JJA Awards 2004 Brings Jazz Community Together at B.B. King's
Gregory says about the Jazz Awards: "There's no political agenda, no axes to grind. What you see is what you get. It's nice to see writers and musicians in the same room who aren't critical of each other. This Jazz Awards reflects Howard Mandel's personality: love, loveable and kind, gentle and respectful." Mandel says he hopes the Jazz Awards will be "an occasion for jazz activists, aficionados and artists, community stalwarts, educators, industry movers and shakers, publishers, presenters and retailers alike to applaud the musicians and those who spread their message in pictures and words." Some of the "movers and shakers" this year included major sponsors BETJazz: The 24 Hour Jazz Channel; Blue Note Records; E-TRADE Financial; HEI-Arts International; HIP Health Plan of New York; Hot House magazine; Iridium Jazz Club; Marsalis Music; Michelob; Pfizer Inc., and WBGO-FM Jazz 88. Since 1996, the JJA's Jazz Awards have become established as the highest profile, longest continuous commuity and industry recognition of accomplishments in jazz, independent of any single publiction or binding commercial affiliations.
The comedian and civil rights activist proved a popular host. Gregory set a good pace for the Jazz Awards. He hails from St. Louis and grew up shining shoes to help feed his family. At his high school he set a state record in track and led a march against conditions in segregated schools. He later ran for president in 1968. He has authored more than a dozen books.
In 1992, Gregory started the "Campaign for Human Dignity" to fight crime in St. Louis neighborhoods. He has always loved jazz; he starred in the 1966 film "Sweet Love, Bitter" as a saxophonist modeled after Charlie Parker. A resident of Massachusetts, his most recent work is a three-CD set entitled "21st Century State of the Union." An anti-war leader, Gregory has always proclaimed love and peace.
There was so much love and socializing at the JJA Awards that publicist Jim Eigo, Jazz Promo Services, said, "They should call it the JSO Awards, standing for the Jazz Schmoozers Organization Awards!" Saxophonist Lew Tabackin would agree. "It was a great event to meet fellow jazz musicians. I tell all the writers to 'keep on writing and listening to our music."
'Schmoozers' even found time to get to know (Dick) Gregory at his table in between his hosting activities. Jazz writer Patricia Willard, a JJA member who has been writing record liner notes for Columbia Legacy, came to the event from Washington D.C. and remembered to bring along copies of books Up From Nigger (1976) and From the Back of the Bus (1962) for Gregory to autograph, and he happily obliged. "I thought this was a great opportunity to get Dick Gregory to sign these classic books." There were even some "jazz kids" hanging out with the jazz celebrities. Rosie Mandel, 12, and Chris Lee, 11, were running around helping out because of their parents' connections to the event. "My father (Howard Mandel) has about 16,000 CDs and 6,000 records, so of course I like jazz," said Rosie. And Chris, who plays bongos and min-congas, said, "I think jazz is okay. I like percussion because I go to gigs with my dad (Duke Lee), and my mom (Lois Gilbert) runs Jazz Corner, which consists of jazz musicians."
"These events like the Jazz Awards are the type that the jazz community needs!" exclaimed Bassist of the Year Nominee Ron Carter, who was among the hundreds mingling at the event, along with bassist Bob Stewart, the beloved jazz teacher at LaGuardia High School, who stated it was "great to see the jazz community meeting in New York City rather than at a European jazz festival," Cassandra Wilson, named Female Singer of the Year, and noted pianist Cecil Taylor, who won the Lifetime Achievement Award in 2003.
Other musician winners and their categories (not mentioned above) include Wayne Shorter, Alegria , on Verve (Jazz Album); Sam Rivers, Fusia Swing Song , on Blue Note, Jazz Reissue; single CD; Miles Davis, The Complete Jack Johnson Sessions on Columbia Legacy (Jazz Reissue, boxed set); Blue Note (Jazz Record Label of the Year); George Wein, Festival Productions (Jazz Events Producer); Maria Schneider, (Jazz Composer of the Year and Jazz Arranger of the Year); Andy Bey (Male Jazz Singer); Cucho Valdes, New Conceptions , Blue Note (Latin Jazz Album); Wayne Shorter Quarter (Small Ensemble Group); Dave Holland Big Band (Large Ensemble); Dave Douglas (Trumpeter of the Year); Toots Thielemns, harmonica (Miscellaneous Instrumentalist); Gary Smulyan (Baritone Saxophonist); Frank Wess (Flutist of the Year); Dr. Lonnie Smith (Organ-Keyboards of the Year); Bill Frisell (Guitarist of the Year); Dave Holland (Acoustic Bassist); Steve Swallow (Electric Bassist); Regina Carter (Strings Player of the Year); Stefon Harris (Mallets); and Ray Barretto (Percussionist).