Since 1982, the National Endowment for the Arts has conferred the NEA Jazz Master award, the nation’s highest honor in jazz. The 2017 NEA Jazz Masters are Dee Dee Bridgewater, Ira Gitler, Dave Holland, Dick Hyman and Dr. Lonnie Smith.
In collaboration with the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts, the NEA will celebrate the 2017 NEA Jazz Masters at a tribute concert on Monday, April 3. The event will be live-streamed beginning at 7:30 p.m. ET at arts.gov and Kennedy-Center.org. The concert will be broadcast live on SiriusXM Channel 67, Real Jazz.
On April 3, 2017, the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts and the National Endowment for the Arts will celebrate the 2017 NEA Jazz Masters — Dee Dee Bridgewater, Ira Gitler, Dave Holland, Dick Hyman and Dr. Lonnie Smith.
The celebration will be moderated by Kennedy Center Artistic Director for Jazz Jason Moran, who said in a statement:
This will be another special celebration for people who have been integral to the ever evolving stage of jazz. From the journalist, to the innovator, each of the honorees has demonstrated a timeless devotion to jazz ethics. Each honoree arrives at the music from a different avenue and helps focus the audience’s vision of as the music continues to evolve. Kudos to the NEA for continuing to honor artists who have devoted their livelihoods to contributing to the cultural fabric of America.
The tribute concert will feature conversations with the 2017 NEA Jazz Masters alongside musicians whose lives they have influenced. The performers will include NEA Jazz Masters Paquito D’Rivera and Lee Konitz; National Medal of Arts recipient and Kennedy Center Honoree Jessye Norman; vocalist Dianne Reeves; multi-instrumentalist Booker T. Jones; Sherrie Maricle and the Diva Jazz Orchestra; and Hammond B-3 artist Matthew Whitaker, a 15-year-old protégé of Dr. Lonnie Smith.
The free concert is “sold out.” You can view a live-stream of the event beginning at 7:30 p.m. ET at arts.gov, Kennedy-Center.org and NPR.org/Music. The concert will be broadcast live on SiriusXM Channel 67, Real Jazz.
Mayor Jim Kenney kicked off the celebration by presenting the Benny Golson Award to multi-instrumentalist and “Late Show with Stephen Colbert” bandleader Jon Batiste.
I am honored to present the first Benny Golson Award to Jon Batiste, who exemplifies what can be accomplished in using your talents in educating our youth in the importance of the arts and culture. As I have said many times, arts education is not a luxury, it is a necessity and one of the most effective ways of helping our children grow and develop into not only more creative, but also open-minded and compassionate people.
The WRTI Jazz Listening Sessions will be hosted by Jeff Duperon. The hour-long conversations will be held before a live audience in the Art Gallery @ City Hall. The listening sessions are free but space is limited. Seating is first come, first serve and you must register.
A complete calendar listing of Philly Celebrates Jazz events is available here.
Owned by Paul Myers, the Aqua Lounge was the heart of “the Strip” during the 1960s and ’70s. The first jazz club on the Strip, the Aqua Lounge played host to jazz and blues greats, including Roy Ayers, Dave Burrell, Bootsie Barnes, Herbie Hancock, Freddie Hubbard, Lee Morgan and Irene Reid.
In an interview with the University of Pennsylvania School of Arts and Sciences’ West Philadelphia Music Project, jazz drummer Lucky Thompson shared his memories of the Aqua Lounge:
And right along 52nd street, there was a club called the Aqua Lounge, it used to bring a lot of famous musicians through there, like Miles, Max [unclear], and I mean they would come out and stand in one of the corners smoking a cigarette, and Philly Joe Jones, and umm, a lot of Shirley Scott, a lot of famous musicians. Called the Aqua Lounge. That was one of the clubs known for being on the strip.
Listed in The Negro Motorist Green Book, Irene’s was one of several “cafés” along Ridge Avenue. In his book, Fashion and Jazz: Dress, Identity and Subcultural Improvisation, Drexel University professor Alphonso McClendon notes:
The influence of Harlem and the legendary Cotton Club with its extravagant floor shows of light-skinned chorus girls are noted in the previous descriptions, as well as the naming of the Ridge Cotton Club along the Ridge Avenue entertainment district. In addition, the ubiquitous title of café such as Art’s Café, Pocahontas Café, Hy De Ho Café and The Roseland Café implied inspiration from Europe and the desire to accentuate superior social mingling.
In a 1996 interview with the Philadelphia Inquirer jazzman Jimmy Oliver recounted that he used to play at Irene’s Café whose regulars included Pearl Bailey.
Jimmy Oliver is one of Philly’s many unsung jazz greats. From Wikipedia:
James Henry Oliver was a tenor saxophonist and bandleader based in Philadelphia. Active from the mid-1940s, his bands, including the house band at local venues, featured, among other musicians, Philly Joe Jones, Steve Davis, Red Garland, Johnny Coles, Charlie Rice, Sam Reed and Mickey Roker. He has been cited as one of several sax players who influenced John Coltrane.
Turning down the temptation to work in New York, he preferred to play locally in Philadelphia, alongside local jazz stars such as Bootsie Barnes, the Heath Brothers and Philly Joe Jones as well as visiting stars Charlie Parker, Pearl Bailey and Max Roach, and, especially around 1946-47, while in residence at the Zanzibar Café, he was noted for playing “against” visitors Lester Young, Coleman Hawkins, Ben Webster, Dexter Gordon, Illinois Jacquet, Arnett Cobb, George Auld and Charlie Ventura.
On one of his very few known recordings, on September 16, 1950, Oliver sat in for John Coltrane, who was ill, and recorded with the Dizzy Gillespie sextet for Prestige. The album, Prestige 1st Sessions, Vol. 3, released in 1994, features a solo by Oliver on the track “She’s Gone Again.”