Of all the weapons deployed by the United States during the cold war, perhaps the most unusual was jazz. The State Department’s Jazz Ambassadors program, begun in 1956 in an effort to fight Soviet propaganda portraying the U.S. as a racist, barbaric cultural backwater, sent musicians like Dizzy Gillespie, Louis Armstrong, and Duke Ellington and their bands on tour through Europe, the Middle East, Asia and Africa. Clarinetist Joe Muranyi, who played with the Louis Armstrong All-Stars on a 1967 visit to Tunisia, is joined by Dr. Penny von Eschen, whose 2004 book Satchmo Blows Up the World: Jazz Ambassadors Play the Cold War is an excellent history of the program, in this audio excerpt from a Jazz Talk held in 2009 at JALC’s “House of Swing,” Frederick P. Rose Hall, moderated by jazz pianist, composer and author Dr. Lewis Porter.
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