Another team of superheroes has assembled, these of a more musical sort. The Jazz Journalists Association, a non-profit organization of media professionals, has announced its annual list of “Jazz Heroes.” Artists and individuals that exert significant musical influence on their communities—whether they’re musicians or not—these heroes will be celebrated in 20 U.S. locales throughout April, which has been designated Jazz Appreciation Month.
From Atlanta to Washington State, Minnesota’s Twin Cities to New Orleans, the San Francisco Bay Area to Brooklyn, individuals that the JJA identified as “activists, advocates, altruists, aiders and abettors of jazz” will receive engraved statuettes at public presentations, often accompanied by official proclamations from municipal or state officials, continuing a tradition of recognition stemming back to 2001.
This year’s roster includes Jazz Heroes of immigrant backgrounds and descent—San Diego trumpeter-band director-mentor Gilbert Castellanos, for instance, and Asian Improv aRts co-founders Jon Jang and Francis Wong—as well as women who are changing the sound of jazz (Chicago’s improvising cellist Tomeka Reid), documenting it (photographer/historian Andrea Canter of Minneapolis/St. Paul, Judith Korey of the Felix Grant Jazz Archives) and sustaining its humanitarian legacy (Fran Morris Rosman of the Ella Fitzgerald Charitable Foundation).
Tallahassee hero Adam Gaffney teaches jazz appreciation from his special perspective as a blind listener. There are veteran presenters such as Jack Kleinsinger (producing Highlights in Jazz in Manhattan for 45 years), Marty Ashby (30-year executive producer of MCG Jazz in Pittsburgh), Viola Plummer (22 years running Sistas’ Place in Brooklyn’s Bedford-Stuyvesant neighborhood), Sam Yi (formerly of Atlanta’s Churchill Downs) and Jason Patterson of New Orleans’ Snug Harbor.
The organization will also recognize entrepreneurial musicians including pianists Wayne Horvitz (Seattle) and Darrell Grant (Portland, Oregon), as well as broadcasters and journalists (Lew Shaw, W. Kim Heron, J. Michael Harrison and Richard Henderson).
Organizations collaborating on Jazz Hero events this year include the Kimmel Center for the Performing Arts (Philadelphia), the Mason Tavern (Atlanta), Jazz in the Neighborhood (San Francisco), Experimental Sound Studio (Chicago), B Sharps Jazz Café (Tallahassee), Black Dog Coffee and WIne Bar (St. Paul), Portland PDX Jazz Festival, the Arizona Classic Jazz Society, the International Jazz Day AZ Foundation and the Calvin Jones Big Band Festival at University of District of Columbia.
Sponsors of the Jazz Heroes initiative and the subsequent 21st-annual JJA Jazz Awards include the Jazz Foundation of America, the Jazz Institute of Chicago, Brother Thelonious Belgian Style Abbey Ale, the Ella Fitzgerald Charitable Foundation, Century Media Partners, Sunnyside Records, Scott Thompson Public Relations, High Note/Savant Records, Motéma Music, Braithwaite & Katz Communications, Thirsty Ear Records, Jazz Promo Services and the Tucson Jazz Festival.
For further information on the 2017 Jazz Heroes and to view a complete list of winners, visit jjajazzawards.org. DB