Nat Hentoff is a champion of the Jazz Foundation of America in its efforts to help aging musicians who lack the resources to provide for themselves. In his latest column in the Village Voice, Hentoff makes it clear that jazzmen and women who find themselves in want are not always those who failed to make it to the top of their profession.
Jazz musicians do not have pensions, and very few have medical plans or other resources. Pianist Wynton Kelly, for example–a vital sideman for Miles Davis and Dizzy Gillespie–died penniless. I was at the first recording session of pianist Phineas Newborn, whose mastery of the instrument was astonishing. As jazz musicians say, he told a story. His ended in a pauper’s grave in Memphis.
At last, 17 years ago, in New York, a group of musicians and jazz enthusiasts for whom the music had become essential to their lives formed the Jazz Foundation of America. Its mission is to regenerate the lives of abandoned players–paying the rents before they’re evicted, taking care of their medical needs, and providing emergency living expenses.
To read all of Nat’s column, learn of Dizzy Gillespie’s crucial role in the foundation and find out how to help, click here.