine . Washington, D.C.: Smithsonian Institution . Retrieved April 27, 2015.
  8. "Smithsonian Jazz Masterworks Orchestra: Meet the Orchestra". National Museum of American History . Retrieved April 27, 2015.
  9. "Smithsonian Jazz Masterworks Orchestra: Discography". AllMusic . Retrieved April 27, 2015.