A Jazzman's Lucre, and Two Living Legends
Karsten Jahnke, Germany's leading concert organizer, got the 2008 jazzahead!-Skoda Award last month for nearly five decades of service to jazz and the music industry. A sculpture plus 15,000 euros (ca. $23,700) make this the most lucrative jazz award in Germany, and possibly in the world. The now-defunct Jazzpar Prize in Denmark carried a 200,000 Danish crown payout (then about $30,000). The automaker-sponsored prize was awarded to keyboardist Joe Zawinul shortly before he died last year, and in 2006 to ECM label manager Manfred Eichner. Jahnke has arranged tours for, among others, Branford Marsalis, Pat Metheny and Al Jarreau. The check and a sculpture were tendered during the jazzahead! festival attended by a record 4,865 at the Bremen Exhibition and Conference Centre. Sound samples at jazzahead.de
Two living blues artists, Jimmy McCracklin and Hubert Sumlin, were inducted into the 29-year-old Blues Foundation's Hall of Fame on May 7 in Tunica, Mississippi. Deceased artists Johnny 'Guitar' Watson, Peetie Wheatstraw, Jimmy Witherspoon, the Mississippi Sheiks, and the late blues and jazz promoter John Hammond and blues book author Paul Oliver were also inducted. Singles or tracks inducted were "Back-Water Blues" by Bessie Smith, "Double Trouble" by Otis Rush and "My Babe" by Little Walter. Albums inducted were Piney Woods Blues by Big Joe Williams, Members Only by Bobby Bland, Rocks the House by Etta James, Freddy King Sings, and I'm Jimmy Reed. Presenting sponsor was again The Gibson Foundation.
Renovations dictate that the weekly MidTown Jazz at Midday, under St. Peter's Church in Manhattan, be suspended from the end of May. The 16-piece Harmonie Jazz Ensemble, featuring the music of Miles Davis/Gil Evans, was booked for May 21. Wednesday sessions with leading artists were expected to resume in early September, announced pianist-vocalist and producer Ronnie Whyte.
Home again in Denmark, John Tchicai, the African-Danish-American composer and saxophonist, took a late-April mini-tour, culminating in a sextet concert at the Gentofte main library, near Copenhagen. Unofficial audience rating: 5-stars. A pickup sextet, with Tchicai on tenor sax and bass clarinet, had his Dutch wife, Margriet Tchicai, on piano; composer Bjørn Bech, alto sax; Martin Dam, trumpet; Peter Danstrup, bass, and Stefan Pasborg, drums. Tchicai has recorded with both John Coltrane (Ascension) and John Lennon/Yoko Ono (Life with Lions), and worked with Carla and Paul Bley and Lee Konitz. Based in Claira, France, he is the first recipient of a lifetime grant for jazz performance from his native Denmark. Details and sound bites: johntchicai.com
Lorraine Foster, the Vancouver vocalist called Canada's "first lady of jazz," was to visit New York in May to explore the scene. Foster said she hoped to meet and discuss New Jersey prospects with New Jersey Jazz Society ambassador Joe Lang. In the TD Canada Trust International Jazz Festival, she is booked to sing June 25 at a leading hometown venue, Rossini's Pasta Restaurant. Backing her are Doug Louie on piano, Mark Wardrop on bass, and Rossini's owner Arnie May on drums. Lorraine, whose voice range and delivery are uncannily like those of the late Rosemary Clooney, planned to do "several songs that Rosemary recorded for the Concord label." More at LorraineFosterjazzsinger.com
And if you love good jazz singers, Lorraine urges you to lend an ear to a 13-year-old Montreal sensation. Nikki Yanofsky recorded at 12 and has performed with Herbie Hancock and Canada's Oliver Jones. "You will be as amazed as I am at her incredible talent," says Lorraine. On Nikki's website you can hear the budding teenager scatting Ella Fitzgerald tunes. Adds Foster: "I always believed in reincarnation to a point, but now I am beginning to think it is possible." Click on nikkionline.ca, listen to her, and tell us what you think.
A 4-CD box titled 4 Jokers in the Pack by the mainstream German quartet Echoes of Swing, was awarded the 2007 Grand Prix du Disque de Jazz by the Hot Club de France this spring. "As I understand it, the awards committee reviewed all the international CD issues for the entire year 2007that's why the award was made in spring of 2008," Chris Hopkins, the group's alto saxophonist and leader, told me. Hopkins, 36, a German-American, is a native of Princeton, NJ. He formed his first band as a pianist at age 13, and organized Echoes of Swing in 1997, after his family moved to Germany. Inspired by Swing legends Johnny Hodges and Benny Carter, he took up the saxophone. The quartet's pianist, Bernd Lhotzky, has performed with New Jersey favorites Bucky Pizzarelli, Kenny Davern, Randy Sandke and Warren Vache.