The 32nd class of National Endowment for the Arts Jazz Masters was formally inducted on January 14, 2013. Numbering just four, this was the smallest class since the threesome of 2003. The following year, new NEA Chairman Dana Gioia upped the ante to six and added the new category of the A. B. Spellman Jazz Advocacy Award, which writer Nat Hentoff was the first to receive.For each of the next three years there were seven, for 2008 and 2009, six, and in 2010, new chairman Rocco Landesman named a record eight. Then came ... read more
It's been so long since the last Den that it should perhaps be renamed, Every Now and Den." But here I am with some of the events that stand out from the past five months or so, not necessarily in chronological order.I've never missed the annual Satchmo Summerfest in New Orleans, and the August 12 edition was, as always, a delightful experience, climate down yonder notwithstanding. Among the excellent seminar participants from up North were David Ostwald, who interviewed me about my times with Pops, and director Michael Cogswell and Ricky Riccardi from the Armstrong House Museum and ...read more
Phoebe Jacobs, who left us on April 9, 2012 just a couple of months shy of 94, was a most remarkable lady who did so much for the music and its makers, as so well-documented in last month's Big Band in the Sky.I first encountered Phoebe when she was handling press and taking care of the musicians at Basin Street East. Our shared love for Louis Armstrong made us friends, as we remained for more than 50 years. Phoebe was one of a kind, and her remarkable energy and enthusiasm never flagged. Ken Burns captured the flavor of ...read more
On April 13, Rutgers University-Newark threw a swell party for me on the occasion of my retirement as director of the Institute of Jazz Studies. I won't go into the social and musical details here, but do want to thank all my friends who showed up, and the many others who sent regrets--notably Sonny Rollins, whose gratifying message was read by Dr. Clem Price, director of the Rutgers Institute of Ethnicity, Culture and the Modern Experience.Clem did such a great job of hosting the party, and I'm pretty certain was responsible for the surprise appearance of Newark's Mayor ...read more
It took me only 27 years to discover the annual Discover Jazz Festival in Burlington, VT, but now, having attended part of the 28th, I must say it was about time! Burlington, where Ben & Jerry's Ice Cream was whipped up, is a charming college town. For 10 days in June, the festival dominates the community, featuring concerts by major artists and loads of free music performed outdoors at stages in the heart of town. The main drag is a walking street replete with mostly local stores, rather than the national outlet branches so ubiquitous, alas, all ...read more
Sonny Brings the Presents To His Own 80th Birthday Sonny Rollins threw himself an 80th birthday party at New York's restored Beacon Theater on September 10 --he was born on the 7th-- and it was he who brought the gifts. And what a cornucopia! This was one of those rare times when you know that you're in the best of all possible places in the world. In inspired form, from first note to last, he never left the stage and, as is his wont, took no intermission. The silver- maned and bearded Sonny simply made music of ...read more
What might well be the most spartan jazz club anywhere (if you didn't know it was there, you'd walk right past it) is The Stone, way down at Avenue C and East 2nd Street in Manhattan. Founded by John Zorn, the avant-garde composer, arranger and record producer, as a venue for intrepid music, it's a new kind of jazz club where no refreshments or merchandise is sold, only music, and all nightly revenues go to the musicians. The door charge is usually $10 per set, half price for teenage students, and no advance ticket sales.This was the scene, ...read more
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