Bridgewater, Holland Among NEA 2017 Jazz Masters


Dee Dee Bridgewater (pictured), Dave Holland, Dr. Lonnie Smith, Dick Hyman and Ira Gitler have been named the 2017 National Endowment for the Arts Jazz Masters.

(Photo: Courtesy of the artist)

The National Endowment for the Arts has announced the 2017 Jazz Masters Fellows. Vocalist Dee Dee Bridgewater, bassist Dave Holland, pianist Dick Hyman, organist Dr. Lonnie Smith and writer/educator Ira Gitler will be this year’s recipients of the nation’s highest honor in jazz.

The NEA Jazz Masters fellows are recognized for their lifetime achievements and exceptional contributions to the advancement of jazz. Each will receive a $25,000 award and be honored at a tribute concert on April 3, 2017, produced in collaboration with the Kennedy Center.

Bridgewater, a Tony- and Grammy-winning vocalist, began her jazz career as the lead vocalist for the Thad Jones-Mel Lewis Orchestra in New York in the 1970s. She went on to perform and record with such giants as Dizzy Gillespie, Sonny Rollins, Max Roach and Dexter Gordon.

A longtime advocate of jazz education and global outreach, Bridgewater served as host of the award-winning National Public Radio show JazzSet with Dee Dee Bridgewater from 2001 to 2014 and was named ambassador to the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization in 1999.

An accomplished composer and bandleader, Holland has fashioned a career that spans nearly five decades, in which he has performed alongside artists as diverse as Miles Davis, Anthony Braxton, Chris Potter and Robin Eubanks. His 2014 duo album with pianist Kenny Barron, The Art Of Conversation (Impulse!), was voted among the Jazz Albums of the Year in the 2015 DownBeat Critics and Readers Polls.

Hyman is a piano virtuoso known for his comprehensive knowledge of jazz history and his ability to perform numerous styles with meticulous accuracy. He served as the soundtrack composer and arranger for more than a dozen Woody Allen films and helped launch the acclaimed Jazz in July series at the 92nd Street Y in New York, where he served as the series’ artistic director for 20 years.

Smith’s career as a jazz organist spans more than 50 years, during which he has been featured on more than 70 jazz, blues and r&b recordings, appearing alongside guitarist George Benson, saxophonist Lou Donaldson and many others. A pioneer of the soul-jazz genre, Smith’s latest disc, Evolution, was released on the Blue Note label in 2016 to critical acclaim.

Gitler is the recipient of the 2017 A.B. Spellman NEA Jazz Masters Award for Jazz Advocacy, which is awarded to an individual who has made significant contributions to the appreciation and advancement of jazz. A journalist, producer and educator, he has written for numerous jazz publications throughout his career, serving as associate editor of DownBeat during the 1960s. In the 1980s and ’90s he produced concerts for George Wein’s New York jazz festivals.

“For 35 years, the National Endowment for the Arts has celebrated jazz, one of our nation’s most important cultural contributions, by honoring those who have dedicated their lives to this music,” said NEA Chairman Jane Chu. “I am pleased to welcome these five individuals with their artistry, energy and commitment to jazz to the NEA Jazz Masters family.”

A free concert honoring the 2017 NEA Jazz Masters will be presented on April 3, 2017, at the Kennedy Center’s Concert Hall. It will also be available through a live web stream. This concert will be open to the public.

To watch a video of the 2016 NEA Jazz Masters Tribute Concert, which also took place at the Kennedy Center, click here.

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