Jazz Legends Celebrate 30 years at Lincoln Center
On Tuesday, January 10, The National Endowment for the Arts Jazz Masters celebrated its 30th year at Lincoln Center. The Rose Theater, home of Jazz at Lincoln Center, was filled with jazz lovers and NEA Jazz Masters alike.
The NEA Jazz Masters Fellowship is the highest honor a jazz artist can receive in the United States. The award along with a stipend of $25,000 is given annually to a select group of individuals who have made outstanding contributions to the advancement of jazz music. Past NEA Jazz Masters have included Chick Corea, Tony Bennet, Wynton Marsalis and Dave Liebman among many others.
This year, the honorees were drummer Jack DeJohnette, vocalist Sheila Jordan, bassist Charlie Haden, saxophonist Von Freeman and jazz advocate Jimmy Owens, recipient of the A.B. Spellman Award for Jazz Advocacy. Though Charlie Haden and Von Freeman could not physically attend due to health reasons, they were able to tune in through the live online broadcast.
A central message of the evening seemed to be along the lines of the past meeting the future of jazz and the carrying forth of tradition. An example of this was when the invigorating 90-year-old Frank Wes performed with the 22-year-old Thelonious Monk Piano competition winner Kris Bowers on Wes’ tune, “Who Me?” Similar pairings were Phil Woods with the teenaged rising star Grace Kelly, and Dave Liebman joined by trumpeter Ambrose Akinmusire on the Horace Silver tune “Senor Blues.”
Perhaps the most colossal observation of the night was the sheer volume of jazz legendry in one setting: Roy Haynes, Ornette Coleman, Ahmad Jamal, McCoy Tyner and so on in one setting. Rafael Rosa, a New York University guitar student was an assistant at the NEA and attended the ceremony as well as the preceding luncheon at the Essex house. “The highlight of the NEA for me was to see Roy Haynes and Jack Dejonette tap dancing at the luncheon,” he said, “to me, it is truly a testament of the uniqueness of these great masters, and the realization that the music is truly IN them. A sight we might never get to come across again.”
The NEA had come under fire when their budget was nearly cut earlier this year. To the relief of the audience, NEA chairman Rocco Landsmen took the time to joyfully announce that the NEA will still honor jazz musicians annually, as well as bestow grants totaling about $135,000 to organizations across the country to keep jazz and jazz education alive. Of the 12 organizations, two are in the New York area - The Harlem Stage and the Tribeca Performing Arts Center.
“I believe that music has always played a vital part in the emotional and spiritual development of people and we as artists have a great responsibility to contribute to the ongoing changes in a positive way and contribute to the future of world peaceful coexistence,” said Jack DeJohnette during his acceptance speech to thunderous applause. #