The 2004 edition of the Jazz Journalist Association’s 8th annual Jazz Awards was highlighted by poignancy and remembrance.
The June 15 event at B.B. King’s in midtown Manhattan had several twists to its presentation of the traditional music and journalism category winners for the jazz industry. One winner (Steve Lacy) and one nominee (Elvin Jones) had passed on within the prior month, and were remembered with special touches. And emcee Dick Gregory, the activist comedian, recalled musical giant Ray Charles’ unswerving greatness early in his remarks.
Lacy, who won 2004 honors as best soprano saxophonist, had his jazz legacy celebrated with a reading by longtime friend and band mate Roswell Rudd (who won trombone honors for the second straight year) and a soprano sax instrumental remembrance by Joe Lovano.
As drummer of the year nominees were to be announced, JJA President Howard Mandel called Keiko Jones to the stage to do the honors. Her late husband, Elvin, was one of five nominees for the award, which was won this year by the ever youthful Roy Haynes.
Jones recalled in her brief remarks how her musical giant of a husband lives on for her every day, to the point that she said she still makes breakfast for him at their table for two. “I will continue to keep his music (alive) for all of you,” she told the crowd.
There was a bit of confusion as she thought she was accepting an award for Elvin, not presenting the nominees list. Mandel stepped in, announced the nominees and winner and Jones received a big hug from Haynes.
He spoke briefly about the power and eternal spirit of music for so many of its makers and listeners. “It’s my life,” Haynes said. “It’s my religion.”
This year’s “A Team Awards” for significant impact on jazz were: guitarist and inventor Les Paul, recording engineer Rudy Van Gelder, New Orleans Musicians Clinic founder Bethany Bultman, Sandra Jackson (late vibraphonist Milt Jackson’s widow) for jazz advocacy, HIP Health Plan of NY executive Arthur Barnes and E*Trade Financial President and CEO Jarrett Lilien.
The latter pair were honored for their work and philanthropy on behalf of the Jazz Foundation of America’s Musicians Emergency Fund. The awards event is also a fundraiser for the fund. Saxophonist Wayne Shorter led the awards categories with three wins: Musician of the Year, Small Ensemble of the Year and Album of the Year for his Verve project Alegria.
Before she could get back to her table after accepting Arranger of the Year, Maria Schneider was called back up to accept the Composer of the Year honors. Dave Holland doubled as well, with Bassist of the Year and Big Band of the Year honors.
Veteran festival producer George Wein may have become the first person to win awards in one year in both divisions - music and journalism. He was named Events Producer of the Year and honored for Best Book About Jazz for Myself Among Others with Nate Chinen.
AllAboutJazz.com won Best Website Concentrating on Jazz for the third straight year.
Click here for a full list of winners.