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A year of triumphs, support, tragedies, controversy and great losses
In the jazz world, 2006 was a year that defied a tidy little description. There was much going on, including the continuing efforts to rebuild New Orleans from the tragic and deadly aftermath of August 2005's Hurricane Katrina. Support initiatives for Crescent City musicians and their unfathomable losses continued all year. There seemed to be some New Orleans presence at virtually every major jazz festival. While a lot of musicians still couldn't go home to New Orleans, they were ambassadors for their history-rich city... ambassadors who could be found touring all over the world.
The New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival went on as scheduled in April and May, despite major logistical obstacles in and around the city. The festival did pare one day and one stage from its humongous schedule but reports from the Crescent City indicate the music was emotional and powerful. For many musicians still living elsewhere, it truly was a homecoming. For the city itself, it was a key step in bringing back hope for normalcy.
Trumpeter Wynton Marsalis organized a Katrina first anniversary event in New Orleans... including a "New Orleans: Rebuilding the Soul of America... One Year Later concert featuring Stevie Wonder, Yolanda Adams and Earth, Wind & Fire.
The Preservation Hall Jazz Band -the Crescent City ensemble that brings the exuberant art of New Orleans jazz to festivals near and farwas granted a 2006 Medal of Arts by the National Endowment for the Arts. The National Medal of Arts, established by Congress in 1984, is the highest award given to artists and arts patrons by the United States government, for those who have made extraordinary contributions to the creation, growth and support of the arts in the United States.
Preservation Hall, a tiny wooden musical gem in the heart of the New Orleans French Quarter, has had a mission of preserving classic New Orleans jazz. In the struggle to remain vibrant and help all genres of music rebuild in the city, the club this year began offering a late-night series of performances by bluesand funk-infused bands, as well as rock and bluegrass. Musical Director Ben Jaffe also set up a New Orleans Musicians Hurricane Relief Fund based at Preservation Hall with a goal of helping bring home and housing some of the estimated 1,200 displaced musicians, and create a new infrastructure for New Orleans music.
Brecker's welcome cameo -Tenor saxophonist Michael Brecker, who has been off the jazz scene for more than a year while battling a deadly bone marrow disease called MDS (myelodyplastic syndrome), made a surprise, cameo appearance in June with Herbie Hancock at Carnegie Hall in New York as part of the JVC Jazz Festival. His inspired and inspiring solo on Hancock's tune "One Finger Snap brought down the house. Word has it Brecker also has recorded material for a new CD to be released in 2007 on the Heads Up label.
Ponomarev's broken arm -Russian-American jazz musician Valery Ponomarev suffered a broken left arm in early September in a struggle with French airport police. It happened when he refused to relinquish his trumpet and flugelhorn case. It had already been tagged as carry-on luggage for an Air India flight from Paris to New York.
Digital inroads -Jazz is making great strides in the digital music world. The Blue Note label began releasing memorable portions of famous jazz tunes by Thelonious Monk, Herbie Hancock, Chet Baker, Art Blakey and others for sale as ringtones through most major cellular phone carriers. Similarly, several artists including Pat Metheny and Billy Taylor have begun podcasting as away to further distribute their music. Many musicians have also joined the myspace.com phenomenon to market their CDs and merchandise and keep in touch with fans.
Speaking your minds through music -Several jazz and blues artists teamed up to record a 15-track compilation of material that speaks out against the Bush administration in Washington. The Random Chance Records compilation is called Got the Impeach Bush/Cheney Blues. Participating artists included singers Bill Withers and Pyeng Threadgill, pianist Jason Lindner and guitarist Grant Green Jr.
There were other developments of note in the jazz world during the year:
The House That Trane Built -The Impulse record label marked its 45th anniversary with the publication of the book The House That Trane Built: The Story of Impulse Records by Ashley Kahn; the release of 12 Best-Of Impulse CDs; and the kickoff of an international tour by a McCoy Tyner-led All-Star Septet.
Minton's Redux -In May, Minton's Playhouse in Harlem reopened for the first time since 1974. The club of West 118th Street, once the dining room of the Cecil Hotel next door, was the venue where Thelonious Monk, Dizzy Gillespie, Charlie Parker, Charlie Christian and others began their development of the bebop style.
Playing and presenting jazz is taxing enough -In late July, New York Gov. George Pataki signed legislation eliminating the sales tax on admission to live performances in jazz clubs. Admission to such performances is now treated the same as admission to theatre, opera, ballet and concert performances, the tax on which was eliminated in the 1960s. Passage of the new law recognized jazz performances in smaller venues as an important part of the cultural and economic life of the state. Hank Jones, Jimmy Owens, Slide Hampton, Skip Jackson and Tony Jefferson performed what may have been the first ever jazz concert in the halls of the New York General Assembly in support of the legislation.
And the Grammys go to... -Jazz-related Grammy winners in 2006 included the Pat Metheny Group's The Way Up [Nonesuch] for Best Contemporary Jazz Album; Dianne Reeves' Good Night, And Good Luck [Concord Jazz] for Best Jazz Vocal Album; Sonny Rollins' "Why Was I Born? from Without A Song -The 9/11 Concert [Milestone] for Best Jazz Instrumental Solo; the Wayne Shorter Quartet's Beyond The Sound Barrier [Verve] for Best Jazz Instrumental Album, Individual or Group; the Dave Holland Big Band's Overtime [Sunnyside/Dare2] for Best Large Jazz Ensemble Album; Eddie Palmieri's Listen Here! [Concord Picante] for Best Latin Jazz Album; Bebo Valdés' Bebo De Cuba [Calle 54 Records] for Best Traditional Tropical Latin Album; Billy Childs' "Into The Light from his album Lyric [Lunacy Music/Artistshare] for Best Instrumental Composition; and Billy Childs, Gil Goldstein and Heitor Pereira for Best Instrumental Arrangement Accompanying Vocalist(s) for their work on Chris Botti & Sting's What Are You Doing For The Rest Of Your Life? [Columbia Records]. The Best Album notes Grammy went to John Szwed for his annotation on The Complete Library of Congress Recordings by Alan Lomax [Rounder Records].
54th DownBeat Critics Poll -Alto saxophonist Jackie McLean was named to the DownBeat Hall of Fame in the magazine's 54th annual Critics Poll. Sonny Rollins was named jazz artist and tenor saxophonist of the yea. The Wayne Shorter Quartet was named jazz group of the year. The Maria Schneider Jazz Orchestra took big band honors. Phil woods was named alto saxophonist of the year. Bill Frisell took guitar honors. Kurt Elling was named male vocalist of the year and Cassandra Wilson was female vocalist of the year. Pianist Vijay Iyer was named rising star artist of the year.
JJA Jazz Awards -The Jazz Journalists Association's annual awards program in New York honored Sonny Rollins as Musician of the Year and the Thelonious Monk Quartet with John Coltrane vas Record of the Year. Drummer Roy Haynes received JJA's Lifetime Achievement in Jazz Award. The Concord Music Group was named Label of the Year. Other honorees included Gerald Wilson for top Large Ensemble, Andrew Hill for Composer, Maria Schneider for arranger, Jane Ira Bloom for soprano sax, James Carter for baritone sax, Joe Locke for mallets player, the late Ray Barretto for percussionist of the year and Dafnis Prieto as Up 'n' comer of the year. Jazz journalist award recipients included broadcaster Eric Jackson, feature writer Nate Chinen, photographer Gene Martin, All About Jazz's publisher Michael Ricci, JazzTimes' publisher Glenn Sabin and Lifetime Achievement in Jazz Journalism honoree Howard Mandel.
Harmolodic house calls -Free jazz saxophonist/composer Ornette Coleman received an honorary doctorate of music degree from the Berklee College of Music in January 2006. Asked how it felt to be a doctor, Coleman said: "I need a doctor. This university of knowledge that we call music is represented by the quality of Berklee," said Coleman. "I am very happy and honored today to be standing here experiencing something I never believed I would achieve."
Posthumous plaudits -The 90th annual Pulitzer Prizes, awarded in April, included a posthumous Special Citation for Thelonious Monk "for a body of distinguished and innovative musical composition that has had a significant and enduring impact on the evolution of jazz. Monk was the first jazz musician and composer to receive the award since Duke Ellington was honored in 1999, the centennial of his birth. In addition to Monk and Ellington... only three other jazz musicians have been awarded the Pulitzer: George Gershwin, Scott Joplin and Wynton Marsalis.
Liquid honors, too -Monk has also received some strong bottled honors. California-based North Coast Brewing Co. is producing a new abbey-styled ale called Brother Thelonius. It is being released in association with the Thelonius Monk Institute of Jazz. North Coast is making a contribution for every case sold to support jazz education. Says North Coast sales manager Doug Moody: "It's time to remind the world that here in the U.S., we have a monk of our own."
Genius grants -The 2006 winners of the prestigious MacArthur Awardsthe so-called $500,000 genius grantsjazz violinist Regina Carter and jazz saxophonist and composer John Zorn.
ASCAP Jazz Wall of Fame -Six music greats were added to the ASCAP Jazz Wall of Fame at the organization's New York City offices. Saxophonist/bandleader Frank Foster, pianist/composer Horace Silver and trumpeter Clark Terry were inducted as ASCAP Jazz Living Legends. Guitarist Freddie Green, pianist/bandleader Fletcher Henderson and singer Sarah Vaughan were honored posthumously.
Monk Competition -The Thelonious Monk International Piano Competition was won in September by Tigran Hamasyan, a 19-year-old Armenian pianist studying at the University of Southern California. The annual jazz competition marked its 20th year.
Essentially Ellington -Three high school jazz bands took top honors in Jazz at Lincoln Center's 11th annual Essentially Ellington High School Jazz Band Competition and Festival last May. First place was awarded to the Douglas Anderson School of the Arts Jazz Ensemble 1 from Jacksonville, Florida. Second place went to the Battle Ground High School Jazz Band of Battle Ground, Washington. Third place among the 15 finalists was the Garfield High School Jazz Ensemble from Seattle. Jazz at Lincoln Center has announced a major expansion of its Essentially Ellington High School Jazz Band Program starting in 2007. Non-competitive regional festivals will offer bands of all levels the opportunity to perform Ellington's music and receive professional feedback from Jazz at Lincoln Center clinicians and other jazz professionals.
Living Legacy -Jazz saxophonist Oliver Lake received the Mid Atlantic Arts Foundation's Mellon Jazz 2006 Living Legacy Award at the Kennedy Center in Washington.' He was honored for his diverse accomplishments as a musician, poet, painter and performance artist.
FINAL BARS 2006
The list of jazz and jazz-related musicians, singers and industry figures who have passed on to the celestial jazz big band keeps on growing, year-by-year. This year's heavyweight losses included Ray Barretto, John Hicks, Jay McShann, Hilton Ruiz, Jackie McLean, Dewey Redman, Anita O'Day, Lou Rawls, and Maynard Ferguson.
Here's a rundown of those 2006 (and late 2005)assings, alphabetical by instrument or specialty:
Arranger Sid Feller
Arranger and composers James Mack, Hector Rivera and Moacir Santos
Bagpiper Rufus Harley
Bassists Bob Bodley, Walter Booker, Barry Buckley, Aladar Page, Rodney Richardson and Victor Venegas
Bassist-violinist Jack Fallon
R&B/blues/soul performers Etta Baker, James Brown, Ruth Brown, Floyd Dixon, Johnny Jenkins, Gerald Levert, Robert Jr. Lockwood, Sam Myers, Wordie Perkins, Wilson Pickett and Willie Kent
Clarinetist Putte Wickman
Clarinetists and soprano saxophonists Kenny Davern and Claude Luter
Composers Carlos Alberto Ferreira Braga (aka Braguinha and João de Barro), Betty Comden, Pierre Delanoë, Dennis Linde and Chris Patton
Composer, record producer and club owner David Blume
Drummers Dave Black, Johnny Blowers Jr., Lance Carter, Tony Corbiscello, Tony DiNicola, Sherman Ferguson, Irv Kluger, Bernard Primeau, Walter Salb and Mike Smith
Drummer and singer Woody Woodhouse
Cuban flutist Richard Egües
Guitarists Derek Bailey, Bill DeArango, Richard Lieberson and Kenny Poole
Percussionists Don Alias, Ray Barretto, Miguel "Anga" Diaz, Louie Goicochea, Little Ray Romero and Ali Farka Toure
Pianists John Burch, Walt Harper, John Hicks, Takehiro Honda, Duke Jordan, Henry Kohout, Fredi Luscher, Jay McShann, Bill Miller, Romano Mussolini, Hilton Ruiz, Tom "T-Bone" Stinson, Frank Thomas, Ross Tompkins, Brian Trainor, Tommy Watt and Tom Wood
Pianist and singer Russ Long
Saxophonists Marques Adams, Billy Amstell (late 2005), Lew Anderson, Warren Bell, Elton Dean, Dick Gerhart, Art Jackson, Moses Khumalo, Jackie McLean, Lazy Ade Monsborough, Jack Montrose, Dewey Redman, Ed Summerlin, Jimmy Vass and Frank Vicari
Singers JamLiz Diamond, Georgia Gibbs, Dorothy "Dodo Greene, Barbara Herwood, Israel Kantor Sardiñas, Pio Leyva, Olga "Olguita" Melendez, Bobby Milano, Monguito (Ramón Quián), Anita O'Day, Clay Osborne, Isadora Olivia Paynter, Lou Rawls, Jockey Shabalala, Connie Simmons and Martha Tilton
Singer and banjo player Narvin Kimball
Tap dancer Fayard Nicholas
Trombonists Ward Kimball and Don Lusher
Trumpeters Sonny Cohn, Manny Duran, Maynard Ferguson, Sam Greenall, Ian Hammer, Oscar Klein, Raphe Malik, Mick Mulligan, Hank Shaw, Malachi Thompson and Hank Turner
Tuba player Don Butterfield
Violinist Finn Ziegler (late 2005)
Booking agent Thomas Stowsand
Critic and broadcaster Philip Elwood
Editor Sheldon Meyer
Educator Daniel Steiner
Filmmakers Robert Altman and Stevenson J. Palfi
Illustrator Sydney Leff
Jazz broadcasters Rae Arroyo, Ed Bradley, Jim Mendes and Oscar Treadwell
Photographer Gene Martin
Photographer/writers Burt Goldblatt and William Gottlieb
Publicist Harriet Wasser
Umbria Jazz Festival organizational director Sauro Peducci
Writers Tad Jones, Nick Liebmann and Joseph McLellan
Writer and producer Wilma Dobie
Producers Ahmet Ertegun, Leo Gambacorta, Jesús GorÃ-s, Teo Leyasmeyer, Arif Mardin, Wesley K. Robinson and Bob Weinstock
As a songwriter and vocalist, I love jazz for the experience of being in the center of intense creativity. It is the most potent form of music for keeping the artist and the audience in the 'now. Being in the moment is essential for humans, and we need help in learning how to do that. As a songwriter, I need the depth of musicality that jazz voicings can give my stories. My songs seem light and whimsical, but the message is not.
I met my main collaborator, Mark Fitzgibbon, at one of his gigs. I needed to do my first original album, and his playing was masterful, robust, and beautiful. At the time, I didn't realize how suited we were as a team. We're onto our 4rth album together.
My advice to new listeners is to listen to a really clear and simple version of a song so you can then hear what the musicians are doing and enjoy their creativity and musicality. Also, you have to see jazz live to appreciate it fully. You'll never feel it the same way listening to a CD or online. You need the vibration to go through your body to really get it!
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