NEA Jazz Master

Dorothy Darr

"I've got a pocketful of blues here still, you know?" says Charles Lloyd, the saxophonist-flutist-composer-bandleader who, at 79, has become one of jazz's enlightened elders.

The National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) Jazz Masters award, which comes with a $25,000 prize, is widely described as United States' highest honor for jazz. Today, the NEA announced its four newest recipients of the prize: pianist Joanne Brackeen, guitarist Pat Metheny, singer Dianne Reeves and producer Todd Barkan.

Dorothy Darr

Saxophonist and flutist Charles Lloyd has led some rather spectacular bands over the years — from his heralded late-1960s quartet to the Marvels, his current group with guitarist Bill Frisell. Passin’ Thru, due out on Blue Note on July 14, captures the unique intensity of the Charles Lloyd New Quartet, a decade-long proposition with Jason Moran on piano, Reuben Rogers on bass and Eric Harland on drums. 

Beti Niemeyer

Ron Carter, one of the greatest bassists in jazz history, turns 80 today. WBGO is celebrating by playing his music on the air throughout the day, and there's certainly no shortage to choose from. But given that today also happens to be International Star Wars Day, it seems only appropriate to shout out a curio in his discography: Empire Jazz, released in 1980 on the RSO label.

Steve Mundinger / Thelonious Monk Institute of Jazz

HAVANA, Cuba — Chucho Valdés and Gonzalo Rubalcaba sat at a pair of grand pianos on Sunday night at the Gran Teatro de la Habana Alicia Alonzo, during the sixth annual International Jazz Day Global Concert, and modeled more than one kind of equilateral exchange.

Robert Ashcroft / Courtesy of the Artist

Growing up in the Ironbound District of Newark, New Jersey, Wayne Shorter savored almost nothing more than the suggestion of a daring escape. “When we got our bicycles, we would go down to the marshes, where Newark Airport is now, and ride the bikes a little bit into the soft earth, and in those tall weeds,” he said. “We’d go as far as we can — like, dare each other: 'How far can you go?'”

Carol Friedman

Randy Weston, the powerfully expressive pianist, composer and NEA Jazz Master, turned 91 on Thursday, though he gives the impression of someone at least a decade younger. He’s celebrating his birthday on the bandstand, with a four-night Jazz Standard engagement that draws from an ambitious new double album, The African Nubian Suite.

“When you go to Africa, you become very humble,” Weston told Sheila Anderson in a recent Salon Session at WBGO. “You realize that you are from thousands and thousands of years of civilization, and how much we have to learn from these people.”

In his first live on-air interview, drummer Nate Smith stops by Afternoon Jazz to talk with Nicole Sweeney about being a part of the Betty Carter Jazz Ahead program, the making of his new album — Kinfolk: Postcards From Everywhere, featuring bassist, longtime friend and 2017 NEA Jazz Master Dave Holland —the vibe behind the "Nate Bop," and more.


Shannon Finnegan

WASHINGTON, D.C. — Dee Dee Bridgewater found a moment in her acceptance speech at the 2017 NEA Jazz Masters Tribute Concert, on Monday night at the Kennedy Center, to sound a note of thanks for the NEA itself. “They have provided the possibility for artists to dream,” she said, “and to share their art and their creativity with people all around these United States, and all around the world.”

“That’s something,” she added. “It’s something to protect.” The stress on her last word was unmistakable, and it sparked a round of applause.

Benedict Smith / Courtesy of the artist

The NEA Jazz Masters program, now in its 35th year, has been an engine of prestige in our culture: It's still the nation's highest honor reserved for living jazz musicians. In advance of this year's ceremony and concert, which will be live-streamed from the Kennedy Center in Washington, D.C., we're devoting this edition of Take Five to the incoming class of NEA Jazz Masters, who represent a healthy range of styles.

Jimmy Katz / The Kurland Agency

Gary Burton opened his first set at Birdland on Tuesday night with “Bud Powell” — a tune by his longtime collaborator Chick Corea, set at a boppish saunter. Standing behind his vibraphone, four mallets ablur, Burton seemed in his element, perfectly at ease. There was no indication that this was a historic engagement: he was kicking off his final week-long run in a New York club, as part of a Farewell Tour.

Lee Konitz with Kenny Barron
John Abbott

“The real voyage of discovery consists not in seeking new landscapes but in having new eyes.” Marcel Proust couldn’t have been thinking about the chord changes to “Cherokee” when he first articulated this idea, writing in France a century ago. But his point feels perfectly suited to the example of alto saxophonist Lee Konitz, who at 89 is still extracting fresh insight from familiar places, as he proves on an effervescent new album, Frescalalto.

In this episode of The Checkout, WBGO's Simon Rentner speaks with pianist Kenny Barron on the occasion of his induction as an NEA Jazz Master.

First published January 13, 2010.

Nat Hentoff during the annual "A Great Night in Harlem" Benefit Concert at The Apollo Theater in New York City.
STEPHEN LOVEKIN / FILMMAGIC VIA GETTY IMAGES

 

The first and most famous book by Nat Hentoff — Hear Me Talkin’ to Ya, co-credited to Nat Shapiro and originally published in 1955 — is an oral history that rings with the authority of scripture. “This is the story of jazz,” it begins, “as told by the musicians whose lives are that story.” 

 

Stephen Lovekin / FilmMagic via Getty Images

The jazz world mourns the loss of jazz critic and producer, author and journalist Nat Hentoff.

Nat Hentoff, a legendary voice journalist and critic, as written in his Village Voice obituary, passed in his Manhattan home on Saturday.  His son Nick says by Twitter, “He died surrounded by family listening to Billie Holiday.”

For fifty years Hentoff wrote articles and criticisms for The Village Voice.  He was passionate for politics but arguably more so for jazz music.