The Jazz.com Blog
June 24, 2008 · 1 comment
The annual Jazz Journalist Association award ceremony is an increasingly important event for an art form that recently lost the IAJE and fell off the radar screens of the major media some time during the last century. Even better, the jazz writers not only take time to celebrate the musicians, but even give themselves a few awards -- how 'bout that? For once, the pen is almost as mighty as the horn!
But not for long. The stars of jazz were out in full force, and a few celebrated performers managed to steal the show -- including one pianist who passed away more than fifty years ago. Jazz.com's arnold jay smith reports on the event. T.G.
The Jazz Journalists Association presented awards for excellence at their annual luncheon ritual at Jazz Standard in New York City on June 18. What makes these awards unique, set apart even from the annual jazz mags' critics polls is that we –in the spirit of full disclosure I’m their Treasurer— present awards to our colleagues in addition to the musicians we write about.
The Standard provides a warm informal atmosphere far from JJA’s former setting, B.B. King’s. With JJA prez Howard Mandel presiding, all the award presenters can be seen and, more importantly heard, over what was formerly not a nightclub murmur but a loud disconcerting din from the rear of B.B.’s. The Awards luncheon remains a solid hang where friends reacquaint with each other. (You may obtain the results from the JJA website www.jazzhouse.org.)
Let’s talk hanging with the audience. "Pianist of the Year" Hank Jones sat with Frank Wess and "Percussionist of the Year" Candido Camero. At the next table were Sue (Mrs. Charles) Mingus and double awardee, drummer Roy Haynes. Joe Lovano worked the room, stopping only to work the stage in duet with Hank. Their efforts silenced the throng with "Alone Together," "I’m All For You" and "How High the Moon"/"Ornithology," seriously the highlight of the afternoon despite some humor by the presenters and recipients alike. Haynes was surprised that he beat out some heavies. “So if I’m the best drummer, come out to see me,” he quipped. I don’t think he was kidding.
Sitting there minding the ceremonies were Billy Bang, A-Team (for activists, among other meanings) awardees Valerie Capers and Dana Gioia, George Wein, who toasted Gioia and Marian McPartland, this year’s Lifetime Achievement winner, Sy Johnson, Giacomo Gates, Joe Locke, Anat Cohen, multiple winner (again) Maria Schneider, Marty Sheller, Mark Soskin and Matt Wilson.
“God was in the house” is a paraphrase of an old LP title, from an utterance by Fats Waller when Art Tatum walked into a club on 52nd St. while Waller was on the stage. Art Tatum: Piano Starts Here is a recreation of a long-forgotten and badly recorded Tatum concert on a digitally enhanced piano. Alas, without the piano, or better yet the real thing, the design concept was lost to the audience. Tatum’s brilliance was well appreciated, however. (So wot’s nu?) In that regard I question the veracity of the project although mixed reviews of the Apollo Theatre playlet based on it have filtered to me.
I do not mean this to be self-serving, but a bit of a nice back story emerged some days afterward. I was asked to present the award for Excellence in Jazz Broadcasting: The Willis Conover-Marian McPartland Award. The nominees were some of the in-the-trench-workers such as Leigh Kamman in Minnesota and Linda Yohn in Michigan. Also nominated was the year-plus and loudly discontinued NPR “Profiles in Jazz with Nancy Wilson,” which won. While that was terrific for my recently back-in-harness friend, I thought it kind of odd. Upon expressing that opinion to WBGO Program Director Thurston Brisco I was informed that there has been such demand for the show that it was re-installed as a weekly prime-time-special.
Take that NPR!
This blog entry posted by arnold jay smith