Rather than pitting musicians against each other, we'd prefer to see recognition and awards in jazz work like the Nobel prize, that is going to two pianists if two deserve it, and no saxophonists if none do. Nevertheless, we'd like to commend some winners, and some nominees as well, of this year's Jazz Journalists Association awards on June 25th.
Most deserved recognition went to Cecil Taylor (Lifetime Achievement), Kahil El'Zabar (Percussionist of the Year, for the second year in a row) and Vision Festival organizer Patricia Nicholson, who shared the Events Producer of the Year award with Festival Productions' George Wein. The association also recognized Steve Bernstein (Miscellaneous Brass, for his slide trumpet work), Roswell Rudd (Trombone), Dave Douglas (Trumpet), Marty Ehrlich (Clarinet) and Hamiet Bluiett (Baritone Saxophone).
Nominees included: William Parker (Bass); Billy Bang, Mark Feldman and Mat Maneri (Strings); Bill Frisell (Guitar); Matthew Shipp (Pianist); a trio of tubas, Bob Stewart, Howard Johnson and Marcus Rojas, as well as French horn player Tom Varner in the Miscellaneous Brass category; Perry Robinson (Clarinet); Steve Lacy (Soprano Saxophone); David Murray and Sonny Rollins (Tenor Saxophone); the Vandermark Five (Combo); the ICP Orchestra (Big Band); and Thirsty Ear, for Record Label of the Year. Douglas and Shipp were also nominated for Musician of the Year. It was nice to see such an array of names noted by the normally staid jazz journalism industry. There are many musicians, old and young, swimming upstream against the tide of chamber conservatism to continue the tradition of freedom and innovation within America's classical music, and it's good to see their work recognized by the people who write about them.
In accepting the award for Bluiett, Bang noted that two-thirds of his Tri-Factor Trio had now received recognition from the JJA. "Kahil got one, Hamiett got one, but don't worry about it," he said. "I'm gonna buy me one."
But the real hope in an avant-leaning afternoon of awards was spoken by Nicholson: "Now there's a chance for more snowballs."