Following yesterday’s Rifftides post announcing the Jazz Journalists Association poll winners, vibraharpist Charlie Shoemake commented:
Randy Weston has had a long and distinguished career as have many of the other deserving award winners. Just curious, though, if any jazz artists from the west coast have ever been or ever will be recognized. It always seems in these things as though we’re an invisible group. One recent positive note, though. Four of my young students here on the California Central Coast have just been awarded the best community jazz combo in America by Downbeat magazine. We do exist. All is not lost.
A few musicians from west of the Mississippi have come in for major recognition in the polls, although not many since the heyday of so-called west coast jazz in the 1950s and early ’60s. Honors have come from elsewhere. For example, arranger, composer and bandleader Bill Holman and vibraharpist Bobby Hutcherson were named National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) Jazz Masters in 2010. Others: Charlie Haden in 2012, Quincy Jones in 2008, Dave Brubeck in 1999, Billy Higgins in 1997, Gerald Wilson in 1990, Ornette Coleman in 1984.
Geography plays a part in how JJA members vote. A majority of them live in or near the northeastern United States. They hear live performances in the clubs and concert halls of Boston, New York and Philadelphia, cities with large numbers of the best-known jazz musicians. However much one might hope that jazz journalists would take pains to be familiar with the spectrum of artists from all parts of the world, provincialism is and always has been a factor in how they vote in polls operated by the JJA, Jazz Times, Downbeat, Playboy, Esquire and others too numerous to list.
We could discuss what qualifies a person to be a jazz journalist, but that leads to the larger question of what qualifies a person to be a journalist of any description. That, in turn, leads to considerations of licensing and government control of the flow of information. Let’s not fool with that. And let’s not place undue importance on the results of polls that have many of the aspects of popularity contests. What counts is the quality of the music.
That looks like a cue. Here are Charlie and Sandi Shoemake in 1991 with the Bill Holman Orchestra. Solos by trombonist Andy Martin and the Shoemakes.
Trumpets: Bob Summers, Carl Saunders, Frank Szabo, Tony Lujan.
Trombones: Bob Enevoldsen, Rick Culver, Andy Martin, Pete Beltran.
Saxophones: Lanny Morgan, Bob Militello, Pete Christlieb, Ray Hermann, Bob Efford.
Piano: Rich Eames.
Bass: Bruce Lett.
Drums: Jeff Hamilton.
Filmed at the recording session for Shoemake’s album Strollin’.