2010: The Year in Jazz

Ken Franckling BY

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The jazz scene in 2010 was marked by a bit of cultural thaw between the U.S. and Cuba, royal honors for Marian McPartland that led honors galore for living jazz musicians, and significant acknowledgments for late jazz greats across North America. Efforts continued to expand jazz into new realms—or to hold on during the aftershocks of the Great Recession that began two years ago.

On the performance front, nothing could top Sonny Rollins's 80th birthday event at New York's Beacon Theater on September 10. Rollins' regular band was augmented that evening by trumpeter Roy Hargrove, drummer Roy Haynes, bassist Christian McBride, guitarist Jim Hall and saxophonist Ornette Coleman. It was the first public performance together by Rollins and Coleman, the altoist beating the tenor saxophonist to octagenarian status by six months.

Pat Metheny drew attention throughout the year in Europe, North America and Asia with his Orchestrion tour, which featured the guitarist "solo," playing a stage full of instruments triggered either by pneumatics or electronic solenoids controlled by a MIDI system. Metheny keyed it all with foot pedals, guitar knobs and a small electronic touchpad. In a Boston stop, Metheny described the project as "my brain at nine years-old, taken to the 21st century."

Here's a look at other significant things that took place in 2010:

Cultural thaw

Mark 2010 as the first full year since 2003 that the United States gave visas to Cuban jazz artists. And there were some significant interchanges taking place in both countries due to this thaw in the U.S. trade embargo against Cuba. Things started easing in the fall of 2009 when Cuban singer Omara Portuondo became one of the first Cuban artists to receive a U.S. visa under new Obama administration rules, enabling her to collect a Latin Grammy in Las Vegas and to be a presenter on the show.

In October 2010, the Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra with Wynton Marsalis traveled to Havana for a six-day residency that involved both concerts and clinics for young Cuban musicians. The visit, led by trumpeter and artistic director Wynton Marsalis, took place under the auspices of the Cuban Institute of Music.

Then, pianist Chucho Valdes and his Afro-Cuban Messengers made a 12-city U.S. tour that included two nights at Jazz at Lincoln Center's Rose Room in Manhattan and hop-scotched around the Northeast and West Coast. Valdés also performed solo at New York's Village Vanguard before taking his band tour to Europe.

In December, pianist and bandleader Arturo O'Farrill traveled to Cuba with the orchestra of his late father, Cuban composer and arranger Chico O'Farrill, for another emotional cultural and educational exchange. The Chico O'Farrill Afro Cuban Jazz Orchestra headlined the 26th edition of the Havana International Plaza Jazz Festival, sponsored by the Cuban Institute of Music and the National Center of Popular Music.

Savoring 1930s recording treasures

Without a doubt, it is a treasure trove that will keep historians, critics and hardcore listeners busy for quite a while. The National Jazz Museum in Harlem this year acquired nearly 1,000 discs made in the late 1930s—at the height of the Swing Era—by audio engineer William Savory. It is classic material, including Louis Armstrong, Benny Goodman. Billie Holiday, Fats Waller and many others. The discs include extended live performances recorded from radio broadcasts. The museum plans to make as much as possible of the Savory collection publicly available at its space in Harlem and eventually online. Copyright issues could complicate and slow the process. Recording engineer Doug Pomeroy is transferring the surviving 975 discs to digital.

Honors and Awards Galore

Marian McPartland, O.B.E.: Pianist and National Public Radio host Marian McPartland was awarded the prestigious "Officer of the Order of the British Empire" by Queen Elizabeth II. She was honored on January 1, 2010 for services to jazz and for aspiring young musicians in the United States. U.K. native McPartland's Piano Jazz is in its 31st year and is NPR's longest-running and most widely carried jazz program.

Blues Trail: Singer Cassandra Wilson was honored with a Mississippi Blues Trail marker in her hometown of Jackson. The dedication ceremony took place in the auditorium of Brinkley Middle School where Wilson got her start in music.

MacArthur Grant: Pianist and composer Jason Moran received a no-strings-attached $500,000 so-called "genius grant" from the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation. Moran and 22 other new MacArthur Fellows were selected for their creativity, originality, and potential to make important contributions in the future. Moran had quite a year in 2010, with his latest Blue Note trio recording, Ten, topping the annual Village Voice critics poll.

NEA Jazz Masters: The National Endowment for the Arts presented its 2010 NEA Jazz Masters Awards to musicians Muhal Richard Abrams, Kenny Barron, Bill Holman, Bobby Hutcherson, Yusef Lateef, Annie Ross and Cedar Walton. Jazz producer, manager, critic, and educator George Avakian received the 2010 A.B. Spellman NEA Jazz Masters Award for Jazz Advocacy.

Departing from its tradition for the first time in 29 years, the NEA will present one group award in addition to four individual recipients in 2011. The 2011 Jazz Masters will be Hubert Laws, Dave Liebman, Johnny Mandel, Orrin Keepnews and the Marsalis Family. Many have already commented over the year about the family recognition for what has generally been considered a lifetime achievement award. Ellis Marsalis qualifies for the latter; I'm less certain about sons Branford, Delfeayo, Jason and Wynton.

Monk Competition: Singer Cecile McLorin Salvant, a French-Haitian-American from Miami who is based in France, won the Thelonious Monk Competition for Jazz Vocals. Her award includes a $20,000 scholarship and a recording deal with Concord Music. The other finalists in the October competition were Charenee Wade and Cyrille Aimee.

Champion Award: Singer Tony Bennett and his wife, Susan Benedetto, were presented with The ASCAP Foundation Champion Award in December for their "for their longtime leadership in the effort to make arts education a priority in the nation's public schools." In 1999, the Bennetts founded Exploring the Arts, a nonprofit formed to strengthen the role of the arts in American public schools. The organization has grown from serving one New York City public high school in its early years to serving seven NYC public high schools in 2010. It also supports the NYC Department of Education's Summer Arts Institute and produces an educational video series, helping bring master artists into classrooms nationwide. In partnership with the New York City Department of Education, Susan and Tony also founded the public high school, Frank Sinatra School of the Arts, which first opened in Bennett's hometown of Queens in 2001.

Essentially Ellington: Garfield High School in Seattle took top honors last May in Jazz at Lincoln Center's 15th annual Essentially Ellington High School Jazz Band Competition & Festival. Dillard Center for the Arts in Fort Lauderdale FL and Foxboro High School in Foxboro MA finished second and third respectively.

Eicher honored: ECM Records producer Manfred Eicher received a 2010 Lifetime Achievement Award from DownBeat Magazine. The award was established in 1981 to recognize jazz pioneers, entrepreneurs and clarion callers who work tirelessly to connect jazz artists with audiences around the world.

Grand Prix de l'Académie Charles Cros: Paris-based pianist Benoit Delbecq was awarded the Grand Prix de l'Académie Charles Cros for his simultaneously released Songlines CDs, Circles and Calligrams, and The Sixth Jump. The prize is the most influential music award in France. Delbecq is the first artist to have won in the Jazz category for two recordings. Previous jazz winners include Steve Swallow, Daniel Humair, Joachim Kuhn, Tony Malaby and Terence Blanchard.

The Grammys: Jazz-related winners in the 2010 edition of The Grammy Awards included:

Best Jazz Instrumental Album, Individual or Group: Five Peace Band Live (Concord), Chick Corea and John McLaughlin Five Peace Band ;

Best Contemporary Jazz Album: 75 (Heads Up), Joe Zawinul and The Zawinul Syndicate;

Best Jazz Vocal Album: Dedicated To You: Kurt Elling Sings the Music of Coltrane and Hartman (Concord Jazz);

Best Large Jazz Ensemble Album: Book One (World Village), New Orleans Jazz Orchestra;

Best Latin Jazz Album—Vocal or Instrumental: Juntos Para Siempre, (Sony Music/Calle 54) , Bebo Valdes and Chucho Valdes;

Best Improvised Jazz Solo: "Dancin' 4 Chicken," Terence Blanchard, track from Watts (Dark Key Music), Jeff "Tain" Watts;

Best Instrumental Arrangement: "West Side Story Medley," Resonance Big Band, Bill Cunliffe, arranger, track from Resonance Big Band Plays Tribute To Oscar Peterson (Resonance Records);

Best Instrumental Arrangement Accompanying Vocalist(s): "Quiet Nights," Claus Ogerman, arranger, track from Diana Krall's Quiet Nights (Verve);

Best Pop Instrumental Album: Potato Hole (Anti) , Booker T. Jones;

Best Pop Instrumental Performance: "Throw Down Your Heart," Bela Fleck, track from Throw Down Your Heart: Tales From The Acoustic Planet, Vol. 3—Africa Sessions (Rounder);

Best Contemporary World Music Album Vocal or Instrumental: Throw Down Your Heart: Tales From The Acoustic Planet, Vol. 3—Africa Sessions (Rounder), Béla Fleck;

Best Album Notes: The Complete Louis Armstrong Decca Sessions (1935-1946), Dan Morgenstern, album notes writer Mosaic Records;

Best Historical Album: The Complete Chess Masters (1950-1967) (Hip-O Select/Geffen Records), Andy McKaie, compilation producer; Erick Labson, mastering engineer;

Best Classical Crossover Album: Yo-Yo Ma & Friends: Songs Of Joy And Peace (Sony Classical), Yo-Yo Ma wiith Odair Assad, Sergio Assad, Chris Botti, Dave Brubeck, Matt Brubeck, John Clayton, Paquito d'Rivera, Renée Fleming, Diana Krall, Alison Krauss, Natalie McMaster, Edgar Meyer, Cristina Pato, Joshua Redman, Jake Shimabukuro, Silk Road Ensemble, James Taylor, Chris Thile, Wu Tong, Alon Yavnai & Amelia Zirin-Brown.

Life-size, or Larger

Late pianist Oscar Peterson was honored with a life-size sculpture unveiled June 30 (Canada Day) outside the National Arts Centre in Ottawa by Queen Elizabeth II. Peterson had played for the queen a few years before his death in 2007. In the sculpture, Peterson is seated on a bench by a grand piano with a concept that invites passersby to sit with the pianist and play a duet.

On February 21, which would have been Nina Simone's 77th birthday, an eight-foot-tall sculpture of the late artist/activist was dedicated in the town of her birth, Tryon, NC.

On October 2, the late guitarist Sonny Sharrock had a street named for him in his hometown of Ossining, NY. In a ceremony presided over by Ossining's mayor, South Malcolm Street was renamed "Sonny Sharrock Way."

On his what would have been his 93rd birthday, trumpeter Dizzy Gillespie was honored with a Google icon (called a "doodle") on October 21. A London newspaper, The Independent, celebrated the cause by selecting video clips of Dizzy with Louis Armstrong, Dizzy in The Muppet Show, Dizzy with the Terry Gibbs and an audio-only clip from the 1957 Newport Jazz Festival for its website.

A Louis Armstrong sculpture in Armstrong Park in New Orleans was damaged by a construction crew that cracked part of the Armstrong statue, stretching the bronze and separating Armstrong's left shoe from the statue's base. Sculptor, Elizabeth Catlett consulted with art restoration specialists about how the sculpture could be repaired.

Ups and Downs in the Business of Jazz

Sponsor shopping, again: George Wein's New Festival Productions ended the year looking for a new corporate sponsor for its Newport Jazz Festival and a companion jazz festival in New York. The health-care spinoff CareFusion shifted its focus away from event sponsorship after stepping in two years ago to rescue the Newport event and to revive the New York festival in 2010. Wein regained control of both events in 2009 after a group of young entrepreneurs bought his company and rapidly ran it into the ground.

England swings in one less venue: The London jazz club Pizza on the Park closed in late June after about 30 years as one of London's prime cabaret and jazz venues. The building's owners are turning the site into an ultra-posh boutique hotel. The final three acts in the basement club were American cabaret singers Andrea Marcovicci, Karen Akers and Steve Grossman.

On the grow: SFJazz's plan for an 800-seat auditorium, office, education and practice space has been approved by San Francisco planners. The new facility will be part of San Francisco's art district near opera, symphony and ballet, classical, rock and contemporary music venues. Construction is to begin next summer, with the official opening planned for the fall of 2012.

Preservation Hall West: New Orleans' Preservation Hall plans to open an offshoot in San Francisco, as part of an entertainment and restaurant complex that restaurant owner Jack Knowles plans to open on a site that housed the defunct New College.

Odds and Ends

On-stage surprise: On July 12, guitarist Carlos Santana proposed to drummer Cindy Blackman during a Santana concert at the Midwest Bank Amphitheatre in Tinley Park, IL. Four songs into the set, following Blackman's solo on the Santana hit "Corazon Espinado," the guitarist asked the for the drummer's hand in marriage. She accepted, the couple kissed and the audience cheered.

Jamie Cullum: Pianist and singer Jamie Cullum gave a December 10 concert in a private home in Bridgeport, NY. The home owner won an Internet contest whose award included a piano and a concert by Cullum. He played for family and friends and performed a duet with the lucky winner's hair stylist on "Cry Me a River" before jetting back to England.

Final Bars

Here is a rundown of the many artists and industry-related figures who passed away during 2010, including jazz heavyweights Buddy Collette, Herb Ellis, Lena Horne, Hermand Leonard, Gene Lees, Abbey Lincoln, Rob McConnell, James Moody, Benny Powell and Billy Taylor.

Accordion player Esteban "Steve" Jordan.

Bandleader and educator William P. Foster.

Bassists Bob Bowen, Ed Crockett, Johnny "Chano" Martinez, Andy McCloud, Jamil Nasser, Webster Roach and Theo Wilson; bassist and educator Walter Payton.

Clarinetists Chuck Hedges and Monty Sunshine; clarinetist and saxophonist Paulo Moura; clarinetist, saxophonist and bandleader Dick Johnson; clarinetist, saxophonist, composer and arranger and educator Leon Breeden.

Composer Ray Passman; composer and singer Luis Kalaff; composer and multi-instrumentalist George David Weiss.

Conductor, singer, oboe and English horn player and producer Mitch Miller.

Cornetist Tom Saunders.

Drummers Edgar Bateman Jr., Chris Dagley, Martin Drew, Bob Emery, Jane Hanna, Montego Joe (Roger Sanders), Steve Reid, Ed Thigpen, Hakiem Emanuel Thompson, David Via and Wally "Gator" Watson; drummer, bandleader and composer Jack Parnell.

Flutist Eddie Perales.

Guitarists Herb Ellis, Johnnie Moon and Jeff Tillman; guitarist and music educator Frank Dawson; guitarist and vocalist Tam White.

Keyboardist T. Lavitz.

Organists Gloria Coleman, Gene Ludwig and Rosa Rio; organist, pianist and singer Trudy Pitts Carney.

Percussionists Francisco Aguabella, Mike Collazo, Bill Fitch and Victor "Negrito" Pantoja; percussionist, singer and bandleader Giovanni Lugo; percussionist, band leader and educator Hector "Rudy" Regalado.

Pianists John Bunch, Hotep Idris Galeta, Hank Jones, Artie Marco, Johnny Parker, Tony Schilder, Sid Simmons, Fritz Trippel.Joe Vito and Harry Whitaker; pianist and big band leader Erwin Lehn; pianist, bassist and arranger Art Mineo; pianist and composer Allyn Ferguson; pianist, broadcaster, educator and producer Billy Taylor, pianist and organist Jane Jarvis; pianists and singers Johnny Alf, Joyce Collins; pianist and club owner Harold Kaufman.

Producers Wendell Edward Echols and Mario Pacheco; producer, arranger and keyboardist Dan Kleiman; producer, broadcaster and educator Gary Bannister.

Saxophonists Fred Anderson, Marion Brown, Hadley Caliman, Tony Campise, Earl Clark, Ernst Gerber, Noah Howard, Eddie Johnson, Carmen Leggio, Max Lucas, Joe Rinaldi, Ahmad Salaheldeen, Manfred Schulze, Freddie Syer, Ed Wiley Jr., Rudy Wooten and Michael York; saxophonist, flutist, bandleader and composer James Moody; saxophonist, bandleader and composer John Dankworth; saxophonist and club owner Fred Anderson; saxophonist, bass clarinetist, bandleader, composer and arranger Willem Breuker; saxophonist, composer, educator and author Ahmad Alaadeen; saxophonist, flutist, clarinetist, composer, educator, bandleader and civil rights activist Buddy Collette; saxophonist, artist and hip hop MC Richard Lee Sisco Jr.

Singers Juanita Bramlette, King Coleman, Cherie DeCastro, Olga Guillot, Myrna Lake, Graciela Perez-Grillo and Joya Sherrill; singer and actress Lena Horne; singer, composer and actress Abbey Lincoln; singer and actor James H. Stovall Jr. Latin jazz singer, composer and musician Eugenio "Gene" Hernández; Cuban actor, singer, composer, artist Rosendo Rosell; singer and pianist Mimi Perrin.

Trombonist Donald Gardner; trombonist, composer, singer, educator, actor and NEA Jazz Master Benny Powell; trombonist, arranger and big band leader Peter Herbolzheimer; valve trombonist, composer, arranger, educator and big band leader Rob McConnell; trombonist and bandleader Buddy Morrow.

Trumpeter John Evers; trumpeter and flugelhorn player Harry Beckett; trumpeter, pianist, organist, saxophonist and educator Rory Thomas; trumpeters, composers and educators Bill Dixon, Clyde Kerr Jr. and Wendell Logan.

Tuba player Harvey Phillips.

Vibes players Jack Brokensha, Carl Leukaufe; vibes player, composer and arranger Bobby Vincent Paunetto.

Violinist and singer Betty MacDonald.

Audio engineers Fran Bruno and Jack Taylor; audio engineer and tuba player Walter Sear.

Blues, cabaret, R&B, soul, zydeco, gospel, reggae, world Music, etc. performers Arrow (Alphonsus Cassell), Captain Beefheart (Don Van Vliet), Solomon Burke, Dixie Carter, Phelps "Catfish" Collins, Eddie Fisher, Harvey Fuqua, Al Goodman, Guru (Keith Elam/MC Keithy E), Walter Hawkins, Richie Hayward, Bobby Hebb, Maurice Hines Sr., Gregory Isaacs, Marvin Isley, General Johnson, Teena Marie, Sugar Minott, Willie Mitchell, Enrique Morente, Teddy Pendergrass, Willie Pooch, Lhasa de Sela, Albertina Walker, Phillip Walker, Robert Wilson, Tom "T-Bone" Wolk, Ali Ollie Woodson, Marva Wright.

Record producer, club owner and impresario Gigi Campi; jazz producer, label owner and jazz society founder Joe Boughton; record producer and music publisher Francis Dreyfus; jazz producer Niranjan Jhaveri; producer and label founder Dick Griffey; club owner Irving Sturm.

Manager and drummer Stanley Kaye; manager and record label owner Derek Boulton.

Photographers Jean-Pierre Leloir, Herman Leonard, Jim Marshall and Dennis Stock; photographer and painter Peter DuFore; graphic designer S. Neil Fujita; photographer, filmmaker, and label owner George Pickow.

Publisher, editor, writer, broadcaster, record producer and club manager John Norris; broadcasters Dick Buckley and Tony Cennamo.

Writer Hal Willard; writer and pianist Jim Lester; writer and trombonist Mike Zwerin; writer and film producer David Mills; writer, editor, newsletter publisher, biographer, lyricist and singer Gene Lees; Graphic novelist and jazz writer Harvey Pekar; writer and Latin musicologist Max Salazar.

Ethnomusicologist Alfons Michael Dauer.

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