2009 Jazz Masters Awards

Fradley Garner By

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The Olympic Games overshadowed all events in recent Chinese history, but don't underplay what's happening on China's big-city jazz scene. Singer Jessica Meider, a 10-year veteran of the Beijing circuit with the ensemble Quattrology, speaks of "amazing growth" in recent years. Meider and several Chinese players are named in the government-controlled, English language China Daily. Western music, especially "decadent" jazz, was banned during the Cultural Revolution. Today there are clubs in the capital, where most performers are Chinese nationals. Nathaniel Gao, organizer of the Red Hand Jazz Band, says it's "important to grasp the traditions behind jazz, but our band has been having a great time focusing on original material." In Shanghai, venues include the recently reopened House of Blues, a "huge" space where nearly all performers are from the West, especially New York. African-American singer Carlton J. Smith's hard-charging R&B band took the stage for three months, after the club's license was finally renewed this summer. The band's keyboardist is from New York, reports shanghaijazzscene.com, and "The bassist [unnamed] is from New Jersey." Also visit cityweekend.com.cn.

Jazz Masters awards will be handed to five veteran musicians and a celebrated New Jersey recording engineer by the National Endowment for the Arts, in ceremonies October 17 at Jazz at Lincoln Center, NY. The nation's highest jazz honor carries a $25,000 check. The 2009 winners are: guitarist George Benson; drummer Jimmy Cobb; alto saxophonist Lee Konitz; harmonica player Toots Thielemans, and trumpeter Eugene "Snooky" Young. Recording engineer Rudy Van Gelder, of Englewood Cliffs, NJ, gets the A. B. Spellman-NEA Masters Award for Jazz Advocacy.

The Jazz Heritage Society has released, for the first time ever, Louis Armstrong 1937 radio broadcasts and excerpts from the icon's home-recorded tapes in a two-CD set. Armstrong was the first African-American to host a national network show. Disc one offers the April-May 1937 Rudy Vallee's Fleishmann's Yeast Hour, with Armstrong as guest master of ceremonies. Some 18 fragile acetate discs were remastered by audio engineer Doug Pomeroy, who specializes in historic jazz recordings. Disc two shares some of Pops' private moments. One of his favorite hobbies was recording on his Tandberg tape deck—he would push the 'record' button while visiting with fans and friends, at home or backstage, or practicing his trumpet. Lucille Armstrong carefully stored 650 reels of home-recorded tape in her husband's den. Excerpts on CD include Satchmo singing and playing "Life Is Just A Bowl Of Cherries" and an unaccompanied "Blueberry Hill." He also reminisces about Bix Beiderbecke and Big Sid Catlett. Pops recounts in detail the early decades of his own career and plays trumpet along with a 78 RPM recording of "Tears," made in 1923 with King Oliver's Creole Jazz Band. For details go to jazzheritage.com.

Cornetist Ed Polcer and vocalist Judy Kurtz are "runnin' mild" in the 26.2-mile New York City Marathon on November 2. They have a special goal: raising money for the long-term health care of needy jazz musicians. The fund is administered by the Jazz Foundation of America. "Recently, several young musician friends were slammed with disabling diseases," Polcer, 71, told this column. "The Foundation was the only place they could turn for help." To learn more, visit jazzfoundation.org. You can pay online to JFA—let them know it's for "Polcer/Kurtz Marathon"—or by check (also tax-deductible) payable to Jazz Foundation of America and mailed to Ed Polcer, 209 Lincoln Place, Apt. 6B, Brooklyn, NY 11217. E-mail: edpolcer@edpolcer.com.

Ed and Judy run for the needy musicians fund in the 2006 New York City Marathon. This year they're doing it again.

AllAboutJazz.com has won its seventh consecutive Jazz Journalists Award for Best Website Concentrating on Jazz—making AAJ the top-winning, single-category nominee in the history of these honors. With well over one visitors a month, AAJ provides daily global coverage of the music. Besides news and features, there's a free MP3 Download of the Day and an upcoming CD/DVD release calendar. AAJ also offers free promotional services to professionals. "We're a musician-friendly site, with the most active jazz bulletin board on the Web," founder-publisher Michael Ricci told this column.

Web Hit-Of-The-Month: Listen to New Orleans music and explore jazz origins and traditions at neworleansonline.com.

Thanks to Joan McGinnis of Mission Viejo, California, for her web research assistance.


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