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Big Awards Day in Gotham

Dan Morgenstern By

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It's been a while since we last met in my Den, so I thought I'd share a very special summer doubleheader with you.

June 16 was a big jazz day in New York. It began in mid-afternoon at the Jazz Standard, with the 13th Annual Jazz Journalists Association Jazz Awards. Arriving not long after starting time, I found the joint already jumping with jazz scribes, nominees and acolytes, most of them on line for the club's very good food, doled out buffet style or at the adjacent bar, where Brother Theo's Ale was part of the deal, anything stronger strictly cash.

Conversation was not an option with Charles Tolliver's big band going full blast. But once their brief set ended, an almost equal level of babble arose, and remained fairly constant throughout, even as awards were presented and softer music performed. To put it bluntly (and I was not alone in this opinion), it was a mighty rude crowd, musicians excepted.

Since there were almost 50 awards, I can't name them all, but among winners present to accept were pianist Hank Jones—also the subject of the winning photo, by John Abbott—trumpeter Terence Blanchard, trombonist Roswell Rudd, clarinetist Anat Cohen, flutist Frank Wess, altoist Rudresh Mahanthappa, baritonist Gary Smulyan, violinist Billy Bang, organist Dr. Lonnie Smith, and bandleader-pianist Arturo O'Farrill, who won for Best Latin Album; composer-trombonist George Lewis, whose monumental history of the AACM, A Power Stronger Than Itself, was named Best Book About Jazz, and George Wein, Events Producer of the Year.

A bevy of singers gathered around Mark Murphy, cited by the JJA and the Jazz Foundation of America for "Special Career Honors for Words with Music," among them Male Singer of the Year Kurt Elling, old friend Sheila Jordan, Roberta Gambarini, Giacomo Gates and Venissa Santi. Scott Robinson accepted for triple winner Maria Schneider (Composer, Arranger, Large Ensemble), and managed to juggle the three trophies, and son Josh Konitz accepted the Lifetime Achievement award for his father, Lee, while nephew-trombonist Clifton Anderson did the honors for uncle Sonny Rollins, Musician and Tenor saxophonist of the year.

The A Team awardees included Record Man Bruce Lundvall, for whom I was the presenter, an honor and a pleasure—Bruce is one of the best things ever to happen in the record business, soon to become history— and two friends no longer with us, Peter Levinson, author and publicist, and Richard Sudhalter, author and musician. Dick's sister Carol, playing flute and tenor sax, joined Daryl Sherman, piano and vocal, in a musical tribute to her brother that included a fine rendition of "Skylark" that dampened the babble.

Also heard from were Rumanian pianist Resonance Big Band, in tandem with guitarist Andreas Oberg. Petrescu sounds like Oscar Peterson on steroids. And it was great to see old friend Doug Ramsey, now residing in the state of Washington, and former winner of JJA's Lifetime Achievement in Jazz Journalism, on a rare visit East.

Doug, Ira Gitler, expert blogger Marc Myers and I made our exit to share a car to the next awards happening, starting at 6:00 at Jazz at Lincoln Center's Allen Room—the ASCAP Jazz Wall of Fame induction ceremony. This is always a class event. It was fun to meet new ASCAP President and Chairman Paul Williams, and it was a special kick for me to be a presenter again, for Anat Cohen, recipient of the very first Jazz Wall of Fame Prize for composer-performers of special talent. Anat responded with a beautiful clarinet piece, backed by her regulars, Jason Lindner, Joe Martin and Daniel Freedman on piano, bass and drums. Regina Carter got the ASCAP Foundation Vanguard Award and joined her fiddle with accordion and kora, a long- necked harp lute of the Malinke people of western Africa.

Then came the Wall of Fame inductions. First, John Coltrane, eloquently presented by John Clayton, the evening's emcee, and musically saluted by Joe Lovano and Steve Kuhn. Tito Puente was next, with Eddie Palmieri, Brian Lynch, Carlos Henriques and Vincent Riveria serving up a caloric tribute, and our favorite weather girl, Audrey Puente, among the relatives accepting the trophy. Randy Weston, very much alive, performed in a unique setting for his piano—three horns: Benny Powell, trombone; T.K. Blue, alto sax, and Billy Harper, tenor sax, and no rhythm section—and spoke movingly; composer Johnny Mandel, a native New Yorker, was honored by Karrin Allyson and accepted in warm and gentle fashion.


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