At the National Endowment for the Arts party last week announcing the 2008 of Jazz Masters at least one celebrant was hoping the award would kick-start a professional cycle.
“You know,” said the 80-year-old trombonist/composer, paraphrasing the sequence of recognition he said Fernando Lamas had once applied to his career arc: “Who is Tom McIntosh? Get me Tom McIntosh! Get me a Tom McIntosh type! Get me a young Tom McIntosh! Who is Tom McIntosh?”
Chairman of the National Endowment for the Arts Dana Gioia was a happy fan at the induction party held three months earlier than usual at Dizzy’s Club in Jazz at Lincoln Center, because the next International Association for Jazz Education Conference, traditional site of the announcement, is scheduled for next January in Toronto, difficult for several of the Masters to attend. “A soulful class of Masters,” I remarked and Gioia, enthralled with Jazz Master George Wein playing piano behind Lew Tabackin and Randy Brecker on the stage at Dizzy’s Club in Jazz at Lincoln Center, answered, “A room full of great people!”
Indeed, past masters Paquito D’Rivera, Frank Wess and Randy Weston were there, along with the newly named: besides McIntosh, the 86-year-old Cuban-born conguero Candido Camero, 85-year-old trumpeter Joe Wilder and 82-year-old Gunther Schuller. Quincy Jones, 74, couldn’t make it, nor the late pianist-composer Andrew Hill, though his wife Joanne Robinson Hill was there (as was late Jazz Master Gil Evans’ widow Anita and late Jazz Master Ray Barretto’s widow Brandy). Guitarist Howard Alden, who mentioned that Sean Penn had been one of his best pupils learning to play for Woody Allen’s elegy for gypsy guitarists Sweet and Lowdown was in Wein’s happy band, with bassist Peter Washington and drummer Kenny (not related) Washington. . . Wein, best known as producer of the JVC and Newport Jazz Festivals, was celebrating his 82nd birthday, comping at the keyboard with bouyant swing . . .
But who is Tom McIntosh? And why is he a jazz master? Having retired in the late ’60s from touring in Dizzy Gillespie’s big band McIntosh went to Hollywood, where he composed music for Gordon Willis’s autobiographical film The Learning Tree, then worked on Shaft, Shaft’s Big Score!, A Hero Ain’t Nothin’ But A Sandwich and some lesser genre films. In the 1990s he took a teaching position at New England Conservatory, and issued his first album, With Malice Toward None, in 2004. (Mostly positive reviews here are from AllAboutJazz reviewers Jim Santella, John Kelman and One Final Note.com’s David Dupont). A rumored second volume is still forthcoming.
Thin credits for a Jazz Master? Not necessarily — McIntosh is among the legion of accomplished, professional musicians who’ve survived the jazz life with courting outrageous fame or ostentatious fortune, simply respected by aficionados and his peers. Admirable modesty — if not for Quincy Jones and to a lesser extent Pulitzer Prize-winning composer Gunther Schuller, such modesty might be the theme of this year’s jazz Masters.
After all, Joe Wilder didn’t lead a band in New York City under his own name until a 2006 stand at the Village Vanguard, though he’d been a dependable lead trumpeter in big bands since graduating from Les Hite to Lionel Hampton, Jimmie Lunceford, Gillespie and Count Basie in the ’40s and ’50s — see him solo with Basie’s all-stars on “Fast and Happy Blues”.
Candido — percussionist — is still making New York City sessions and gigs, having immigrated from Cuba in 1952 to work with Gillespie (following the great Chano Pozo), Stan Kenton, Sonny Rollins and others, though seldom in a spotlit role.
Andrew Hill spent the better part of his career being elusive (however, here is the entire last concert of his trio, at Trinity Church in New York City on March 27, 2007, less than a month before his death). Self-deprecating or not, Hill’s presence was such that at his memorial service in September, his bassist John Hebert and drummer Eric McPherson performed as though he was sitting right there, pausing to listen to them in the midst of a solo.
Gunther Schuller is well known in the jazz firmament as the french horn player in Miles Davis’s Birth of the Cool recordings, proponent of Third Stream music, founder of New England Conservatory’s highly productive jazz program, father of rhythm section George and Ed Schuller, conductor of Mingus’s “Epitaph,” author of Early Jazz and The Swing Era, two of jazz’s most authoritative books (he’s currently working on his autobiography, rather than volume three of his jazz history, promised to cover the modern era), and Joe Lovano’s recently ambitious records Streams of Expression and Rush House.
Quincy Jones — is his most memorable musical accomplishment the opening bars of Michael Jackson’s “Don’t Stop ‘Til You Get Enough”? I’ve never been at a party where that didn’t drive everyone to dance. More thrilling than Thriller, more of an anthem than “We Are The World,” hotter than his soundtrack for In The Heat of the Night — Q, one of black music’s biggest moguls! An A-list celeb! Grammy winner, Academy Award nominee, producer/publisher and Jazz Master to boot!
The Jazz Masters program was begun in 1982, and since then 100 “great figures in American music” have been so named. They are nominated by the public, selected by a specially constituted NEA jazz board. Jazz Masters receive $25,000 fellowships, and participate in jazz outreach and promotion programs (details available at the NEA’s site. There are all kinds of Jazz Masters — Toshiko Akiyoshi to Sun Ra. Who is a jazz master? Get me a jazz master! Get me a jazz master type! Get me a young jazz master! Who is a jazz master?