JJA's 25th birthday w/Amiri Baraka, Willard Jenkins, Billy Hart, Maria Schneider, Robbin Ahrold, Sonny, Edmar, Lady Dozier, Zach Brock 3, et al
Jazz Awards for Journalists + music, schmooze in NYC
Willard Jenkins, original convener of the Jazz Journalists Association and an author, blogger, radio show host, festival curator, freelance arts activist as well as this year’s Washington D.C. Jazz Hero,
received the JJA’s Lifetime Achievement in Jazz Journalism Award at the party at New York City’s Blue Note celebrating the 17th Annual Jazz Awards, held Wednesday, June 19, from 4 to 6 pm. Jenkins was presented with the JJA’s engraved statuette (all Jazz Awards winners listed here) — and a goodnatured lecture on the history of black Americans writing about black music by Amiri Barkaka, last year’s recipient of the highet professional honor conferred by the JJA.
“It’s a rare feeling to be scolded and honored at the same time,” laughed Jenkins, who for several years has posted a series of interviews with jazz journalists of African-American descent under the title “There Ain’t But A Few of Us” on his blog, The Independent Ear. Baraka remarked before the hand-over that jazz journalism by blacks started with Buddy Bolden’s publication The Cricket, and included his (Baraka’s) own underground publication The Cricket, c0-edited with Larry Neal and A.B. Spellman, in 1968 and ’69.
Baraka and Jenkins were among some 100 jazz community luminaries and devotees gathered to hear the announcement of winners of nine awards for documentation, interpretation and dissemination of music news and views, as well as to hail musician winners in attendance (drummer Billy Hart, composer/arranger Maria Schneider, harpist Edmar Castaneda, clarinetist Anat Cohen and the record label ECM), and meet the JJA’s 2013 New York City Jazz Hero Robbin Ahrold (who established the BMI Charlie Parker jazz composition competition and BMI Jazz Composers Workshop with its annual free concert, among other good works). As usual, the Jazz Awards party was a unique networking opportunity for jazz people to jam as they can best when together, face to face. See Fran Kaufman’s gallery on Flickr and Petra Cvelbar’s slide show on Facebook.
Emceed by Joshua Jackson of WBGO, the Awards program included Castaneda performing a solo improvisation on Chick Corea’s “Spain,” Miami-based singer/actress Paulette Dozier (accompanied by pianist Danny Mixon) evoking Billie Holiday with “Them There Eyes” and her own latest composition, “In Walked You,” and the Zach Brock Trio (with Matt Penman, bass; Obed Calvaire, drums) in a set that included “Monk’s Dream.” Journalist winners present included Nate Chinen (the Helen Dance-Robert Palmer Award for writing), Patrick Jarenwattananon (Best Blog for A Blog Supreme), Paul de Barros for Best Book of the Year Award (Shall We Play This One Together? about Marian McPartland) and JazzTimes associated editor Jeff Tamarkin (JT winning for Best Print Periodical). Nominees for those categories Ted Panken, Marc Myers and Greg Akkerman were on hand, as were photographer-nominees Ziga Koritnik and Petra Cvelbar, and videographer Brandon Bain. Jim Wilke, Seattle-based veteran broadcaster recognized with the Willis Conover-Marian McPartland Award for Broadcasting; Skip Bolen, whose image of 102 year-old trumpeter Lionel Ferbos won Photo of the Year, and Jason Fifield director of the winning Short Form Jazz News Video, of the trio Tarbaby creating the composition “Fanon,” were at the party in spirit — as was Lifetime Achievement Awards nominee W. Royal Stokes, and “Emeritus Jazz Musician — Beyond Voting” Sonny Rollins, who sent in an audio recording of remarks about the necessity and value of jazz journalism. Also Michael Lazaroff, JJA sponsor and the man behind The Jazz Cruise, whose flight from St. Louis was cancelled but who’d been eager to propose the toast “The all the nominees.”
Ryan Truesdell’s album Centennial: Newly Discovered Works of Gil Evans — the JJA’s Record of the Year — was heard as guests entered from the sunny afternoon. They included trumpeter Avishai Cohen, pianists Ethan Iverson, Bertha Hope and Elio Villa-Franca, organist Greg (Organ Monk) Lewis, flutist Mark Weinstein and Best Flutist nominee Jamie Baum; bassist Bob Cranshaw; BMI director of jazz and musical theater Patrick Cook; promoters Todd Barkan, Lindsey (Litchfield Jazz Festival) Turner and Pat Phillips; singers E.J. Decker, J0an Watson-Jones, Diana Perez and Antoinette Montague; publicists and promoters Jana LaSorte, Carolyn McClair, Scott Thompson, Tina Pelikan, Jim Eigo, Zooey T. Jones (Jazz at Lincoln Center), Dan Kassell, Arnold Jay Smith, Robin Tomchin and Ken Drucker (both from Motema); managers/producers/curators Gail Boyd, Thomas Bellino and Jason Olaine; writers/editors/broadcasters Ashley Kahn, David Adler, Ralph Miriello, Allen Morrison, Jeremy Gossett, Larry Birnbaum, Ron Scott, Joann Cheatham, Francis Davis, Bob Kenselaar, Sandy Josephson and Peter Gerler; record label principals Randy (Jazzheads) Klein and Dimitri (Altri Suoni) Loringett. and Coltrane Kids educator Christine Passarella. JJA volunteers included Jared Negley, Jeremiah Briley, Peter Watson-Jones and Judy Balos. The event was videotaped by Michal Shapiro and Alex Ariff, and still photos taken by Fran Kaufman, Susan Brink and Petra Cvelbar, among others. JoAnn Kawell directed operations at the door and on the web; Howard Mandel semi-produced the program, with Meghan Stabile ”wrangling talent.” Blue Note owner Steve Bensusan and staffer Grant Gardner were instrumental in pulling off the event.
The Jazz Awards initiative is, necessarily, a fundraiser for the organization which, as a 501 (c) (3) non-profit, is otherwise funded solely by members’ dues. Although the efficacy of the JJA’s small, underpaid staff devoting three-to-five months of flat out work on the Jazz Awards is hard to defend on an economic basis, the events producers maintain that the Jazz Awards generates enormous good will and some higher level of profile in the larger media and music community. Evidence of the validity of those claim is being sought. But there is no doubt that after 17 years of giving Awards, the JJA has prevailed in a project that jazz artists and journalists deserve — maybe require — though no other sector of the jazz ecosystem step forth to pick up the responsibility.
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