Why we changed some award categories this year

Ken Dryden, Chairman of the JJA Jazz Awards Ballot Committee, explains why some awards categories were expanded and others combined for this year's voting.

Ken Dryden
JJA Nominations Ballot Chairman:

"Having chaired the Ballot Committee for several years, I've heard a number of discussion points about expanding or contracting award categories. Here are some of the reasons for changes which took place this year:

· The acoustic and electric bass categories are now combined. There never have been separate listings for electric and acoustic guitar, while many artists who play electric bass also play the larger instrument.

· Jazz DVDs are included once more. The number of recent and historical videotaped performances being issued has exploded, meriting their return to the awards.

· Single/double CD reissues, historical releases (including first time issues, or mostly so, of music recorded 35 years ago or more) and larger boxed sets are now combined in one category. Some labels keep releasing the same music over and over again, sometimes with slightly different packaging and maybe a new track or two over earlier reissues, while some boxed sets have shrunk in size and been reissued (the latter which are no longer eligible for awards, as it makes no sense to honor a "best of" set condensed from a larger boxed set which preceded it).

· Best Latin Jazz CD has been dropped as a separate category, with the reason being that other individual jazz styles are not given their own awards. Latin Jazz continues to have a major impact and we believe members will still consider these releases for Jazz CD of the year.

· The Strings of the Year category is now dedicated to violin exclusively, with nominees for viola, cello and other string instruments (aside from bass and guitar) now eligible in the Instruments Rare in Jazz category. The logic is that there are numerous jazz violinists compared to those who play viola or cello.

· Best Liner Notes is now on the ballot, giving annotators an opportunity to be recognized for their research, significant insight and commentary about new releases, historical recordings, boxed sets or reissues.

· There was some brief discussion about whether or not The Willis Conover–Marian McPartland Award for Broadcasting and The Lona Foote–Bob Parent Award for Photography should be one-time only awards. The likelihood that these honors would rotate between only a handful of winners makes it essential that a wider scope of broadcasters and photographers be considered, much like the Lifetime Award for Jazz Journalism.

In summation, the JJA Jazz Awards is intended to reflect our organization and not simply be a carbon copy of other jazz awards.

The ballot committee -- this year including Neil Tesser, Laurence Donohue-Greene, Joseph Petrucelli and Howard Mandel, and also last year's committee chair Chris Kelsey -- deserve thanks for their work on the annual Jazz Awards. Refinements of the JJA Jazz Awards ballot will be considered again next year. Send inquiries to me at jazzjournalist@yahoo.com   "

Ken Dryden, Chattanooga

Columnist, AllAboutJazz.com (Not for Sale, Ask Ken, AAJ Jazz Trivia Quiz); contributor, AllAboutJazz-New York, All Music Guide, Coda, Hot House, Cadence, The Jazz Link, The Jazz Review; broadcaster ("Timeless Jazz," WUTC-FM), liner note writer. JJA member since 1999