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‘The Soul of Jazz: An American Adventure’ exhibit now open at Epcot

by Samantha Davis-Friedman

“The Soul of Jazz: An American Adventure,” now open at The American Adventure Pavilion, takes guests on a musical tour across the U.S. with Joe Gardner from Disney and Pixar’s “Soul” as their guide. The exhibit is part of the continuing transformation of Epcot and the park’s ongoing celebration of “curiosity, discovery, and the magic of possibility.”

The Soul of Jazz: An American Adventure at Epcot
Photos courtesy of Walt Disney World/Kent Phillips

Through this experience, Walt Disney World guests can learn more about jazz as Joe Gardner, a musician, mentor, and music teacher, shares the rich and surprising history of his favorite music genre from some of the cities that inspired it: New Orleans, Chicago, New York, Los Angeles, and San Juan.

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Guests will also soon be able to use the Play Disney Parks mobile app to interact with the exhibit and test their jazz knowledge.

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“Walt Disney Imagineering is thrilled to bring the compelling story of jazz to Epcot,” said Carmen Smith, executive of creative development and inclusion strategies for Walt Disney Imagineering. “Our team was honored to work with jazz experts and institutions across the country to explore the rich history and influence of this truly American musical art form. We hope guests are as inspired by ‘The Soul of Jazz: An American Adventure’ as our Imagineers were bringing this exhibit to life.”

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To create the unique exhibit, Walt Disney Imagineering collaborated with historians and curators from top jazz institutions, including the Historic New Orleans Collection and the New Orleans Jazz Museum in Louisiana, and the Louis Armstrong House Museum in New York.

“Louis Armstrong, affectionately called ‘Pops,’ ushered in a new era of musical innovation that has influenced musicians of all genres performing today,” said Regina Bain, executive director, Louis Armstrong House Museum. “The Louis Armstrong House Museum is thankful to Walt Disney Imagineering for giving light to the impact of jazz as a uniquely American art form.”

Some of the historical artifacts from world-renowned jazz musicians include:

The Soul of Jazz: An American Adventure Louis Armstrong's trumpet
  • Jazz legend Louis Armstrong’s Selmer trumpet
  • “Skin Deep” percussion sheet music of Duke Ellington drummer Louie Bellson
  • Cornet belonging to Bix Beiderbecke, an early jazz soloist from the 1920’s
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  • Drumsticks of Gene Krupa, member of influential jazz groups such as the Benny Goodman Orchestra and Tommy Dorsey’s band
  • “Jazz Jubilee” sheet music, hand-written by Jelly Roll Morton, one of the genre’s original performers and composers

“Jelly Roll Morton’s manuscript music […] stands as a testament to the genius of one of the originators and unique voices in traditional jazz,” said curator/historian for The Historic New Orleans Collection, Eric Seiferth. “More than a performer, Morton was one of the first jazz composers, and his hand-written scores—including ‘Jazz Jubilee’—are tangible reminders of his legacy.”

Check out this new video from John Batiste, the American pianist, bandleader, and jazz extraordinaire who provided the original jazz compositions and arrangements for “Soul”:

“The Soul of Jazz: An American Adventure” at EPCOT | Walt Disney World

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