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Thelonius Monk honored at White House

‘Jazz is an American cultural treasure’ said First Lady Laura Bush
/ Source: The Associated Press

The White House was all jazzed up Thursday night.

Toes were tapping. Fingers were snapping and a drummer kept the beat for more than a dozen performers singing and playing at a black-tie event in honor of the 20th anniversary of the Thelonius Monk Institute of Jazz.

President Bush and first lady Laura Bush hosted the evening, which began with a dinner in the State Dining Room. The roughly 120 guests walked to the elegant East Room where a shiny, black baby grand piano graced a stage between life-size portraits of George and Martha Washington.

“President and Mrs. Bush, this is the jazzy-est party you’ve ever had, isn’t it?” asked broadcast journalist Barbara Walters, the master of ceremonies.

The president and Mrs. Bush nodded in time when singer Lisa Henry started the show with a song that begins “I’m going to Kansas City ...” Singer Anita Baker performed a soulful “My Funny Valentine,” and pianist Herbie Hancock played a jazz tune called “Watermelon Man.”

“Over the years, visitors to this home have been fortunate to hear some of America’s greatest musical performances, from John Philip Sousa to Yo-Yo Ma,” Mrs. Bush said.

“Jazz is an American cultural treasure and one of our country’s richest contributions to the world of music, and for 20 years, the Thelonius Monk Institute has nourished this art form, and carried on Mr. Monk’s legacy by cultivating a new generation of performers,” she said.

Other performers who played were Terri Lyne Carrington, Ron Carter, Greg Diaz, George Duke, Nnenna Freelon, Alan Hampton, Danilo Perez, Roy Hargrove, Wayne Shorter, Helen Sung, Clark Terry and Bobby Watson.

Fats Domino, a musician Bush visited when he was in New Orleans to mark the fifth anniversary of Hurricane Katrina, was at the White House as well. Other guests included Mrs. Bush’s mother, Jenna Welch; various lawmakers; and executives of PepsiCo, Northrop Grumman, IBM, Verizon, United Airlines and AT&T.