NEA announces 2017 Jazz Masters; ceremony to be held in D.C. for second consecutive year

The National Endowment for the Arts on Monday announced the recipients of the 2017 NEA Jazz Masters Fellowship, and also confirmed that the awards ceremony would return to D.C. next year.

It will mark the second consecutive year that the event takes place at the Kennedy Center, after years of being stationed at New York City’s Lincoln Center. The event will take place April 3.

The 2017 honorees will include organist Dr. Lonnie Smith, bassist Dave Holland, vocalist Dee Dee Bridgewater, pianist Dick Hyman and jazz critic and historian Ira Gitler.

The names were announced at the Kennedy Center, as part of Monday night’s DC Jazz Festival concert saluting the Howard University jazz program.

In an email, Ann Meier Baker, the NEA’s director for music and opera, wrote that her team was “excited about the opportunity to celebrate the 2017 concert at the Kennedy Center (and online!) again.” Reflecting on the success of the 2016 festivities, she said, “D.C. has a great jazz community and there was a lot of excitement around the events.”

In 2016, the awards ceremony was accompanied by a small number of satellite events, including one at the Duke Ellington School of the Arts. The NEA and Kennedy Center are looking to expand programming around next year’s ceremony, including more events of D.C. jazz musicians, according to a spokesperson at the Kennedy Center.

Here is a rundown of the 2017 honorees.

Dr. Lonnie Smith is one of the few true masters of the Hammond B3 organ. Smith manifests his love of soul and R&B in a distinct and spiritually attuned form of soul jazz. He’s played with everyone from King Curtis to Lee Morgan, and built a body of recordings that spans from hard-bop to Hendrix.

Dave Holland is a bassist, composer and bandleader equally adept at fusion grooves and avant-garde conceptions. The English-born Holland replaced Ron Carter in Miles Davis’ band in 1968, and went on to perform on seminal fusion recordings like Bitches Brew and co-lead groups with everyone from Steve Coleman to Derek Bailey.

Dee Dee Bridgewater has brought her unmistakable voice to numerous jazz recordings as a vocalist, to the Broadway stage as an actress, and to the airwaves of NPR as a radio host for over a decade. She’s also toured the world as a musician and United Nations ambassador, spreading the spirit of jazz across the globe.

Dick Hyman’s career has spanned more than 60 years. As a pianist, composer and arranger, Hyman has established himself as one of the premier exponents of ragtime and early jazz pianism. He’s also scored Woody Allen films for over 20 years, and he served as director of the Jazz In July series at the 92nd Street Y in New York City for an equally long tenure.

Ira Gitler is an iconic jazz writer and historian who served as editor for ­DownBeat magazineduring the 1960s. He has written for virtually every major jazz publication in the West. He has also written or co-written several books on the music’s history, including The Biographical Encyclopedia of Jazz,with Leonard Feather; taught courses on jazz at numerous colleges; and written countless albums’ liner notes.

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Jackson Sinnenberg

About Jackson Sinnenberg

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Jackson Sinnenberg is an Associate Producer for SiriusXM and a freelance writer. His work has appeared in the JazzTimes. NPR Music, NPR.org, the Washington City Paper and On Tap Magazine and the blog of Smithsonian Folkways Records. He previously covered the city’s music scene for WGTB, Georgetown University’s radio station, where he was a show host, writer, and columnist. He graduated from Georgetown with a bachelor’s degree in American Musical Culture. Read him at sinnenbergmusic.com. Follow him at @sinnenbergmusic.

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