New NEA Jazz Masters: A classy last class

The National Endowment for the Arts's final designated Jazz Masters are all worthy: drummer Jack DeJohnette, saxophonist Von Freeman, bassist Charlie Haden, singer Sheila Jordan and trumpeter-educator-organizer-gadfly Jimmy Owens have had long and profoundly influential if not broadly celebrated or financially rewarded creative careers. So much the worse that this 30 year program highlighting genuine American artistic heroes has been zeroed out in the 2012 budget, to be replaced by proposed "American Artist of the Years Awards" that … [Read more...]

President Obama digs Sonny Rollins

President Barack Obama paid beautiful lip service to great American artists and arts yesterday, conferring the 2010 National Medal of Arts and Humanities on heroes including Sonny Rollins, age 80. "I speak personally here," said the president at 3 minutes, 30 seconds into his address, alluding to authors, poets, historians, "because there are people here whose works shaped me. I've got these thumbworn editions of these works of arts, and these old records from when they were still vinyl, Sonny, before they went digital, that helped inspire me, … [Read more...]

NEA wants to end Jazz Masters program

The National Endowment of the Arts' FY-12 Appropriations Request has just been posted, and cuts $21 million to return to its 2008 funding level. Among program "modifications": the establishment of "American Artists of the Year awards," which will "remove specific reference to Jazz, Folk, and Opera" and give discipline awards annually in two categories:Performing Arts: Dance/Music/Opera/Musical Theater/Theater  Visual Arts: Design/Media Arts/Museums/Visual Arts (including crafts)This evidently means the end of the Jazz Masters Fellowships, … [Read more...]

NEA Jazz Masters concert on ustream, NEA gives 1/4 mil for gigs

Last night's NEA Jazz Masters concert at Jazz at Lincoln Center was ustreamed -- for the first time allowing the world to see live, free and forever America's official ceremony knighting the duly experienced, accomplished and original wise-people who create and perpetuate America's living vernacular music. It was great to actually be there, too -- amid a throng of jazz's most powerful public and private supporters -- beside those who make the music, those who present, teach, promote, record, fund, think, write, broadcast, … [Read more...]

Twitter campaign #jazzlives after one year

#Jazzlives -- the Twitter campaign aimed at demonstrating that there is a big and enthusiastic audience for live jazz -- is one year old. What has it wrought? First: What is #jazzlives and how does it work? To participate in the campaign, audience members at live jazz performances "tweet" - write a post on their Twitter account-- about who they heard and where they heard them, including "#jazzlives" in the total 140 characters. You can view all #jazzlives posts as a "stream" on various websites and blogs, including this one. You can … [Read more...]

Jazz journalism & beyond weekend

Jazz journalists conferenced in New York City last weekend as arts presenters, National Endowment for the Arts Jazz Masters and musical showcases galore (including an audience-happy Winter Jazzfest and the debut of drummer Jack DeJohnette's hot new band) justified the very existence of the profession. … [Read more...]

Mr. Teachout gets the word: Jazz’s Swing Era popularity past

Biographer of H L. Mencken and (coming soon) Louis Armstrong, ArtsJournal blogger and scribe for the Wall Street Journal Terry Teachout has raised a fuss by pointing to the National Endowment for the Arts' study citing declines in jazz audiences from 2002 to 2008 (and indeed from 1982 to 2008). That this data was released in June and been reported on earlier, elsewhere, (like at Jazz.com by editor Ted Gioia) without getting much attention suggests either the broad reach and high profile of Murdock-owned media or it's August and a writer getting … [Read more...]

Hurray for the new NEA Jazz Masters

Dean of post-jazz Muhal Richard Abrams,  doyenne of vocalese Annie Ross and George Avakian, who invented jazz albums and reissues, popularized the LP and live recording, are among eight 2010 Jazz Masters named today by the National Endowment of the Arts. New York-based pianists Kenny Barron and Cedar Walton, exploratory reedist Yusef Lateef, big band composer-arranger Bill Holman and vibist Bobby Hutcherson complete the list of the NEA's new honorees, who receive $25,000 grants and significant honors starting next January with ceremonies and a … [Read more...]

Recent NEA grants-getters win again in Arts Recovery act

The National Endowment of the Arts' first program of the Obama "Recovery Act" focuses on the preservation of jobs in the arts. But it upholds an adage quoted by Billie Holiday in "God Bless the Child": "Them that's got shall get." Applicants must be organizations that have received NEA grants during the immediately prior four years (since 2006). The NEA's announcement is crystal clear:[R]ecogniz[ing] that the nonprofit arts industry is an important sector of the economy the Arts Endowment has designed a plan to expedite distribution of critical … [Read more...]

Who decides who’s an NEA Jazz Master

The National Endowment of the Arts panel determining recipients of the annual Jazz Masters Fellowships is a small one. In the interest of transparency, the NEA has supplied the names of panelists who chose the class of '09. It comprises five previously named Fellows, one "layperson," one independent record producer, and two longtime jazz adminstrator-activists (who both happen to be honorees of the Jazz Journalists Association's "A Team").Of course, if John McCain becomes president, it's all moot (as Lee Rosenbaum reports, the GOP has no arts … [Read more...]