The 9th Annual Jazz Awards at B.B. King's Blues Club and Grill in New York City went smoothly.
And a real crowd-pleaser was what seemed like a 12-minute, amazing drum rendition by Jack DeJohnette.
Many jazz industry greatsmusicians, producers and journalistsas well as others, such as actors in the entertainment industry, announced winners of the JJA Awards at B.B. King's on June 14, with even more of their colleagues receiving well-deserved recognition from the Jazz Journalists Association.
Quite a few winners were present at the popular, overflowing jazz community gathering put on by the JJA along with underwriting sponsor BETJazz, while others were away at gigs or sent representatives to receive their awards celebrating excellence in jazz and jazz journalism.
Maria Schneider took away the most awards (four) this year, holding forth with an admiring entourage afterwards. Some said she really needed an escort home with all those statues. Jason Moran also won in several categories, piano and ensemble. And the great legendary pianist Hank Jones took the honor for Lifetime Achievement in Jazz.
Howard Mandel disclosed that Jones was home in Hartford, N.Y., but that Cecil Taylor, who won the coveted award last year, would accept the award for Jones. And Taylor did, saying, "I feel honored to be asked to receive this for Mr. Jones because of how I feel for the brothers - and for the extra pleasure I enjoyed with Elvin, as well as for the encouragement I received from Thad." You could feel everyone in the crowd agree with Taylor as the vice president of the JJA, Willard Jenkins, came up to present the next awards.
AllAboutJazz.com, the important organization for jazz news, reviews and features, took the top honors in its category. Michael Ricci, its founder, was away on business, said Chris M. Slawecki, a colleague and friend of Ricci's, who accepted the award for All About Jazz to great applause. "Mike Ricci would want this award for all of the dedicated, great volunteer All About Jazz staff."
For one musician, three was the magic number. After actor Joe Piscopo announced, "Ladies and gentlemen, the winner of the organ keyboard player of the year, Dr. Lonnie Liston Smith," the humble musician revealed his gratitude:
"For three years in a row, I have been nominated and after three years it has finally come true: I won a JJA Award this year. It means so much to me. My advice is to just stick with it, whatever you do."
Don't Give Up
That seemed to be a theme: The idea of jazz musicians, jazz journalists and photojournalists persisting in a craft they love and have chosen, sharing their skills and talentsand bringing joy and needed information to others. The awards event benefited the Jazz Foundation of America's Musicians Emergency Fund and the Jazz Journalists Association's educational initiatives.
Beatifully-coiffed in the wonderfully air-conditioned music club on an especially sticky 4-7 p.m. evening, Marian MacPartland, known for her agile fingers on the piano, surprised us when she said, "Why do these envelopes always stick together when you want them opened?" She pronounced Rhonda Hamilton, from WBGO, a winner. Because Hamilton was not present, Dorthaan Kirk, her colleague at WBGO, went up for an affectionate hug ("Oh sweetheart," they told each other) and to accept the award.
The night went like that: lots of networking, celebrating, looking at photographs of Dizzy Gillespie, Barry Harris and others on the two big screens and in the Silent Auction giving us all a much needed, happy respite for the jazz community.
Quamon Fowler, saxophonist/composer/arranger of Fort Worth, Texas, warmed up the excited audience with his group's music. An ASCAP winner, Fowler represented the new generation, using hip hop in his jazz music. Bob Reynolds, another ASCAP winner, closed the jazz awards with his group. Ken Cicerale, director of awards for ASCAP, said he was happy these young musicians could play at the JJA Awards. Other young musicians also entertained.
A touching moment was when Jimmy Heath accepted one of the A-Team Awards fot the Heath Brothers. "I'll give Percy's to his wife June," Heath said. The noted bassist and longtime member of the Heath Brothers and the famed Modern Jazz Quartet, had passed on recently, and Percy Heath was in people's thoughts and hearts. Another touching moment was when Arnie Lawrence's name came up.
Several other notables who stopped up to the stage and delighted the jazz audience were Dr. Billy Taylor, Clark Terry and George Wein. Before Wein announced the Jason Moran Trio as the best small ensemble of the year, the producer commmented that "traveling in Times Square was unbelievable!" He praised Moran:
"Jason, you're a great young pianist - and enjoy this win! You have a good group, a cool group."