1999 Jazz Awards
by Howard Mandel
The 1999 Jazz Awards, held Monday, June 14, in New York City, came off splendidly—celebrating all jazz musicians and jazz music, as well as some worthy jazz journalists. It was a loose event, hot and humid in the draperied hall where about 500 members of the jazz corps convened on folding chairs.
It began just before sunset on the veranda of the South Street Seaport Atrium, overlooking the East River. With the Manhattan, Williamsburg and 59th Street bridges as a backdrop, I announced winners of the Jazz Journalists Association's awards for excellence, and presented them with their engraved crystal pyramid awards:
The show, which was videotaped by BET, suffered some slight technical glitches and a fair amount of excited chaos. But, like last year, it was a highly gratifying event with great musical numbers (Roy Haynes and Kenny Garrett duet; Equal Interest with Joseph Jarman, Leroy Jenkins and Myra Melford; the Terence Blanchard Quintet; and Roy Hargrove's band, Medeski tearing up acoustic grand piano with Martin and Wood), a well-paced host (Paul Shaffer), spontaneous presenters (Dewey Redman, Joe Zawinul), humbled winners [Dave Douglas, who took home four(!) awards], tasty refreshments, lots of schmoozing amongs friends and associates, and stars beaming through an overcast night.
Gary Giddins, received the Helen Oakley Dance/Robert Palmer Award for excellence in print; William Gottlieb, received the Lona Foote/Bob Parent Award for excellence in photography; Dr. Billy Taylor, received the Marian McPartland/Willis Conover Award for excellence in broadcasting.
Sue Mingus accepted the award for Best Jazz Film/Video of the Year for the documentary: "Mingus—Triumph of the Underdog."
Lee Mergener accepted the award for Best Publications/Website for monthly JazzTimes magazine.
Visions of Jazz (Oxford University Press) by Gary Giddins won the award for Jazz Book of the Year.
Stanley Dance was honored, posthumously, with a Lifetime Achievement Award; it was accepted by his son, Francis Dance.
The Knitting Factory also came through with physical awards to deliver to our winners of last year: Whitney Balliet for excellence in print, William Claxton for excellence in photography, and Marian McPartland for excellence in broadcasting. I handled this as expeditiously as possible, but took time to mention that the deaths of Stanley Dance, Euguene Kalbacher (editor-publisher of Hot House, a NY/NJ-based publication) and Jamil "J.B." Figi, noted Chicago jazz historian and poet, have been a loss to everyone in our field.
Then we entered the atrium and settled in for the two-plus hours of presentations. The presenters and awardees were sometimes interchangeable—Andy Bey got his award from Cassandra Wilson, Cassandra Wilson got her award from Andy Bey.
But just to see, greet, for a minute hang with all the musicians, devoted listeners and serious jazz business people who seemed pleased to be involved—the Brecker brothers Michael and Randy together, or Herbie Hancock just receiving a well-deserved honor for "Gershwin's World," Milt Hinton, Lou Donaldson, Milt Jackson and Stefon Harris, Diane Hubka, Steve Slagle, John Stubblefield, Bob Belden and Bob Porter, Lewis Porter, Dan Morgenstern, Ira Gitler, Drew Wheeler, Milkowski, Bruce Lundvall, Larry Blumenfeld, Bob Blumenthal, Mary Fiance Fuss from Jazz at Lincoln Center, Al Pryor, Don Lucoff, George Wein—dozens of other folks—Zawinul hugging Wayne Shorter, and repeating in wonder, "I haven't seen this guy for four years, to see him again makes it one of the best nights of my life!—this was a blast."
A giant-sized check made out from Knit Media to the Jazz Foundation of America in the amount of $10,000 was presented onstage by Knitting Factory principal Michael Dorf to JFA chairman Herb STouffer. They'll use it to create a program named in honor of Thomas Chapin that will provide funds for emergency and supplimental health care to younger musicians.
A lot of JJA members worked on this event—Neil Tesser, Karen Bennett, Art Lange, Thierry Permarti with ideas for the ballot; Arnold Jay Smith at laborious public relations duties; Whit Blauvelt on the JJA website, Michelle Mercer posted fest reports and helped give the awards away; Jimmy Katz and his wife Dini photographed the congregation of nominees; James Hale collaborated on Paul Schaffer's script and I assumed many roles in organizing the balloting process.
The winners were voted on by a body of jazz journalists (450 ballots sent out), the Knit Media industry panel (approx 100 ballots sent out) and the musicians nominated this year and last. All the winners are listed below—but not all the nominees (however, they're still listed on the www.jazzhouse.org bulletin board.)
Sonny Rollins—Lifetime Achievement
Dave Douglas—Musician of the Year
Gershwin's World—Herbie Hancock—Album of the Year
Dave Douglas—Composer of the Year
Cloud of Red Dust—Stefon Harris—Recording Debut of the Year
Dave Holland Quintet—Combo of the Year
Mingus Big Band—Big Band of the Year
1965-68 Miles Davis Quintet— Reissue of the Year
Olu Dara—Stylistic Fusion Artist/Band of the Year
Pat Metheny—Radio Friendly Jazz Artist of the Year
Dave Douglas—Innovator/Explorer of the Year
Dave Douglas—Trumpeter of the Year
Kenny Garrett—Alto Saxophonist of the Year
Joe Lovano—Tenor Saxophonist of the Year
Steve Lacy—Other Reed Instrumentalist of the Year
Steve Turre—Trombonist of the Year
Kenny Barron—Pianist of the Year
Bill Frisell—Guitarist of the Year
Dave Holland—Bassist of the Year
Billy Higgins—Drummer of the Year
Milt Jackson—Vibraphonist/Percussionist of the Year
Regina Carter—Performer on Unusual Instrument (for Jazz) of the Year
Andy Bey—Male Singer of the Year
Cassandra Wilson—Female Singer of the Year
Mingus Big Band—Band on Tour of the Year
Howard Mandel, a former editor of Downbeat—former Chicagoan, now in New York—heads the Jazz Journalists' Association.