copyright © 2006 Howard Mandel
The Jazz Awards event at BB King's Monday, June 19 was a blowout requiring much preparation, quick and exhausting work by a season troupe of volunteers, an intense party with dozens of jazzers at work and play, fast breakdown and then follow-up, which is what the production team is still doing now — but let me tell you the Awards — which kicked off with Gene Martin managing a riotous photo of attending musicians and nominees — and pianist Ezra Weiss, an ASCAP composing award winner, with a slam bang sextet driven by Billy Hart. By 4:10 when the Awards were introduced there was a full house, 450-some jazzers including the first honoree of the afternoon: Roy Haynes, receipient of the JJA's Lifetime Achievement in Jazz.
Among other Award recipients in attendance: Concord Music Group, Label of the Year (represented by Gene Rumsey)! George Wein, presenter of the year. Gerald Wilson (large Ensemble), Andrew Hill (composer), Maria Schneider (arranger), Jane Ira Bloom (soprano sax), James Carter (baritone sax), Dafnis Prieto, (Up 'n' comer of the year), Joe Locke (mallets player), Chris and Brandy Barretto, (representing the late Ray Barretto, percussionist) — and among jazz journalist receipients broadcaster Eric Jackson, feature writer Nate Chinen, photographer Gene Martin, webmaster Michael Ricci, JazzTimes' Glenn Sabin, Lifetime Achievement in Jazz Journalism honoree Howard Mandel . . . for which I'm very grateful and intend to now work to try to justify.
Other Awards recipients: Sonny Rollins, Musician of the Year — represented by Terri Hinte, A Team winner; Thelonious Monk Quartet with John Coltrane, Record of the Year (represented by Thomas Evered and Alan Bergman, Esq., Blue Note Records). Toots Thielesman, represented by Hendrick Meurkin. Paquito D' Rivera, represented by Diego Urcola.
Nominees and great friends in attendance: Alan Skidmore, Lee Konitz, Muhal Richard Abrams, Jason Moran, Nashiet Waits, Ronnie Cuber, Giacomo Gates, Dieglo Urcola, Sue Mingus, Marty Ehrlich, Roswell Rudd, Verna Gillis, Claire Daly, Lew Tabackin, Tierney Sutton, Jamie Baum, Dr. Lonnie Smith, Henry Grimes, Chris and Brandy Barretto, Kendra Shank, Craig Taborn, Judy Bady, Jane Bunnett and Larry Kramer, Joe Lovano and Judi Silvano, Bob Stewart, Randy Sandke, Marty Ehrlich, Peter Levinson, John Abbott, Francis Davis, Lois Gilbert (), Ben Allison, Kenny Washington, Enid Farber, Sheila Anderson, —
And speaking of other jazz journalists there: Gary Giddins, Dan Morgenstern, Bob Blumenthal, Gene Santoro, Will Friedwald, Yvonne Ervin, Nancy Barell, Robin Bell-Stevens, Cephus Bowles. of WBGO, Phil Freeman, Steve Schwartz pd of WGBH, Linda Yohn, George Avakian — who gave Roy Haynes that Lifetime Achievement Award! Paul Blair, Bill Milkowski, Bill Buettler, Tom Reney, Tom Mallison, George Kanzler, AJ Smith, David Adler, the entire staff of AllAboutJazz-NY, Hothouse magazine, Michael Jackson (Chicago-Leeds), the PR dept. of Jazz at Lincoln Center, Hank Shteamer of Timeout New York, Terry Gross of NPR-distributed Fresh Air, reps of papers from Germany and France, Charlie Gans of AP (his story was posted on websites of 70 newspapers, including Washington Post, Miami Herald, SF Chronicle, and was summarized in the New York Times Arts, Briefly column). . . label publicists Jo Crimmins (Concord), Mike W. (Telarc), Tina Pelikan (ECM), Doug Yoel (Dreyfus) .&nbps;. . many more, many — including the great A Team: Gary Bartz giving the Award to impressive. Dollie McLean, who had come in from Hartford with her daughter Melanae; Phoebe Jacobs so strong from the stage; and Michael Cogswell so gracious; Sheldon Meyer, editor of all the New Yorkers, warming us all; Bill McFarlin also sincerely moved, receiving the Award from New School's Martin Mueller; Jonathan F.P. Rose so happy; Sandy Jaffe telling her tales of New Orleans; Ann Ward hugging Muhal Richard Abrams!
Sy Johnson, composer-pianist, performed two new charts, with Craig Handy navigating the blues, Mike Richmond on bass and Donald Edwards drumming. TC the 3rd, a Philadelphia-rooted singer sponsored by Anheuser-Busch and Jazzmobile, seemed at thorough ease with snappy street-swing and Coltranesque yodelling, young trumpeters Christian Scott, a signatory of Concord Music Group and Sean Jones, signed to Mack Avenue Records, got together on a hot if brief duet of "Cherokee," and Dewey Redman played a closing set on clarinet, with guitarist John Boucher and nominee-drummer Matt Wilson — it started mysteriously and unpredictably swirled together.
We ended 15 minutes past our deadline, which was still within time, thanks to BB King's generosity — we were so tight for time though that jazz poet Steve Dalachinsky went uncalled for his spotlit piece — this must be made up to him! And Wendy Oxenhorn, director of the Jazz Foundation of America, who had left a meeting with her president of the board R. Jarrett Lillien and come to the Awards on cruches to accept a check from pianist Eli Yamin, also only got a chance to wave, but not to detail the JFA's great New Orleans/national outreach over the past year.
There was talk, gossip, chatter, table-hopping, maybe deals made throughout the audience of BB's the entire time of the Awards, through the food (salad, chicken or pasta, dessert, beer/wine, coffee/sodas — did you come to eat? But there best be something . . . ) through the performances and presentations. It was rude, the amount of sheer dismissal of what's going on onstage, but also has proved to be impossible to stop, in the present Awards event format. Considering the productions challenges and not-meant-for-prime-time plot (really, things went relatively smoothly) it was probably just as well we didn't have major TV shooting going on, but rather hand-help, ad hoc video documentation from JJA members Dan Kassell and Claire Daly.
Our older attendees, in particular, are discomfitted by the noise level and just-offstage chaos which we have not been able to master — and though the Awards are fun to produce this way, we have unfortunately upset people we've meant to celebrate. Poet Jayne Cortez, honoree Marian McPartland, master engineer Rudy Van Gelder, for one, who was brought to the Awards by jazz records legend Creed Taylor a couple of years ago, and found the event difficult, to put it mildly — for which we are eternally sorry. Despite it all the Awards at BB King's was, again for the third year, a highly energized and enjoyable industry/community event, among those who carp about it. All attendees were given party favors bags filled with music goodies — Blue Note, Mack Ave., RKM and New School jazz samplers, singers Josephine Livoti, Lainie Cooke, Louise Rogers jazz for children, SF Jazz Collective, vols 1 and 2 of Keran Hebden and Steve Reid's The Exchane Session, Tunnels' Natural Selection, a dvd of Moutin Reunion Quartet . . . (want any of these? Let me know and we'll work out a price of donation to the JJA, I still have some) — also Jazz Improv, AllAboutJazz-NY, the WBGO kids' jazz magazine. Something for everybody.
The JJA made some $ on this event, as we meant to, though far less than last year, though we were not stinting on fundraising efforts. The Jazz Awards seem to have grown in acceptance and respect, but few players of the jazz community are inclined to underwrite the Awards as they stand. And why should they? The JJA has been putting on this party for nine years (the first year of the Awards, it was virtually a private affair). Somehow we have found a way. I think the way must change, if the Awards are to go forward.
Change, development, evolution have been continuously under discussion throughout the decade of the Jazz Awards — that's how the event in NYC got to be as it's become. Time of year, time of day, day of week, size of hall, price of tickets, promotion points, sponsorship benefits, event entertainment, Awards presentation formats — these aspects of the Awards have been discussed endlessly by the active committee and occasional JJA members and onlookers. There is no shortage of ideas, though there are limitations in the possibilities, given the practicalities. The Jazz Awards belong to the JJA, and all members of the JJA are urged to contribute thoughts and efforts to the Awards' realization. Only in the aftermath of the Awards event can the JJA see if it's had positive effect, and if the effort is worth repeating. I personally hope the JJA would attract sustaining sponsorship to this worthy endeavor, the sponsoring organization understanding — nay, embracing — the value of work done by journalists covering jazz. If that doesn't happen, I don't see how the organization can afford to put it on as it's been, much less make it any better.
Now about that work — you may see some of it at Jazzhouse.org and JazzJournalistsAwards.com. Charles Gans wrote an article for AP which was picked up by more than 70 newspapers for their websites and print editions — the New York Times used that report as the basis of its "Arts Briefly" column notice of the Jazz Awards. News of Sonny Rollins winning Musician of the Year made the CNN crawl (as news of Wayne Shorter's sweep in 2004 also made the crawl). Bob Protzman is among the first JJA members to send me their own "for the record" article about it — I hope there will be others. If we believe in our Awards, and I know of no reason not to, the excellence they celebrate deserves some further recognition.
The JJA's Los Angeles Jazz Awards are being celebrated at the Pasadena Museum of Art on July 30; contact Fred Jung, ocundrgrnd <at> aol.com, for further information.
best to all —
C o m m e n t s
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