“Organ Monk” weds funk & Thelonious, soul and smarts

greg lewis

Organist Greg Lewis, wearing a monk's robe, plus guitarist Ron Jackson and drummer Damion Reid, tore up with full respect the knotty compositions of the late great Thelonious Monk last night at 55 Bar in Greenwich Village. About a dozen people heard them over a 90 minute period (they played a full set, took a break and performed one more extended tune before turning the stage over to guitarist Mike Stern) but it was one of the most enjoyable sets I've caught for months. Playing a Hammond C-3, which he explained was a B-3 restored and put … [Read more...]

Etta James and Johnny Otis — Jazz Masters?

etta james

Etta James, who died today Jan. 20 at age 73, and Johnny Otis, who died Jan. 17 at 90, are rightly recognized as innovators and icons of American rhythm 'n' blues and soul. But the jazz world -- listeners, broadcasters and journalists, musicians and institutions up to and including the NEA -- would be well-served to proclaim that Etta James and Johnny Otis are "jazz masters." Their sub-genre identities remain within the greater mainstream of Afro-American music born about a hundred years ago, with blues becoming ever less a so-called … [Read more...]

Who should the next NEA Jazz Masters be?

2012 jazz masters

Who should be the next NEA Jazz Masters? With last night's triumphant and deeply moving webcast of the NEA's 2012 Jazz Masters induction ceremonies came welcome news the annual fellowships for these major American artists will continue -- at least the financial awards of $25,000 per Master. More significant to many jazzers than the $ is the official government validation of the lives and careers of men and women which typically require substantial sacrifice and determination to create lasting, enriching marks. So who should the next honorees … [Read more...]

NEA Jazz Masters @ Jazz at Lincoln Center live and webcast smash

Sheila Jordan, NEA Jazz Master

The glory of living American jazz musicians filled Jazz at Lincoln Center last night to celebrate the 30th annual National Endowment of the Arts Jazz Masters fellowships -- and some of the best news was the vitality of the music they played (webcast audio by WBGO and Sirius Radio, video at arts.gov). But of equally significance immediately was spread of the word that the Jazz Masters program will indeed continue into the future in regards to financial awards for selected Masters, for sure.  As for celebratory ceremonies and productions … [Read more...]

NEA Jazz Masters concert webcast, program to continue

neajazzmasters

The National Endowment of the Arts, formally inducting its 30th class of  "Jazz Masters" with a concert at Jazz at Lincoln Center January 10 2012 that is being webcast live on WBGO Jazz 88.3FM  and SiriusXM Satellite Radio's Real Jazz Channel XM67, (starting at 7:30 pm ET) has announced that Jazz Masters will again be named and receive honoraria of $25,000 in 2013. Although this blog reported last February that the NEA 2012 budget had cut out the Jazz Masters program, as well as awards for American Folk Heritage and Opera artists, "the … [Read more...]

Josef Skvorecky, novelist of jazz = freedom & creativity, RIP

bass saxophone

Josef Skvorecky's The Bass Saxophone is one of a handful of fine novels identifying the extraordinary powers of jazz as an art form, a process, a heritage -- which makes it more than something to listen or dance to. Several obits for the Czech writer (d. Jan 3, age 87) who was long exiled in Canada have failed to mention his admiration and understanding of this American gift to the world, but the Atlantic Monthly gives him his due. Like Milan Kundera and Vaclav Havel, Skvorecky infused his depictions of a jazz-inflected cultural underground … [Read more...]

Arts presenters – jazzers, journalists included – kick of ’12 in NYC

Jazz Journalists Assoc.

The New Year starts bang! with performing arts presenters, artists and the journalists who cover them convening --  GlobalFest world music and  Winter Jazzfest musicians' showcases -- the NEA Jazz Masters fête  and shortly thereafter the  Chamber Music America conference, all in NYC. As pres of the Jazz Journalists Association, I'm happy to announce a four-session mini-conference on Media for Audience Development taking place (free to the public, registration requested) within the larger Association of Performing Arts Presenters convention … [Read more...]