Sonny Rollins, musical colossus, was the big winner of the 16th annual Jazz Journalists Association Jazz Awards, announced June 20 at a gala cocktail party at the Blue Note Jazz Club in New York City. Rollins, 81 years old, was named Musician of the Year, his album Road Shows, Vol. 2 chosen as Best Record of the Year and he was judged Best Tenor Saxophonist, too. Rollins performs continuously, tours Europe in July and headlines the Detroit Jazz Festival on this coming August 31.
Pianist and composer Horace Silver, who at age 84 is residing in an assisted care facility in upstate New York, was hailed for his Lifetime Achievement in Jazz.
The complete list of winners and other detailed information can be accessed at www.JJAJazzAwards.org.
Amiri Baraka, author of the books Blues People and Black Music as well as plays, poetry and social criticism, was recipient of the JJA’s Lifetime Achievement in Jazz Journalism Award. Author Albert Murray, age 94, was honored with a “Words and Music” Award, co-presented by the JJA and the Jazz Foundation of America. Robin Bell-Stevens, executive director of JazzMobile, and Adrian Ellis, recently resigned executive director of Jazz at Lincoln Center, were celebrated as New York City “Jazz Heroes.”
Other Awards in the 40 categories of excellence in music and music journalism voted on by professional members of the JJA went to a broad spectrum of jazz stylists, including relative newcomers Ambrose Akinmusire (Trumpeter of the Year), Gretchen Parlato (Best Female Vocalist), bassist Ben Williams (Up and Coming Artist of the Year) as well as veterans Joe Lovano (for his Small Ensemble of the Year, Us Five), Roy Haynes (Drummer of the Year), Gary Burton (Mallets Instrumentalist of the Year) and the Mingus Big Band (Large Ensemble of the Year).
Several Awards winners have been honored previously, but among those receiving their first Jazz Awards were Gary Versace (Organ/Keyboardist of the Year), Larry Blumenfeld (Writer of the Year), Herb Snitzer (Photographer of the Year) and Tad Hershorn, whose biography Norman Granz: The Man Who Used Jazz for Justice was voted Best Book About Jazz. Except for Lifetime Achievement and the Words and Music awards, all honors were presented in consideration of work done in calendar year 2011.
Musician attendees at the Awards included Lovano, Ben Williams, Maria Schneider (Composer-Arranger of the Year), Vijay Iyer (Pianist of the Year), Rudresh Mahanthappa (Alto Saxophonist of the Year), Anat Cohen (Clarinetist of the Year and Multi-Reeds Player of the Year), Wycliff Gordon (Trombonist of the Year), Gary Smulyan (Baritone Saxophonist of the Year), and nominees James Carter, Ron Carter, Matt Wilson, Karrin Allyson, Wadada Leo Smith, Randall Kline, Ben Allison, Giacomo Gates, Gregory Porter, Ted Nash, Claire Daly, Lew Tabackin, Jamie Baum, Adam Rudolph and Sammy Figueroa.
Recording industry figures Steve Berkowitz (Columbia/Legacy) and Tina Pelikan (ECM) accepted awards for Historical Boxed Set of the Year (Miles Davis, Bootleg Sessions Vol. 1, Quintet Live in Europe 1967) and Label of the Year, respectively. MC Josh Jackson himself was named Broadcaster of the Year; JazzTimes editor Evan Haga accepted the Award for Print Periodical of the Year. Writer Francis Davis was honored for his liner notes to Sonny Rollins’ Road Shows, Vol. 2, and director Mario Tahi Lathan received the award for Short Form Jazz News Video, “Victory! — The Making of J.D. Allen’s Album.”
Journalist nominees in the house included Will Friedwald, Willard Jenkins, Nate Chinen, Linda Yohn, Fran Kaufman, Laurence Donohue-Greene, Patrick Jarenwattananon, Lois Gilbert, Bill Milkowski, Lena Adasheva, Ray Foley and Howard Mandel (president of the JJA and producer of the Jazz Awards). Representatives from sponsors BMI, Reviver Music, and Newport Jazz Festival producer George Wein were also in attendance.
The 16th annual JJA Jazz Awards for the third consecutive year emphasized the decentralized nature of jazz activities by co-hosting “satellite parties” in 13 cities besides New York. Activists from Atlanta, GA to Auckland, New Zealand gathered musicians, journalists and devotees of local jazz scenes to hail their local heroes.