Monday, April 3, 2017

Jazz: The Last Jazz Masters?

-NY Times
The National Endowment for the Arts will hand out prizes to five jazz luminaries on Monday in the 35th annual N.E.A. Jazz Masters award ceremony. But a thread of anxiety is likely to run through the proceedings at the Kennedy Center in Washington.

President Trump’s budget proposal last month called for eliminating the endowment entirely — the first time any president has proposed such a step. While some members of Congressin his own Party have opposed the move, it is a reminder of the agency’s vulnerability.

 This year’s Jazz Masters — the vocalist Dee Dee Bridgewater, the organist Dr. Lonnie Smith, the pianist and composer Dick Hyman, the bassist Dave Holland and the jazz historian Ira Gitler — each received their award’s $25,000 cash portion last year.

Ms. Bridgewater, a three-time Grammy winner, is known not only as a musician but also as the host of “JazzSet,” a program on NPR that ran for over 20 years and often received endowment funding. The show was canceled in 2014, partly because of difficulties finding funds, Ms. Bridgewater said — two years after it received its last endowment grant.

The endowment also backs festivals across the country, including the Savannah Jazz Festival in Georgia, where Mr. Smith will perform this year, and the Alcorn State University Jazz Festival, in Mississippi, where this month Ramsey Lewis, a 2007 Jazz Master, will perform and teach a class.

 Each year since 2004 the endowment has awarded an A. B. Spellman N.E.A. Jazz Masters Award for Jazz Advocacy to one nonmusician. Last year it went to Wendy Oxenhorn, who runs the Jazz Foundation of America. Her group supports elderly or infirm jazz musicians, often in the form of free health care or financial assistance. It relies partly on endowment funding.

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