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2009: The Year in Jazz

By Published: December 30, 2009
In another golden moment, a statue honoring Billie Holiday in her hometown of Baltimore was rededicated on the 50th anniversary of her death. Two panels were unveiled that had been part of the original design but weren't included when the piece was erected in 1985. One featured a lynched man ("Strange Fruit") and the other a newborn baby "God Bless the Child.")

Flip a coin for Duke

Duke Ellington became the first African-American to appear on an American coin. The jazz pianist, composer and bandleader was featured in February on a new District of Columbia quarter that is part of the U.S. Mint's line of state-themed quarters. Ellington won the honor by a vote of D.C. residents, beating out abolitionist Frederick Douglass and astronomer Benjamin Banneker.

A park for Peterson

At the request of friend and keyboard colleague Oliver Jones, Montreal has renamed a park near the place where Oscar Peterson grew up into a permanent homage to the late jazz pianist. A multi-leveled plaza on the site in Little Burgundy will be opened next year for concerts and other events. Jones told the Montreal Gazette that Peterson's "rise from humble beginnings would strike a chord with the black youths of today."

Harlem Jazz Museum

In April, the New York City Economic Development Corporation selected The National Jazz Museum in Harlem, a nonprofit arts group, as a major tenant for the former Mart 125 redevelopment project. If backing from developers is secured, the plans call for the museum to make its new home on the site, right across the street from the Apollo Theatre. "The project will help to ensure the future of 125th Street as a premier arts, cultural and entertainment destination, as well as a center of economic development," said NYCEDC President Seth Pinsky.

Marketing through musicians

Banana Republic recruited musicians to "celebrate the richness of city life" in a new spring/summer campaign the clothing company called City Stories. The nine musicians included two from jazz: saxophonist David S_nchez and bassist/vocalist Esperanza Spalding. The musicians were photographed wearing Banana Republic apparel and accessories, along with one favorite accessory: their instrument, for a series of billboard and print ads.

ArtistShare evolution

"Ron Carter: Finding the Right Notes," a new biography of the bassist, written by Dan Ouellette, became ArtistShare's first fan-funded book. The book, available for purchase online through ArtistShare, covers Carter's 60-year career as sideman (most notably as the anchor in Miles Davis' '60s quintet), studio musician, teacher and bandleader.

Return reunion

The Hollywood Bowl in Los Angeles was the setting September 2 for a reunion concert featuring the original members of the fusion group Return to Forever. Chick Corea, Stanley Clarke and Lenny White (who then embarked on a worldwide trio tour shortly thereafter, were joined for this one concert by original RTF guitarist Bill Connors. It was the first performance of the original electronic lineup since 1974.


Splendid company - Pianist Dave Brubeck was one of five 2009 Kennedy Center honorees for contributions to American culture along with rock icon Bruce Springsteen, actor Robert DeNiro, actor-director Mel Brooks and opera singer Grace Bumbry. A December 6 tribute at the Kennedy Center was preceded by a White House reception.

Grammy accolades - Jazz-related winners of the 51st annual Grammy Awards on February 9, were: Best Contemporary Jazz Album: Randy Brecker, Randy in Brazil, Best Jazz Vocal Album: Cassandra Wilson, Loverly, Best Jazz Instrumental Solo: Terence Blanchard, Be-Bop, Jazz Instrumental Album Individual or Group: Chick Corea and Gary Burton, The New Crystal Silence, Large Jazz Ensemble Album: The Vanguard Jazz Orchestra, Monday Night Live at the Village Vanguard,Latin Jazz Album: Arturo O'Farrill and The Afro-Latin Jazz Orchestra, Song for Chico;, Best Traditional Blues Album: B.B. King, One Kind Favor, Best Contemporary Blues Album: Dr. John And The Lower 911, City That Care Forgot, Best New Age Album: Jack DeJohnette, Peace Time, Best Album Notes: Francis Davis, Kind of Blue: 50th Anniversary Collector's Edition.

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