The Jazz Journalists Association has announced more than 200 finalist nominees in 39 categories of excellence in music creation and music journalism from which winners will be chosen for the JJA's 15th annual JJA Jazz Awards.
The winners in each category will chosen by the votes of the professional journalist members of the JJA, the non-profit professional organization of jazz writers, broadcasters, photographers and new media producers.
The winners will be announced at a benefit Gala at City Winery in New York City on June 11, 2011, from 1 to 5 pm EDT. The Gala, with Awards presentations and featured musical performances, will be video streamed live online at jjaJazzAwards.org and simultaneously celebrated with satellite parties thrown by jazz fans and grass roots organizations in cities around the U.S. and elsewhere.
This year's Jazz Awards nominees demonstrate the musical vigor of jazz's elders as well the fresh spirits of its new stars: In the Musician of the Year award category, for example, tenor sax legend Sonny Rollins, age 80, vies with 26-year-old bassist/ vocalist Esperanza Spalding (who received the 2011 Grammy for "Best New Artist" ).
The other nominees in this category are pianist Jason Moran, saxophonist Joe Lovano and pianist Vijay Iyer, more evidence that this year’s nominations span generations and a vast range of personal styles, too.
Moran, 36 years old and winner in 2010 of a prestigious MacArthur fellowship, is nominated for five 2011 JJA Jazz Awards in all -- as Musician, Pianist and Composer of the Year, for Record of the Year with his album Ten and for leading the Small Ensemble of the Year, The Bandwagon.
"The finalists for 2011 Jazz Awards prove that jazz is a lifetime music," said Howard Mandel, president of the Jazz Journalists Association, about the ballot. "Get good when you're young, stick with it and the music gets even better."
Further proof: Octogenerians Muhal Richard Abrams, Jimmy Heath, Paul Motian, 79-year-old Phil Woods and 78-year-old Wayne Shorter are nominees for the JJA's Lifetime Achievement in Jazz (Heath and Randy Weston have both written autobiographies nominated for Book of the Year). Trumpeter Ambrose Akinmusire (27), saxophonist Darius Jones (32), pianist Gerald Clayton (26), and saxophonist Jon Irabagon (32) are nominees for Up and Coming Artist of the Year. The venerable yet evergreen Vanguard Jazz Orchestra, founded around 1965, and last year's Jazz Awards winning Darcy James Argue's Secret Society, formed in 2006, are nominated for Large Ensemble of the Year with Wynton Marsalis' Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra, the John Hollenbeck Large Ensemble, Maria Schneider Orchestra and Mingus Big Band.
Crooner Freddie Cole, age 80, faces off with 38-year-old, recent-on-the-scene Gregory Porter, and Kurt Elling, Giacomo Gates and Bobby McFerrin for Male Singer of the Year. Nominees for Female Singer of the Year are Cassandra Wilson, Dee Dee Bridgewater, Gretchen Parlato, Rebecca Martin and Roberta Gambarini.
Nominations for the JJA's 2011 Jazz Awards were filed by more than 60 professional JJA members over a month-long voting period. Most Awards are for albums issued or music performed from March 15, 2010 to March 15, 2011, although Lifetime Achievement Awards for Jazz and in Jazz Journalism are also presented. Nominees for Lifetime Achievement in Jazz Journalism Award are Amiri Baraka (also writing as Leroi Jones), Ben Ratliff of the New York Times, author and freelance writer Bill Milkowski, and author/New York Post columnist Stanley Crouch.
For the first time, the JJA is presenting an award for Shortform Online Jazz Video of the Year. There is also an award for Photo of the Year.
The JJA Jazz Awards are the most highly visible jazz honors in the U.S. for recent work; the Awards themselves, engraved statuettes, have become objects of admiration since Awards were first given in 1997.
The JJA's Jazz Awards Gala is a fundraiser for the nonprofit JJA's ongoing operations, which include training of and advocacy for journalists working in all forms of media. At the Gala a coterie of "activists, advocates, aiders and abettors of jazz" who comprise the JJA's "A Team," and roster of community Jazz Heroes, from around the country, will be introduced. There honorees will be announced in an upcoming press release, as will information about satellite parties held by grass-roots organizers all over (2010 parties were in Albuquerque, Berkeley, Chicago, Scottsdale and Seattle).
Tickets for the general public to attend the Jazz Awards Gala at City Winery on June 11 go on sale on May 2 at JJAJazzAwards.org.