NEA Announces Jazz Master Fellowships
Posted 6/25/2014

The National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) has announced the recipients of the 2015 Jazz Master fellowships, honored for their “lifetime achievements and exceptional contributions to the advancement of jazz.” The recipients are musicians Carla Bley, George Coleman and Charles Lloyd, along with club owner Joe Segal.

A keyboardist and bandleader, Bley is one of jazz’s most celebrated composers and arrangers. A native of Oakland, Calif., she has written music for big bands, choirs, chamber orchestras and small combos.

Among Bley’s previous honors are a Guggenheim Fellowship for music composition (1972), the German Jazz Trophy “A Life for Jazz” (2009), and honorary doctorates from L’Université de Toulouse-Le Mirail (2012) and the New England Conservatory (2014).

“To receive the NEA Jazz Masters award is a great and unexpected honor,” Bley said. “I can think of many musicians who deserve this award, and won’t be getting it. Luckily, I’m not one of them.”

Saxophonist, composer and educator George Coleman has enjoyed a long, distinguished career that has included collaborations with B.B. King, Max Roach, Slide Hampton, Betty Carter and Elvin Jones. In 1963, Coleman joined Miles Davis’ quintet, which included pianist Herbie Hancock, bassist Ron Carter and drummer Tony Williams.

Besides leading his own groups, Coleman, a native of Memphis, Tenn., has made a name for himself as a jazz educator. During the past 30 years, he has held teaching positions at Mannes College The New School for Music, Long Island University and New York University, in addition to conducting master classes at universities nationwide.

Saxophonist, flutist and composer Charles Lloyd, also a Memphis native, performed with Coleman as a teenager. Later he moved to Los Angeles and graduated from the University of Southern California.

Among the blues artists Lloyd has collaborated with are King, Howlin’ Wolf and Bobby “Blue” Bland. Jazz artists who have benefited from Lloyd’s remarkable playing and improvisational creativity include Gerald Wilson, Ornette Coleman, Bobby Hutcherson, Chico Hamilton and Cannonball Adderley.

By 1965 Lloyd had left Adderley to form his own quartet, featuring pianist Keith Jarrett, drummer Jack DeJohnette and bassist Cecil McBee. The quartet’s album Forest Flower: Live At Monterey in 1966 became one of the first jazz recordings to sell a million copies. Lloyd’s band made headlines in 1967 when it played in the Soviet Union at the invitation of a group of Soviet jazz writers.

Since 1989, Lloyd has recorded for the ECM label, and in recent years has collaborated with pianist Jason Moran and percussionist Zakir Hussain.

Lloyd’s previous honors include a “Brass Note” on Beale Street in Memphis in 2012, an Award of Merit from the city of Tallinn, Estonia, and the Miles Davis Award from the Festival International de Jazz de Montreal, Canada, both in 2013, and the Alfa Jazz Fest International Music Award in 2014.

Segal is the recipient of the 2015 A.B. Spellman NEA Jazz Masters Award for Jazz Advocacy, which is given to “an individual who has contributed significantly to the appreciation, knowledge and advancement of the art form of jazz.”

Since 1947, Segal has been presenting jazz musicians in performance in Chicago. From his early days as a college presenter to decades spent as impresario of his Jazz Showcase club, Segal has been integral to giving jazz greats a performance platform. Despite downturns in the popularity of jazz and downturns in the economy, Segal has prevailed. His Jazz Showcase is still presenting jazz seven days a week, now under the auspices of his son Wayne.

Segal, a native of Philadelphia, served in the Air Force. He relocated to Chicago to attend Roosevelt University on the G.I. Bill. At Roosevelt, Segal joined the university’s jazz club in 1947 and soon was running afternoon live jazz sessions that featured musicians he had met working at commercial jazz venues.

The Jazz Showcase, which has been housed in numerous locations, has been one of the nation’s top jazz clubs for decades. Among the musicians who have recorded live albums there are Louie Bellson, Ahmad Jamal and Danilo Pérez.

The NEA will honor the 2015 Jazz Masters at an awards ceremony and concert at Jazz at Lincoln Center in New York on April 20, 2015. The concert will take place in April to coincide with Jazz Appreciation Month.

More information is posted at the NEA website.


Charles Lloyd is among the recipients of the 2015 Jazz Master fellowships. (Photo: D. Darr)


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