Bartz, Blanchard, Myers, Jenkins Named NEA Jazz Masters

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Gary Bartz, Terence Blanchard, Amina Claudine Myers and Willard Jenkins have been named recipients of the 2024 NEA Jazz Masters Fellowships. The honors, awarded for more than 40 years by the National Endowment for the Arts, are given to individuals who have made exceptional contributions to the advancement of jazz. The honorees will each receive an award of $25,000 and will be celebrated with a free concert in Washington, D.C., on April 13, 2024, staged in collaboration with the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts.

“Jazz is one of our nation’s most significant artistic contributions to the world, and the NEA is proud to recognize individuals whose creativity and dedication ensure that the art form continues to evolve and inspire new audiences and practitioners,” said Maria Rosario Jackson, NEA chair.

Gary Bartz, a purveyor of informal composition (as opposed to improvisation), has been one of the leading alto saxophonists on the scene since the 1960s, working with the likes of Max Roach, Charles Mingus, Art Blakey and Miles Davis. He has released more than 45 albums as a leader and appeared on more than 200 as a guest artist or sideman.

Terence Blanchard, a seven-time Grammy winner, has been a force in jazz for more than 40 years. A distinguished alumnus of Art Blakey & the Jazz Messengers, Blanchard went on to write film scores for many directors, most famously Spike Lee, as well as tour and perform with his own groups and as a sideman. Blanchard’s work has gone far beyond jazz into composing for television and film, conceiving grand operas and collaborating with dance companies.

Amina Claudine Myers has honed her craft as a composer for voice and instruments, often displaying gospel influences. From her beginnings as a member of the Association for the Advancement of Creative Musicians (AACM), she moved to New York City in the 1970s, where Myers gave her compositional work priority and began taking on theatrical production projects.

Willard Jenkins, this year’s recipient of the A.B. Spellman NEA Jazz Masters Fellowship for Jazz Advocacy, has been involved in jazz as a writer, broadcaster, educator, historian, artistic director and arts consultant since the 1970s. He is major voice in promulgating the music and its importance to American culture. Currently the artistic director of the DC Jazz Festival and host of the Ancient/Future program on DC’s WPFW radio station, Jenkins is an authority on the local as well as national jazz scene.

“Gary Bartz’s saxophone has blazed trails with his dynamic phraseology and iconic tone for decades — he is representative for the truth in music,” said Jason Moran, Kennedy Center artistic director for jazz. “Terence Blanchard does it all, from the trumpet to the screen with a singular genius. Amina Claudine Myers has devoted endless time and energy to creating a new canon in the AACM, and when she’s at the keys, soul pours freely from her voice and fingers. And, Willard Jenkins has wielded his pen to be a passionate amplifier for the music and the musician.” DB



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