2004: The Year in Jazz

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Mark down 2004 as a year in which the makers of jazz celebrated their sustained successes—and mourned the passing of many musicians and members of the jazz industry. Those milestones and losses stand out even ore because there were no significant stylistic rumblings on the performance scene.

Here's a look at significant happenings over the past 12 months:

American Jazz Masters Shift

At a time when Americans have grown accustomed to arts cutbacks, the National Endowment for the Arts expanded its NEA JAZZ Masters program. There were six honorees at the 2004 Jazz Masters event at IAJE last January 23. There was one in each in each of five musical categories: solo instrumentalist, rhythm instrumentalist, pianist, arranger-composer, and vocalist. A sixth NEA Jazz Master award went to a non-musician who has made major contributions to the field. The 2004 NEA Jazz Masters were guitarist Jim Hall, drummer Chico Hamilton, pianist Herbie Hancock, arranger-composer Luther Henderson (1919-2003), singer Nancy Wilson, and music critic Nat Hentoff. It was the first time a jazz critic has been honored. International Association for Jazz Education president David N. Baker welcomed the expansion. "The decision to place the NEA Jazz Masters award on a par with the Pulitzer Prize as the highest award our nation can bestow in the jazz field is a courageous act and an historic event," he said.

A Golden Weekend in Newport

Festival Productions Inc. knew how to throw a spectacular party for the 50th anniversary of one of the great events in jazz -the Newport Jazz Festival. It was unfortunate that the host, founding producer George Wein, couldn't be present for most of it. It was fitting that Dave Brubeck opened. The pianist has been the festival's most frequent attraction since he first played here in 1955. It was his 32nd year at Newport -and it featured three appearances by the octogenarian jazz legend.

Wein didn't let abdominal surgery the prior week keep him from The Breakers' black-tie tented gala, a fund-raiser for the Preservation Society of Newport County held at The Breakers, a Vanderbilt family mansion now owned by the Society. He talked about the respect that jazz has developed in the U.S. since the first American Jazz Festival (as it was then called) took place in Newport in July 1954.

The traditional Newport weekend at picturesque Fort Adams State Park was an embarrassment of riches. Longtime festival veterans -and only a handful of prominent newcomers, like Jamie Cullum and Peter Cincotti -were featured on three stages running simultaneously with more acts than usual and tacked on an extra hour or more each day.

On Sunday, the Dunkin' Donuts stage featured back-to-back performances by the festival's two 1954 veterans present that weekend -bassist Percy Heath (who was with the MJQ the first time around) and saxophonist Lee Konitz (who first visited Newport with a quintet co-led with pianist Lennie Tristano). The festival crackled to a close with the Herbie Hancock-Wayne Shorter-Dave Holland-Brian Blade quartet, which is pushing the mainstream jazz envelope with its extended explorations of rhythm and form.

The House that Wynton Built (with help)

Jazz was institutionalized in a rather large way when Jazz at Lincoln Center moved into its $128 million new home on New York's Columbus Circle, which opened to the public on October 18 with a three-week-long grand opening festival. The 100,000 square foot Frederick P. Rose Hall features three main stage performance spaces -The Allen Room, Dizzy's Club Coca-Cola and Rose Theater -and a jazz hall of fame.

Only time will tell if the glittering facility will help bring more attention to an art form that has long been treated by the general music industry as an asterisk, or whether it will make it tougher for the city's relatively small jazz clubs to stay afloat.

Awards Galore

In DownBeat's 52nd annual Critics Poll, drummer Roy Haynes entered the mag's Hall of Fame and was named Drummer of the Year. Dave Holland collected Artist, Album, Acoustic Group and Bassist of the Year.

Gretchen Parlato of Los Angeles won the 2004 Thelonious Monk International Jazz Competition in September in Washington, D.C. The 17th annual edition of the competition featured jazz singers.

More than 400 programmers from around the country participated in the voting for this year's Jazz Week Radio Awards, presented in June in Rochester, N.Y. Pianist Michel Camilo was named Artist of the Year. The Jaco Pastorius Big Band's Word of Mouth Revisited was named Record of The Year: Telarc Records was honored as Label of The Year.

On April 29, Sunnyside recording artist Joe Gilman, a full-time professor at American River College in California, won the 20th annual Great American Jazz Piano Competition in Jacksonville, Fla. Previous winners of this competition have included Marcus Roberts, Lynne Arriale, Deanna Witowski and Kenny Drew Jr. Other finalists have included such notables as Harry Connick Jr. and Brad Mehldau.

Brookline, Mass. native and New England Conservatory Prep alum Adam Birnbaum won the sixth Triennial American Jazz Piano Competition, held May 8 at the Madame Walker Theatre in Indianapolis, Ind. Named the 2004 Cole Porter Fellow, Birnbaum, 25, received a $15,000 cash prize, as well as career assistance and professional engagements for the next two years.

Three high school jazz bands took top honors in Jazz at Lincoln Center's 9th annual Essentially Ellington High School Jazz Band Competition & Festival in June. Seattle's Garfield High School Jazz Ensemble accepted the 1st place trophy and award of $2,000. The Foxboro, Mass. High School Jazz Ensemble accepted the 2nd place trophy and award of $1,500. Wisconsin's Sun Prairie High School Jazz Ensemble I, accepted the 3rd place trophy and award of $1,000.

A Passing and a Platinum Performance

During his five-decade-long career, Ray Charles earned five gold records, including the classics "Georgia" and "I Can't Stop Loving You." Surprisingly, he never sold more than a million copies of any single recording -prior to his death on June 10.

This fall, the Recording Industry Associated of America certified Charles's final recording, Genius Loves Company , with platinum status. The collection of twelve newly recorded duets, was released by Concord Records on August 31, and debuted at No. 2 on the Billboard Top 200 chart. It was the first time Charles had been in the Top 10 since 1964. It featured Charles with Natalie Cole, Elton John, Norah Jones, B.B. King, Gladys Knight, Diana Krall, Michael McDonald, Johnny Mathis, Van Morrison, Willie Nelson, Bonnie Raitt and James Taylor.

A Great Night in Harlem

Quincy Jones was honored in abstentia with a Global Humanitarian Award on October 28 at The Jazz Foundation of America's fourth annual GREAT NIGHT IN HARLEM to benefit the Jazz Musicians' Emergency Fund. The evening belonged to the musicians present... and none made more of an impact on the Apollo Theatre audience than 83-year-old Johnnie Mae Dunson, a Chicago singer-songwriter who once wrote tunes for Muddy Waters and Jimmy Reed. She was just out of the hospital recovering from pneumonia and hadn't flown since 1974, but rocked the place out of her wheelchair. The Emergency Fund had helped her being evicted from her apartment.

Final Bars

Ray Charles was one of many jazz and blues players who passed on in 2004. Other greats included drummer Elvin Jones, clarinetist and bandleader Artie Shaw, guitarist Barney Kessel, saxophonists Steve Lacy and Illinois Jacquet and pianist James Williams.

Here is a full listing of those departed musicians by musical category:



  • Bandleaders Alvino Rey, Lester Lanin and (clarinetist) Artie Shaw.

  • Bassists Skip Bey, Lennie Bush, Malachi Favors, Sipho Gumede, Arthur Harper, Red Kelly, Bob Maize, Nap Turner and John Wood.

  • Blues performers Tom McFarland, Raful Neal, A. C. Reed and Son Seals.

  • Composers Neil Ardley, Cy Coleman, Bart Howard and Teddy Randazzo.

  • Cornetist David Serverino Pinardi.

  • Drummers Chief Bey (James Hawthorne Bey), Jozelle Carter, John Guerin, Elvin Jones, Jimmy Lovelace, J.R. Mitchell, Walter Perkins and Jack Sperling.

  • Guitarists Hank Garland, Barney Kessel, Tony Mottola and Speedy West.

  • Multi-instrumentalists John Prince and Ricky Warren Schmidt.

  • Organist Hank Marr.

  • Percussionist Juan "Long John" Oliva.

  • Pianists Joe Bushkin, Lady Byron, Gil Coggins, Kent Glenn, Eddie Green, Pete Jolly, Roland Lavallee, Tony Lee, Frank Mantooth, Roberto Ocasio, Coleridge-Taylor Perkinson, André Persiany, Joe Piscatelle, David Preudhomme (better known as Joe Panama), Dorothy Denny Scardino, Frank Thomas and James Williams.

  • Saxophonists Buddy Arnold, Gordon Brisker, Sam Furnace, Rick Henderson, Jimmy Hill, Illinois Jacquet, Bent Jaedig, Travis Jenkins, Robin Kenyatta, Hans Koller, Steve Lacy, John LaPorta, Preston Love, Tracy McCleary, Gil Melle, Bobby Nelson (real name: Salvatore Cusimano), Brian Ogilvie, Harry Verbeke and Noble "Thin Man" Watts.

  • Singers Carl Anderson, Ray Charles, Arthur Conley, Don Cornell, Jackie Paris, Marvin Santiago, Ben Shabalala of Ladysmith Black Mambazo, Doris Troy, Rita DaCosta Turrentine and Timi Yuro.

  • Trombonists Milt Bernhart, Porky Cohen and Calvin Jones.

  • Trumpeters Martin Banks, Carlo Bohländer, Emil Haddad, Danny Hayes, Mark Ledford, Donald Leight, and Webster Young.

  • Tuba player Anthony "Tuba Fats" Lacen, a New Orleans brass band fixture.

  • Violinists Joe Kennedy Jr., John Mayer, Don Tosti and Claude "Fiddler" Williams.

  • Jazz authority and publisher Frank Tenot.

    Jazz broadcasters Eddie Gallaher, Hunter Hancock, Jean Hay and Chuck ``Be-Bop Charlie'' Niles.

  • Jazz historian and critic Grover Sales.

  • Mambo dancer, record producer and events promoter Ralph Lew

  • Record producers Clement "Sir Coxsone" Dodd and Gus Statiras.

  • Record label owners and producers Paul Affeldt, Estelle Axton and Bernard Brightman.

  • Recording engineers David Baker and John R.T. Davies.

  • Surrealist jazz artist Fred Becker.

  • Writer, manager and lyricist Joel Siegel.

  • Writers Clarence Atkins, Bruce A. Cook, Leslie Gourse and Edward Jablonski.

  • Ruth Ellington Boatwright, Duke's Ellington's sister and business manager, broadcaster and label executive.

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