2013 Jazz Heroes

2014 Jazz Heroes 

JJA 'Jazz Heroes' are activists, advocates, altruists, aiders and abettors of jazz who have had significant impact in their local communities. The 'Jazz Hero' awards, made on the basis of nominations from community members, are presented in conjunction with the  Jazz Journalists Association's annual Jazz Awards honoring significant achievements in jazz music and journalism. 

click name for Hero's story 
1.Beegie Adair-Nashville,TN
2.Craig Alston- Baltimore, MD
3.Robbin Ahrold- New York City
4.Scotty Barnhart- Tallahassee, FL
5.Marcus Belgrave, Detroit
6.Karl Berger & Ingrid Sertso- Woodstock, NY.
7.Mwata Bowden- Chicago
8.Sonny Buxton- San Francisco Bay Area
9.Arni Cheatham- Boston
10.Tim Coakley- Schenectady, NY
11.Roddy Ellias- Ottawa, Canada
12.Jeff Haskell- Tucson, AZ
13.Willard Jenkins- Washington, DC
14,Edward "Kidd" Jordan- New Orleans
15.Randall Kline- Western Jazz Presenters Network Jazz Hero
16.Marty Liquori- Gainesville, FL
17.Lissa May- Bloomington, IN
18.Jim Miller- Philadelphia
19.Dr. James Hardy Patterson- Atlanta
20.Dr. James Polk– Austin, TX
21.Julian Priester- Seattle
22.Bill Royston- Portland OR
23.Ken Tittelbaugh– Nogales, AZ
24.Jim Wadsworth- Cleveland
25.Melissa Walker- Newark, NJ

Beegie Adair-- Nashville, Tennessee

Pianist Beegie Adair may seem an unlikely Jazz Hero. She is well known as a highly accomplished and popular instrumentalist, amply rewarded for her studio work, recordings and performances, enjoying her status as a Steinway artist.

However, Beegie Adair has also been one of the handful of jazz artists to emerge from Kentucky and Tennessee environs and sustain an international career while remaining in the region. As a member of the board and faculty of Nashville's Jazz Workshop, she continues to advance local musicians and the jazz scene here in ways considerably beyond the requisites of her work. And she provides significant identifiable focal points as well as an introduction into jazz's interpretive traditions with projects such as her Centennial Composers Collection of melodies by Rodgers, Gershwin, Kern, Ellington, Carmichael and Berlin, her self-described Cocktail Party Jazz and Jazz & The Movies albums, her emphasis on mainstream lyricism and jazz's connections with good old romance.

Growing up in tiny Cave City, Kentucky (about 100 miles south of Louisville; the nearest "big" city is Bowling Green), Beegie began taking piano lessons at age five, kept at it throughout college, and earned a B.S. in Music Education at Bowling Green's Western State University. She played in jazz bands, for three years taught music to children, then moved to Nashville, where she became a session musician, working at WSM-TV and on The Johnny Cash Show (1969-71), accompanying everyone from Chet Atkins and Dolly Parton to Mama Cass Elliott and Peggy Lee.

With her husband bassist Billy Adair, also a Nashville music industry ace and now senior lecturer of jazz, directing the Blair Big Band Program at Vanderbilt University, she began a jingle company; in 1982 she and saxophonist Denis Solee put together the Adair-Solee Quartet, which became the Be-Bop Co-Op sextet. Her first album under her own name, in trio with bassist Bob Cranshaw and drummer Gregory Hutchinson, was titled Escape to New York. Citing George Shearing, Bill Evans, Oscar Peterson and Erroll Garner as influences, Adair has continued recording prodigiously. In 2010 she was the top selling jazz musician in Japan with three albums in Soundscan's Top 10.

Adair has hosted Improvised Thoughts, a radio talk/music show on Nashville's NPR affiliate, with guests including Marian McPartland -- who returned the favor, twice featuring Beegie on her own show, Piano Jazz. And Beegie stills tours indefatigably. In January 2012 she debuted at Birdland in Manhattan with Nashville-based singer Monica Ramey, with whom she's recorded. I wrote about them in Nashville Scene: "Beegie is a vocalist's pianist," Ramey responds when asked what she likes about working with Adair. "She knows lyrics. She's thoughtful about musical conversations, and she creates so many avenues. If I just take the right approach, I know she'll provide me with what I need."

Steve Cerra wrote in his Jazz Profiles blog, "In an ideal world, Monica and Beegie would be appearing together at a supper club near you every weekend. Of course, bassist Roger Spencer and drummer Chris Brown would have to be there, too." Spencer and his wife Lori Meacham, co-directors of the Nashville Jazz Workshop, were named JJA Jazz Heroes in 2011. The JJA is pleased to this year add Beegie Adair to its Jazz Heroes roster.

--Ron Wynn
Beegie Adair  received her Jazz Hero Award at a party in Nashville on April 30.

Craig Alston-- Baltimore, Maryland

Craig Alston, Baltimore multi-instrumentalist and genre-leaper, practices jazz advancement and preaches it, too. He's best known as saxophonist for the world/soul band Fertile Ground, which he joined while attending Morgan State University. However, Craig has worked with many progressive lions (Larry Willis, David Murray, Oliver Lake, Jimmy Heath), recorded with the Basement Boys and singers Angela Johnson, Julie Dexter, Deborah Bonds, and for the past seven years led the Eubie Blake Legacy Band, sustaining the ragtime and early jazz composed by a fellow like himself, a Baltimore-born favorite son. A further association with Baltimore legends: Craig's ensemble The Syndicate won the 2010 Chick Webb Jazz Combo Competition presented by Artscape, billed as "America's largest free arts festival," held annually, and this year (its 32nd) scheduled for July 19 - 21. With Alan Blackman on piano, Romeir Mendez on bass and Warren Wolf playing drums, Craig performed "Stompin' at the Savoy" and "Simone" by Frank Foster, who he says is "one of my favorite saxophonists/composers/arrangers."

In addition to his performing career, Alston is devoted to jazz education, statewide: He's been music director and teacher for the Maryland Summer Center, the Maryland Dept. of Education-sponsored one-to-two week residence focusing on gifted students, 5 to 17 years old, in the arts, sciences, technology, engineering and world languages; taught at SAX, (Summer Activity Extraordinaire), and the Timothy Baptist Summer Music program, which addresses absolute beginners. He's currently teaching clarinet and saxophone for The Baltimore Symphony Orchestra Orchkids program.

Asked about his stylist breadth, Alston explains, "I genre-jump because I don't look at music based on genres. I think just about all music is important. Duke Ellington said there is good music and bad music. By playing in virtually every genre I get to share energy with some of the best musicians from each genre (jazz,r&b,hip-hop,gospel and etc). Also, as an educator I can lead by example. Some kids learn and respect you more if you can show them rather than tell them."

By extending the legacy of past jazz icons and imbuing the contemporary musical style of his work with jazz's imaginative, fecund essence, Alston bridges the past, the present and whatever the future may bring. His dedication to sharing this vision with today's youth, including his dream of returning to school to earn a full degree in Education so as to be able to open a Baltimore Jazz School, exemplifies the heroic spirit of jazz to speak to people of all ages and backgrounds.

 – Don Palmer

Baltimore Jazz Hero Craig Alston (center) received his award on April 19 from JJA Board Member Don Palmer (r) and Bob Jacobson (l)of Baltimore Jazz Society presented him with a Certificate of Special Recognition from U.S. Senator Benjamin Cardin. A full house was on hand at Phaze 10 for the ceremony and Craig's set. 
Photo by Patty Taylor, Chalet Photography.

Robbin Ahrold-- New York City

Robbin Ahrold, president of Century Media Partners and past Vice President, Corporate Relations for BMI (1986-2011), has been a staunch supporter of jazz in and outside of the communications industry and business world throughout his long and varied career. In addition, he has been an advocate for media-forward policies regarding music and copyright issues.

Among the most visible and personal of his ongoing contributions to the jazz world are the BMI Foundation’s Annual Charlie Parker Jazz Composition Prize, established at his urging in 2000,  and the BMI Jazz Composers Workshop, launched in 1988 by the late Manny Albam and conducted currently by composers Jim McNeely and Michael Abene. The Workshop, for which applications are solicited, results in an annual Summer Showcase concert held at Christ and St. Stephen’s Church, featuring the BMI/New York Jazz Ensemble, a 17-piece modern repertory orchestra. At the Showcase, the winner of the Parker Prize is selected based on the Ensemble’s reading of the work; a cash award accompanies the honor, as does a $3000 Manny Albam Commission to the winner to compose a work for the Ensemble to play at the next year’s Showcase.

Such projects, intended to have a practical and appreciable influence on the advancement of music (especially jazz) have been the mark of Robbin’s sure hand.  A board member of the Songwriters Hall of Fame, he chairs its Media Committee, overseeing its website and member publications, and also chairs its Education Committee, overseeing its Master Classes conducted by acclaimed songwriters at New York University, among other projects. Building on his early experience as a media business reporter for Time magazine, he has designed and executed public policy communications campaigns and has testified before Congress for the music and copyright industries. Ahrold is currently chair of the Communications Committee of FastTrack, an international technical alliance of copyright organizations developing a global database of musical work, and has been chair of the Communications Committee of CISAC (the International Confederation of Societies of Authors and Composers), an international policy organization advising on copyright isues.

He has worked on behalf of non-profit organizations for the National Endowment for the Arts, the Smithsonian Institution, and the Rhythm and Blues Foundation, among others. He’s a Governor of the New York Chapter of the Recording Academy, a voting member of the Rock ‘n’ Roll Hall of Fame, the Country Music Association, the Blue Foundation, the Broadcasters Foundation and the Gospel Music Association. Lest jazzers consider some of these connections apostatic: Robbin was also a consultant to the International Association of Jazz Educators (IAJE), has worked with the Thelonious Monk Institute of Jazz and sits on the advisory board of the Jazz Foundation of America. He has been a genial toastmaster at the Jazz Journalists Association’s annual Jazz Awards galas in New York City.

Robbin has often been able to use his knowledge and persuasive charm to implement progressive thinking and action, for example, exerting his understanding of digital technology to establish BMI’s website in 1994, even before Microsoft released Internet Explorer 1.0. Jazz needs more people like Robbin Ahrold who can take in the big picture as well as connect genuinely with the artistry and individuality of musicians and their audiences. With that in mind, the JJA enthusiastically applauds him as a Jazz Hero.

 – Howard Mandel
Robbin Ahrold will receive his Jazz Hero Award on at the JJA Media Awards party at the Blue Note Jazz Club in New York City on June 19.

Scotty Barnhart-- Tallahassee, Florida

Scotty Barnhart is an internationally acclaimed jazz trumpeter, authority on jazz trumpet history, lecturer at universities in South America, Japan, China, Europe, South Africa and across the U.S. Luckily for Tallahassee, this graduate of Florida A&M University with a degree in Music Education is also Professor of Jazz Trumpet at Florida State University. He may say on Facebook he lives in Los Angeles, but we are secure in this being another of his homes.

Barnhart first came to prominence in the quintet of pianist Marcus Roberts, a fellow FSU faculty member (and alum) in the late 1980s, at the time gaining acclaim such as this in the New York Times: "Barnhart bears watching…[he] laid out assured melodic lines in a singing, silvery tone." Since then Barnhart has branched out broadly, working with artists as disparate as Diana Krall and Tito Puente; for the past 20 years he's also been a featured soloist with the Count Basie Orchestra (now led by Dennis Mackrel). He found time to write a book, The World of Jazz Trumpet – A Comprehensive History and Practical Philosophy (Hal Leonard, 2005), that has been reviewed as "groundbreaking." He's also an avid photographer, with a portfolio of portraits that includes Lena Horne and his supportive colleague Wynton Marsalis (who guests on Barnhart's 2009 album Say It Plain, as does Scotty's idol, Clark Terry).

In autumn 2012, JJA member Owen Cordle interviewed Barnhart for the Hartford Courant, and found the trumpeter invoking the blessedness of his professional work. From his background, this is not surprising; having been baptised by the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Sr., and Christened by the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., Scotty's childhood, as Cordle writes, "was immersed in the rich, holy sounds of the black Baptist Church." His mother was a church pianist and singer, who "stressed the paramount importance of articulate expression in everything," and "For him, playing in the Basie Band is much more like a spiritual calling rather than just an excellent, prestigious gig."

Scotty is quoted as saying, "I've never looked at playing in The Basie Orchestra as a gig . . . To be called and asked to join an organization like this is the greatest gift that any musician can have." Opportunities are important, but to be prepared for them is essential, and strong preparation is what Scotty Barnhart personifies, passing the lesson on to his local students. He blows brilliantly and stands tall. We love our Jazz Hero.

 Gerri Seay

Tallahassee Jazz Hero Scotty Barnhart received his Award on April 15 at a party at B-Sharp's Jazz Club. Gerri Seay, proprietor and dedicated local jazz mover-and-shaker, holds the city Proclamation officially recognizing Jazz Appreciation Month and JJA Jazz Hero Scotty Barnhart.


Marcus Belgrave- Detroit

Marcus Belgrave is Detroit's internationally recognized trumpet great, who ever since arriving here in the mid 1960s has guided generations of young musicians from this city to find their ways with jazz. Born to musical if impoverished circumstances in Chester, Pennsylvania, Belgrave by age 6 was wild about Louis Armstrong, tutored in his teens by Clifford Brown, and made his first professional tour with the Ray Charles Orchestra at age 21. From 1958 to '63, at the height of its hit-making, Ray's band featured Marcus's soloing on some of its most famous albums and singles, and he was central to Charles' even jazzier small ensemble. After a New York City stint -- during which he recorded with Charles Mingus, Eric Dolphy, Max Roach, et al -- Belgrave settled in Detroit to become a Motown Records' staff trumpeter, educator and self-producing artist.

Ever since, he's been been the city's foremost jazz musician -- a "Detroit Jazz Masters," as Jazz at Lincoln Center billed him for a production that also featured Yusef Lateef, Ron Carter, Curtis Fuller, Charles McPherson and Geri Allen. Belgrave's most important local ventures have included his challenging '70s ensemble Tribe, his Jazz Development Workshop, his establishment of the Jazz Studies Program at the Detroit Metro Arts Complex, and a recent residency at Virgil H. Carr Cultural Arts Center. He has also done significant jazz outreach, in 1997 traveling with five other Michigan jazz masters to Egypt, Ivory Coast, Senegal, Syria, Tunisia, and Turkey in a cultural exchange program sponsored by the U.S. Agency for International Development, and from 2000 to 2007 leading an eight-member ensemble to 50 cities across America, performing his Tribute to Louis Armstrong in observance of the legendary trumpeter's 100th birthday. He currently  performs with singer Joan Belgrave, his wife, in a program of Dinah Washington repertoire, and his concert recording Lotty the Body's Mood will be released by Blue Note Records this year.

Belgrave has been officially named Jazz Master Laureate for the City of Detroit, and received the prestigious Kresge Eminent Artist Award in recognition of his nearly 50 years of service to the young. His local protégés have included Regina Carter, Robert Hurst, Kenny Garrett, Geri Allen, James Carter, Ray Parker Jr. and Ali Jackson, among many others. He's taught at the Stanford Jazz Workshop and Oberlin College Conservatory, but also, as JJA member Mark Stryker has written in the Detroit Free Press, he has been associated with "a string of community arts programs, school residencies and his own Jazz Development Workshop, shoestring operations supported by grit and grant money." Marcus Belgrave, with his horn and gentlemanly demeanor, has supplied a heros share of the grit, vision and wisdom.

--Greg Dunmore

Marcus Belgrave  received his Jazz Hero Award during an Jazz Day Tribute to Donald Byrd at Bakers Keyboard Lounge on April 30. Rayse Biggs, David Greene, and  Greg Dunmore were on hand to celebrate. Photo by Karen Fox.


Karl Berger and Ingrid Sertso-- Woodstock, New York

“Jazz Hero” is almost too limiting a term to apply to Karl Berger and Ingrid Sertso, the people who initiated the first Creative Music Studio workshops in Woodstock, New York 40 years ago. From the first, CMS presented all kinds of music: Indian bansuri flute virtuosity, Cagean conceptualism, the rhythmic practice Karl called “Gamala-TaKi,” even an hour in the afternoon devoted to silence and meditation (Ingrid’s idea). But jazz, in its terms of being open, innovative, adoptive and adaptable, spirited, unpredictable yet full of feeling, does seem to be at the core of the Creative Music Studio’s philosophy as it was at the base of its birth.

CMS was a music experience inspired by Ornette Coleman -- who wouldn’t give a workshop there “because then people would think I knew something” -- and Don Cherry, who Ornette called “the man with the elephant memory.” It was Cherry who had lured Karl and Ingrid from Europe (both of them born in Germany, both had begun musical careers there) to New York City, then became their Woodstock mainstay, attracting “guiding artists” and “participants” (not teachers and students) from all over the world sort of in the same way he drew melodies out of the sky with the short-wave radio and headphones he wore then, everyplace he went. Cherry may be considered the first prophet of “world music.” Karl Berger, with his doctoral degree and offhand brilliance improvising on vibes and piano, and his wife Ingrid, who sang as if influenced by Chet Baker and Marlene Dietrich, are the founders and bedrocks of CMS, an idea and a place aflame in the ‘70s, dimmed in the ‘80s, never completely gone and far from forgotten, now arising anew with a jazz-star studded intensive scheduled for May 20 to 24 at the Full Moon Resort, another Catskill hamlet not far from the original CMS site.

More explanation: the Creative Music Studio is an outgrowth of the Creative Music Foundation, a non-profit organization Berger and Sertso incorporated as instructed in 1971 by Carla Bley and Michael Mantler, on the order of their Jazz Composers Orchestra Association. Berger, who is heard making beautiful music with Gato Barbieri, Pharoah Sanders, J.F. Jenny-Clarke, Henry Grimes and Edward Blackwell on Don Cherry’s 1966 masterpiece Symphony for Improvisers, taught public school kids, adults at the New School, students in Frankfort (he is from Heidelberg, Ingrid from Munich) before arriving with Ingrid and their daughters in the town where the Woodstock festival wasn’t, but the try-anything musical ethos was.

They fostered a non-competitive, non-hierarchical climate, concentrating on musical fundamentals and processes rather than skills tied to specific vocabularies and styles. It turned into a community, which has been loose but self-sustaining. Early on they were joined by Dave Holland, Jack DeJohnette, Anthony Braxton, Frederic Rzewski, Nana Vasconcelos, the Art Ensemble of Chicago, Cecil Taylor, Abdullah Ibrahim and many others, who offered ideas and inspiration to a stellar generation of daring artists very active today. Many of the “participants” remained in the Woodstock area and several -- pianist Marilyn Crispell, flutist Steve Gorn, trumpeter Steven Bernstein, bassist Mark Helias, will be guiding artists next month.

This isn’t as far from the topic of Berger and Sertso’s “heroism” as it might seem, because the two of them have been able to keep a flicker of creative idealism productive even when politics and attitudes turned against that. They have both sustained personal careers, and the faith in their art to give a Creative improvisers Orchestra a try in New York City, starting just under two years ago. Their “try” was an enormous success; in 18 months they led an orchestra of 18 to 25 players, drawn from a rotating cast twice that size, in 45 open rehearsals followed by concert sets in Manhattan’s the Stone, the Jazz Gallery, El Taller (where they resume performances April 4) and Brooklyn’s Shapeshifter Lab. This is an improvising orchestra -- no sheet music is used, no set list imposed, the music flows organically, often with grandeur. Karl Berger and Ingrid Sertso learned at least as much as they taught during the initial decade of the Creative Music Studio, and have expanded on the discoveries they made, nurturing many other musicians, presenters, educators and listeners in the process. If that ain’t heroism -- but it is. Karl Berger and Ingrid Sertso, Jazz Heroes and creators, still.

 – Howard Mandel

Karl Berger and Ingrid Sertso perform at the April 29 party at Photosensualis in Woodstock, NY where they received their Jazz Heroes award. Photo: Susanna Ronner


Mwata Bowden– Chicago

Multi-instrumentalist Mwata Bowden was born in Memphis but has his roots in Chicago's jazz history. After training under legendary band director Capt. Walter Dyett at DuSable High School, studying the classics at Chicago's American Conservatory of Music, touring with the rhythm and blues band the Chi-lites and earning a reputation as a riveting player of the clarinet family, tenor and baritone saxophones, flute and didjeridoo, Bowden established a jazz scene at the University of Chicago where he is currently the Director of Jazz Ensembles.

A second generation member and former chair of the Association for the Advancement of Creative Musicians (AACM), Bowden has helped develop concepts of collective improvisation through its Chicago chapter signature band, the Great Black Music Ensemble. He's served on the Board of Directors of the Jazz Institute of Chicago and conducted music residencies for the Chicago Council on Fine Arts, the Illinois Arts Council, Ravinia Music Illumination Program, Urban Gateways and Orbert Davis' JazzAlive. His 20-year partnership with Tatsu Aoki's Miyumi Project has resulted in an amalgam of American jazz with Japanese Taiko traditions. As a member of Edward Wilkerson's Eight Bold Souls, he has performed at jazz and blues festivals throughout Chicago and around the world. His own groups are Sound Spectrum, Tri-tone and his Black Classical Music Ensemble.

Bowden is a devoted educator who understands how learning and applying the skills of improvisation can provide life-long benefits for youth -- whether Chicago Public School elementary and high school students, AACM School enrollees, the many Jazz X-Tet students and alumni at the University of Chicago, or workshop attendees anywhere else. This award recognizes and appreciates Mwata Bowden's advocacy for and cultivation of a strong and vibrant jazz community in Chicago and in the world.

–Lauren Deutsch
Elastic Arts Foundation will host a June 15 party where Mwata Bowden will receive his Jazz Hero Award. Details coming soon.


Sonny Buxton, Jr.-- San Francisco Bay Area

Sonny Buxton, Jr. has been a beacon for jazz since arriving in the Bay Area in the 1960s. A seasoned broadcast journalist who worked as a reporter and talk show host for KGO TV & Radio in the 1970s, the Seattle-born nightclub impresario and jazz deejay has kept quality jazz alive in San Francisco, presenting artists from the Bay Area and out-of-towners alike in his clubs Milestones and Jazz at Pearl's, and since Pearl's closing in 2003 through his radio work at KCSM-FM.

As a youth, Sonny was a talented athlete and budding musician, playing congas and trap drums. He accompanied Billy Strayhorn in the pianist-composer's final trio, during a period when Buxton was also playing football with the Oakland Raiders, and kept swinging behind his kit for 15 years. That background, as well as Buxton's skills as a radio show host, smarts as a club owner (his business partner Pearl Wong deserves credit, too) and daring as an impresario has gained him the kind of impact and dedication to the community that the JJA looks for from its Jazz Heroes.

Sonny's been an educator at several local universities, a writer and a historian. Throughout the 2000s he's been involved in virtually every notable community-focused event, and very active in a loose network of advocacy and support for African-American jazz musicians in the Bay Area. He's often involved in fundraising efforts to support local jazz musicians in need.

Of his radio style, he is admittedly talkative, but says, "I'm trying to make the music come alive." That he does: Sonny Buxton is a master storyteller who conveys his jazz experiences as a prince of hip, in the league of past radio greats like Jazzbo Collins and Symphony Sid. In his off-time he likes to paint, and has considered writing his memoirs. Or should he simply live more of the jazz life, collecting more experiences to commemorate at a later date? For now, time's right to hail Sonny Buxton, Jr. as a Jazz Hero.

-- KCSM and Wayne Saroyan, Jazz West

Sonny Buxton will receive his Jazz Hero Award at a party at the Lush Life Gallery at the Jazz Heritage Center of San Francisco on Sunday May 5, 3-5pm. This event is free and open to the public. More information/RSVP.

Arni Cheatham- Boston

Saxophonist, bandleader, master teacher/performer, community activist, and photographer Arni Cheatham personifies the description of a local Jazz Hero in every way. Shortly after arriving here from Chicago in 1969, he began staunchly advocating for local music as a founding board member of the Jazz Coalition, and as a stalwart of the Boston scene for more than 40 years, he remains totally engaged today.

During his 12 years as vice president of the Jazz Coalition Arni created, administered and secured funding for JazzEd, which aimed to bridge racial divides by bringing jazz into Boston's public schools during the desegregation process. He also worked tirelessly at its Community Concert Program (which he created), and subsequent projects, leading ensembles to more than 400 schools and neighborhood locations throughout Greater Boston area and beyond under the auspices of the New England Foundation for the Arts. These achievements encouraged JazzBoston to choose him to help develop and deliver Riffs & Raps™, the organization's family of jazz education programs for all ages. Since 2008, Arni and his co-leader, trombonist/educator Bill Lowe, have presented the teenage version of the program – Riffs & Raps: Find Your Jazz, a series of after-school workshops culminating in a performance for family and friends – to at-risk young people at the Dudley and Codman Square Libraries and the Dorchester and Blue Hills Boys and Girls Clubs. They've delighted four- to eight-year-olds at the Boston Public Library and Boston Children's Museum with Riffs & Raps: Jazz for the Very Young, and entertained across the age gap at all 27 branches of the Boston Public Library with Riffs & Raps: Jazzin' the Generations.

Arni's ability to connect with young people is extraordinary; he holds small children spellbound introducing such members of the Reed Family, as Tyrone the Tenor Saxophone and Sally Soprano. But he is equally impressive as a musician with his own ensembles -- Thing, Search, and Smoke and Synergy – and as an anchor and soul-stirrer from the beginning of the Aardvark Jazz Orchestra, a Boston institution now in its 40th year. He's a member of the Makanda Project, has made guest appearances with the John Coltrane Memorial Concert ensemble and has recorded prodigiously.

As a community activist, Arni fights the good fight on his home ground, struggling for more than four years against economic and commercial challenges to ensure the survival of The Piano Factory's nonprofit art gallery. Arni is also a brilliant photographer who exhibits frequently, has work in the permanent collection of the Boston Athenaeum, and has just completed a one-year artist-in-residence at the Alan Rohan Crite Research Institute and Library. His images include nature, landscape, and of course, local jazz artists. He calls his blog Eyes and Ears.

Arni Cheatham will always be one of the quiet breed of heroes, but thanks to the Jazz Journalists Association's recognition of his activism, he'll no longer be unsung.

--Jazz Boston

Arni Cheatham received his Jazz Hero Award from noted jazz radio host Eric Jackson at an April 28 party at Wally's Jazz Cafe. (Craig Bailey/Perspective Photo)

Tim Coakley--Schenectady, New York

Jazz historian and WAMC radio personality Tim Coakley has been on the air (Saturday nights at 11 pm) for more than 25 years, all the while (and since 1978) having a career as copy editor of Schenectady's Daily Gazette and sustained traditional jazz in New York's Capital District as a drummer supporting a host of local and touring talents. Born in Utica, New York, he grew up listening to the best of the area's musicians, including tenor saxophonist J.R. Monterose, trumpeter Sal Amico, bassist Sam Mancuso and drummer Ronnie Zito. Coakley listened especially raptly to the local drummers. Mostly self-taught, his first gig was at Utica College on a set of borrowed drums, and thereafter he began playing throughout Utica, often with tenor saxophonist Chick Esposito.

In 1974 Tim moved to Schenectady, and was asked by promoter Bob Rosenblum to join the rhythm section of swing trumpeter Doc Cheatham. His experiences with Doc led him to appearances with tenor saxophonist Buddy Tate, pianist Dill Jones and trombonist Vic Dickinson, performances at the Van Dyck Restaurant and jazz club in Schenectady with guitarist Herb Ellis, and engagements with pianist Benny Harris. In the later '70s he joined reeds player Skip Parsons and his Riverboat Jazz Band, with whom he still works as a popular sub. Since then he's had freelance jobs with trumpeter Mike Canonico, guitarist Jack Fragomeni, tenor saxophonist Leo Russo and a score of others, and kept a a trio with Skip Parsons and Rennie Crain which has played at Leesa's, the Glen Sanders Mansion and Jazz on Jay Street in Schenectady, Savannah's in Albany and 9 Nine Maple Ave in Saratoga Springs. Tim also serves as president of A Place for Jazz, a nonprofit presenting organization in the Capital Region. There are hundreds if not thousands of musicians like Tim Coakley, pillars of their local scenes, mainstays of jazz culture. Doff your hat to these heroes!

-- Susan Brink

Mayor Gary McCarthy (l) proclaimed April 15, 2013 "Tim Coakley Day" in Schenectady, New York as Tim was presented with his Jazz Hero Award at a party at Proctor's Robb Alley. Photo by Rudy Lu.


Roddy Ellias- Ottawa, Canada

Photo by Brett Delmage
For more than four decades Roddy Ellias has been one of Canada's most respected guitarists, composers and jazz educators, dedicating his musical life to combining elements, aesthetics and techniques of classical music with those of jazz. His first substantial success in this attempt was with two pieces he wrote in 1994, "Whale Spirit Rising," a 26-minute concerto for baritone saxophonist David Mott and string orchestra, and "Songs and Dances," a ten-movement suite for string orchestra and jazz trumpet. Shortly thereafter he recorded Oasis, a solo CD with 13 original compositions influenced by the harmony and melody of classical music but anchored in improvisation of the jazz tradition. He's currently writing commissioned music for Germany's Meininger Trio and Montreal's Duo Beija-Flor.

Roddy began his musical adventure improvising on his grandmother's piano but soon switched to his life-long instrument, the guitar. While writing and performing with his own quartet and trio throughout the 1970s and '80s he also had the opportunity to play traditional jazz with such of Canada's finest musicians as Rob McConnell, Claude Ranger, Dave Young, Terry Clarke, Lorne Lofsky, Chelsea Bridge, Guido Basso, Kenny Wheeler and Michel Donato, as well as many international artists. He's taught jazz improvisation, composition, ear training and guitar at Canadian universities including the University of Ottawa, St. Francis Xavier University and McGill University; he's currently Professor Emeritus at Concordia University and teaches at Carleton University, where he has just introduced its first jazz improvisation course and has intiated a three-day Guitar Now festival (May 3-5) featuring players including Ben Monder and Vic Juris.

Indeed, teaching and mentoring young musicians has always been high on Ellias' agenda -- many of his students have gone on to successful music careers -- and, having in 2009 received the Ottawa International Jazz Festival Award of Distinction, he's pleased to have been asked to coach the Ottawa Jazz Festival's JazzEd program, convening nine talented high school musicians weekly for three months in preparation for a performance at this years' fest. Those students and many professionals, too, should aspire to the econium's heaped on Roddy, such as these of JJA members and unaffiliated colleagues:"Exquisite … a most thoughtful soloist … the kind of subtlety you don't often hear … anywhere." Mark Miller, Canadian critic and author; " ... from the start (Ellias) delivered insightful solos treading the inside/outside line ... he was on fire ..." John Kelman, All About Jazz; "Positively brilliant." Bill McBernie, Planet Jazz; "Nothing was more beautiful than Ellias' piece 'Too Far,' which . . . created in the crowd a silence that spoke volumes before applause did ensue." Peter Hum, musician and critic, Ottawa Observer.

 --James Hale

Roddy Ellias (l) was presented with his  Jazz Hero Award and a mayoral Proclamation that April 30 was "Roddy Ellias Day" by JJA member James Hale (r)  during a party at Carleton University .

Jeff Haskell- Tucson, Arizona

Jeff Haskell, who got his start as a boy soprano scat singing in Philadelphia then moved on to master saxophone and organ, is today a senior faculty member in the School of Music and Dance at the University of Arizona, the Area Coordinator of Jazz Studies and director of the university's recording studio. He has been at the UA for nearly 40 years and has inspired thousands of graduates now performing jazz, classical and popular music around the world.

Eclecticism has been his watchword: Besides composing for children's television shows, the films Dudley Do-Right and Fight Club, hundreds of jingles and the four-note station ID of KUAT-TV (Tucson), broadcast every half-hour, Jeff has orchestrated projects for Up With People! and country music star Buck Owens (an album with the Bakersfield Symphony), recorded on electronic synthesizer and been director of the Tucson Boys' Choir.

Busy? Yes. Outside of his UA responsibilities, Jeff has composed "Pastiche Americana," for chorus and orchestra (performed by The Little Orchestra in Lincoln Center) and "Concerto for Jazz Band and Orchestra" (premiered by the Tucson Symphony Orchestra, for which he conducted the world premiere of Billy Taylor's suite for jazz trio and big band, "Fiesta in Tucson"). He is co-founder and musical director of the Tucson Jazz Orchestra, and his arrangements are heard on two albums by Linda Rondstadt.

One of Haskell's most rewarding sidelines has been composing for television. He has received three Los Angeles Area Emmy Awards and a nomination for his work on "Dusty's Treehouse," and ABC's "IT Show." Jeff Haskell's enormous range is among the qualities that substantiate his status as a Jazz Hero.

--Yvonne Ervin

Tucson Jazz Hero Jeff Haskell received his award from JJA Vice President Yvonne Ervin at a Tucson Jazz Society Party on April 21. Photo by Norman Beasley


Willard Jenkins- Washington, D.C.

Willard Jenkins is a giant among jazz journalists, and that’s not even accounting for his 6 foot 7 inch frame, which helps the more vertically challenged of us easily find him in a crowd. The man whose invitation in 1986, while he was working with Arts Midwest, to jazz writers and broadcasters inviting them to convene in Chicago -- which led to the founding of the Jazz Journalists Association, has been a feature writer, radio programmer, television show host, co-author (or, as he puts it, “arranger”) of Randy Weston’s autobiography African Rhythms, a blogger, a concert and festival artistic director, an educator and consultant.

With these efforts and also invaluable behind-the-scenes work, Willard has helped keep jazz honest and advancing, usually from his home base in Rockville, Maryland (suburban Washington D.C.) although his activities spread across the U.S. and to Africa as well. He got his start as a journalist in the early 1970s at the Cleveland Plain Dealer and since then he’s written for virtually every jazz-oriented publication, and many online platforms (he maintains his own provocative blog, the Independent Ear, on his website OpenSkyJazz.com). He’s been an editor and done oral history interviews for the Smithsonian Institution and the Rhythm and Blues Foundation; he’s had a radio show since 1989 on WPFW, Washington’s Pacifica Radio Station, and in 1994 he became affiliated with Black Entertainment Television, hosting, writing and producing series, specials and documentaries for its BET Jazz and  BET J channels.

Having worked in the late ‘70s with the Northeast Ohio Jazz Society, he got involved with the Tri-C Jazz Festival in Cleveland, and appointed its artistic director in 1995. Since 2005 he’s taught the online course Jazz Imagines Africa for Kent State University, his alma mater, and he’s contributed educational content to the International Association for Jazz Education website and the Thelonious Monk Institute’s Jazz in America website. As executive director of the National Jazz Service Organization from 1989 to 1994 he was responsible for many powerful projects, perhaps most significantly the Lila Wallace-Reader’s Digest National Jazz Network of presenting organizations and regional arts organizations. Most recently Willard has worked with Paul Carr and the Jazz Academy of Music to establish the Mid-Atlantic jazz Festival as an important winter season event for the metropolitan Washington area.

The efforts cited above only begins to suggest the enormous amount of work Jenkins has done on behalf of jazz, blues and other American culture resulting from the African diaspora. He has, most essentially, connected people throughout diverse and sometimes conflicting facets of the jazz world to one another. It should be said, though, that his demeanor is that of a modest man, who nonetheless has an engaging laugh and the wit to discern quality music, good journalism, useful ideas. It’s about time the Jazz Journalists Association recognized its former vice president for what he is: a Jazz Hero.

-- W.A. Brower

Willard Jenkins received his Jazz Hero award on April 29 at the Calvin Jones BIG BAND Jazz Festival at the University of the District of Columbia. Shown L to R, presentation organizer William Brower, Willard Jenkins, Cedric Hendricks, Executive Producer of Congressional Black Caucus Foundation Annual Legislative Conference Jazz Issue Forum and Concert and Judith Korey, Music Program Director and Curator, Felix E. Grant Jazz Archives at UDC.

Edward "Kidd" Jordan - New Orleans

Edward "Kidd" Jordan breaks all the conventional rules when it comes to jazz. Most players get older and they get more conservative in their playing. Kidd's saxophone work can still peel the paint off the walls while blowing vibrations so sympathetic with your soul as to leave you teary, breathless and exhilarated.

Most jazz players teach only because they have to, but Kidd has made teaching a part of his practice since he started in the late 1950s. He has run the Jazz and Heritage Foundation School of Music, the Jazz Studies program at Southern University of New Orleans, and the Louis Armstrong Jazz Camp. His teachings extend beyond how to play the music, to how to work as a musician. By now, if you've learned to play jazz in New Orleans in the last 30 years, you've learned some from Kidd.

He treats music as he's lived it, as an art and a craft. Although best known as an avant-garde jazz musician ("Don't call it free jazz," he's said, "because then people think you don't have to pay"), he played baritone saxophone on rhythm and blues hits in the 1960s, and has backed up such stars as Stevie Wonder, Ray Charles, and REM when they've come to town.

His music, his work, his dedication and his wisdom make him an inspiration. He's been recognized as as a Knight (Chevalier) of the Ordre des Arts et des Lettres by the French Ministry of Culture, with a Lifetime Achievement Award from New York City's Vision Festival, and every time I hear him or interview him, what's occurred sticks with me for days, weeks, months. It's no wonder that he put out one of his best early records, No Compromise, himself. He's street as well as intellectual, tough of mind and steely of resolve, harboring no illusions about the difficult path he's chosen nor the treacheries of the world of music and music business, yet a good man, a stellar musician, a good example to follow. His children, trumpeter Marlon, flutist Kent and singer Stephanie are not the only ones who emulate him. He fills the role of hero for me.

--David Kunian

Kidd Jordan will receive his Jazz Hero Award at a party hosted by JJA members at Cafe Istanbul: 2372 St. Claude Ave., New Orleans, starting at 5:30 pm on April 30. The public is welcome, free of charge. 

Randall Kline- Western Jazz Presenters Network

Randall Kline is the Founder and Executive/Artistic Director of SFJAZZ — the San Francisco jazz organization -- and as such has pulled off one of the most spectacular achievements of 2012-2013. Having built SFJazz from birth as a small community-based operation to, 30 years later, an internationally recognized, year-round presenting institution (more than 100 concerts annually, reaching more than 100,000 fans), Randall presided over the opening of the SFJazz Center, a permanent home, on Martin Luther King, Jr. Day, January 21, 2013.

Designed by architect Mark Cavagnero, acoustician Sam Berkow and theater designer Len Auerbach, constructed by lead contractor Hathaway/Dinwiddie and situated in San Francisco's Civic Center performing arts district, the SFJAZZ Center is intended to be a hub of art, music, culture, and community. The three-story Center comprises 35,000 square feet in a transparent, LEED Certified (green building) structure with the state-of-the-art Robert N. Miner auditorium adjustable from 350 to 700 seats, the 80-seat multi-purpose Joe Henderson Lab, rehearsal spaces, digital learning lab, South at SFJAZZ all day café from chef Charles Phan, ground floor lobby, retail shop, box office and SFJAZZ administrative offices.

SFJazz was originally named Jazz in the City, and Randall launched it with Clinton Gilbert in 1983. Initial funding was provided by the Grants for the Arts of the San Francisco Hotel Tax Fund, with a matching grant from the San Francisco Foundation. In December 1999 the establishment of SFJAZZ, the San Francisco Jazz Organization, was announced, with much-expanded presenting and educational programs.

Randall has been a steady, seemingly low-key but totally involved steward of SFJazz, creating a now-renowned autumn festival and the touring SFJazz Collective band, with revolving personnel and original as well as locally-drawn repertoire carrying his brand's name to concerts and club performances globally. He serves on the boards of directors of the San Francisco Convention and Visitor Bureau, the National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences (SF Chapter) and the Western Jazz Presenters Network, whose members voted to honor Randall Kline as a Jazz Hero for his many accomplishments, the vision and creation of the SFJAZZ Center not being the least, or last, of them.

-- Western Jazz Presenters Network


Marty Liquori- Gainesville, Florida

Marty Liquori is a jazz guitarist, bandleader, board member and producer of concerts for North Central Florida's leading jazz organization, the Gainesville Friends of Jazz; he's also founder and producer of the Gainesville Jazz Festival. Liquori first moved to Gainesville in 1972 to attend graduate school at the University of Florida, and took up board responsibilities for the Grainesville FOJs in the late '90s. Throughout his tenure he's brought renowned jazz artists from across the U.S. and abroad to historic downtown Gainesville.

Lest his acknowledgement as a Jazz Hero be attributed only to his producer and presenter roles, though, here's the JJA's 2012 Gainesville Jazz Hero Gary Langford (founding director of Jazz Studies and Professor of Music Emeritus at the University of Florida) on Marty: "Through thick and thin, for years and years, Marty Liquori has kept the jazz scene alive in Gainesville. Not only in producing concerts for the Gainesville Friends of Jazz, but in his own personal dedication to the art form. He is constantly practicing, learning new tunes, and picking my brain every time I see him about some aspect of jazz. His dedication is second to none. We are lucky to have him!"

Liquori's Jazztet plays at Gaineville's top venues weekly. In fact, he's had a long-standing twice weekly gig at Leonardo's 706, where he will accept his Jazz Hero Award at a party on Thursday, April 18. In addition to working in the modern idiom with his Jazztet, Liquori also leads a combo focused on the "gypsy jazz" of guitarist Django Reinhardt and the Quintette du Hot Club de France, a vibrant addition to what's become a thriving jazz scene. His lively performances, his prolific production work and his leadership of our festival has secured his status as one of the most remarkable figures hereabouts, and makes him well deserving of celebration as the 2013 JJA Gainesville Jazz Hero

--Dustin Garlitz
Marty Liquori will receive his Jazz Hero Award at a April 25 party at Leonardo's 706 7:30pm Info/RSVP


Lissa May-- Bloomington, Indiana

Lissa Fleming May is the consummate jazz educator. A trumpeter and pianist, Professor May is Director of Undergraduate Studies at the Indiana University Jacobs School of Music in Bloomington, Indiana, where she's also been Chair of the Music Education Department. Of course she worked her way up to that position, having joined the faculty in 1999 as an associate professor, and before that was Supervisor of Fine Arts for the Waterford School District in Waterford, Michigan; Jazz Band director at Oakland University in Rochester, Michigan and Associate Professor of Bands at Purdue University in West Lafayette, Indiana, where she was responsible for the jazz studies program. Her dissertation topic was on jazz improvisation.

Lissa initiated the Purdue Jazz Festival, which has become one of the largest festivals of its kind in the Midwest. She was an Indiana public school band director for 16 years and was a co-founder of the Bloomington Jazz Festival. And what does she do in her spare time? Coaches a jazz combo for Tri-North Middle School as a volunteer, conducts clinics at area middle schools; and has led a Young Winds program for IU.

For jazz educators such as Dr. May, the mission becomes rather all-consuming. There are organizations to network with, committees to serve on, papers to write, music to conduct and/or supervise . . . For example, she is a past president of both the Indiana Bandmasters Association and the Indiana Music Educators Association, served on the "Network with an Expert Team" for the Jazz Education Network and is the North Central Division representative on the National Association for Music Education Jazz Education Council. She's been the chair of the jazz committee for the Indiana State School Music Association, as well as a board member for the Indiana Music Educators Association and Southern Indiana Wind Ensemble.

She is active as a clinician and guest conductor throughout the Midwest. She's noted for her work in curriculum review. Her publications include compositions for jazz band and concert band and articles in numerous journals. She is the author of Getting Started with Jazz, a 1992 MENC publication, and most recently wrote the chapter "Indiana Avenue and Crispus Attucks High School" for David Baker: A Legacy in Music (Monika Herzig, ed.).

At home, Lissa May has served on the advisory board of Jazz from Bloomington and has headed up its education committee (what else!). She is the personnel manager for the Southern Indiana Wind Ensemble and a member of the trumpet section. See, she does get to make music from time to time! Jazz educators of course must keep the engines of education running, but it's important and especially gratifying for a Jazz Hero -- which Dr. Lissa May now officially becomes -- to put her hands on her instrument, put that horn to her lips, and play!

--Janis and Fred Parker

Lissa May will be presented with her Jazz Hero Award on April 28 at Jazz from Bloomington's Future of Jazz event.


Jim Miller- Philadelphia

At age 12 the "music nun" switched Jim Miller from piano to drums because no one else exhibited any natural proclivity toward becoming the scapegoat in his school's traditional losses at district band contests. Falling in love with drums immediately, he demonstrated his interest and gratitude by liberating a pair of drumsticks from school (using them at home to break the heads on toy bongos) and took private snare drum lessons with an Indianapolis Symphony Orchestra percussionist. Naturally, this led him to start Dreambox Media, the jazz record label of Philadelphia and become central to the current revival of the jazz scene in the City of Brotherly Love.

The steps to his herodom are these: Starting to play professionally by 1970, dropping out of college to tour the Midwest and South with a variety of bands, Jim moved to Florida for 1973 and '74. Pllaying with Ira Sullivan there accelerated his burgeoning interest in jazz. Choosing Philadelphia as his home base in '77, he soon became leader/co-founder of the "electro-jazz" group Reverie, which released four albums of original material in its ten years of performing from New England to Florida. When Reverie ended, Dreambox Media began.

Miller has built up long-term musical relationships with New Jersey saxophonist Denis DiBlasio, Philly pianists Tom Lawton, Jim Ridl and (the late) Eddie Green, bassist Tyrone Brown and vocalist Suzanne Cloud, while working with a broad range of internationally famous artists - Anita O'Day to Reggie Workman, Larry Coryell to Buddy DeFranco -- as a sideman at countless college shows, clubs, concerts and fests. He toured Portugal twice with pianist Brian Trainor (1995 and 1996) and can be heard on dozens of recordings, including two CDs of his own compositions, If it's not one thing... (2003) and ...it's another (2007).

But Miller is not all about himself. In the 25 years of Dreambox Media's existence it's released well over 100 albums, almost all documenting talent across the many genres represented in his adopted hometown. Not that he's all about recording, either: Jim has been an adjunct professor of Advanced Drumset Study on the jazz faculty of Rowan Univeristy (Glassboro, NJ) since 1998. He participated in the 20-week Children's Music Workshop series for (Cousin Mary's) John Coltrane Cultural Society, sponsored by the Philadelphia Housing Authority in '98-'99, too. He's a contributing writer for JazzTimes, reviewing drum equipment, instructional drum books and videos; has written one book A Brief History of Time-Keeping: from Baby Dodds to Jack DeJohnette (so far unpublished), and contributed to The African American National Biography, a joint project of the W. E. B. Du Bois Institute for African and African American Research at Harvard University and Oxford University Press. Jim Miller proudly serves on the board of directors of JazzBridge. He's a hero!

-- Suzanne Cloud

Philadelphia Jazz Hero Jim Miller(l) received  his Jazz Hero Award from Mike Boone at an April 15 party at LaRose Jazz Restaurant. 

Dr. James Hardy Patterson-- Atlanta

A composer, conductor, arranger, performer on reeds and woodwinds, professor of music and founder of the Clark Atlanta University Jazz Orchestra, Professor James Hardy Patterson has dedicated half a century of his life to jazz education and last November held the inaugural event to benefit his foundation, whose mission is to further preservation, promotion and education concerning our culture in Atlanta, where his roots are deep.

Having graduated from Clark College (as CAU was then called) in 1957, and following two years of military service (during which he organized and directed the Drum and Bugle Corps at Ft. Jackson, SC., performed throughout Germany and greater Europe with the Seventh Army Band), James Patterson returned to Clark to work as first assistant band director under the legendary Wayman Carver, who introduced the flute to jazz during the Swing Era and taught budding "new thing" saxophonists George Adams and Marion Brown when they were students at Clark.

The next step for Patterson, however, was to join the Motown Sound band, supporting such of the record labels' superstars as Diana Ross and the Supremes, Stevie Wonder and Gladys Knight and the Pips. While in that ensemble he earned his Masters in Music from University of Michigan, and upon returning to Clark in the mid '70s, he established the CAU Symphony Orchestra and Jazz Orchestra, taking the latter on international tours with performances at the Montreux Jazz Festival, St. Louis Jazz Festival in Senegal, and Ghana Heritage Jazz Festival in Ghana, among other stops.

Over the course of the subsequent four decades he has directed CAU's Jazz Studies program, been on the executive board and an officer of the Atlanta Federation of Musicians, and a delegate from AFM Local 148-462 to the Atlanta/North Georgia Labor Council. Professor Patterson is good with organizations -- he has served on the Contracts for Arts and Services Advisory Panel (Music Category) for the City of Atlanta's Office of Cultural Affairs, and been a member of the North American Saxophone Alliance-World Saxophone Congress, the National Flute Association, the International Clarinet Society and International Double Reed Society, among other music educators' groups.He's also performed with the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra, the Atlanta Pops Orchestra and numerous musicians: Lionel Hampton, Dizzy Gillespie, Jon Faddis and the Cab Calloway Orchestra, to drop a few names.

But his main focus is on giving back to the community he's lived in, which is why he's established the James Hardy Patterson Foundation, and is holding an African American Classical Music (JAZZ) Panel Discussion during JazzApril -- on April 28 -- at the Auburn Research Library on African American Culture. This event will convene a coterie of distinguished educators, including Dr. Dwight Andrews (Emory University), Dr. Sarah Jean Foster (CAU), Dr. Calvert Johnson (Agnes Scott College), Dr. Lawrence McClellan, Jr. (former dean of Berklee School of Music), Dr. Marva G. Carter (Georgia State University), and Professor Patterson himself. Kevin J. Waddy will moderate.

The 2013 Jazz Hero honor for James Hardy Patterson from the Jazz Journalist Association not only acknowledges his accomplishments to Atlantans, but also shares word of his membership in an estimable circle of highly respected jazz educators, mentors, and performers with the world-wide jazz community. There is no doubt Atlanta is a better city for having Professor Patterson, our Jazz Hero, as a citizen.
-- Evette Dorham

Dr. James Polk– Austin, Texas

James Polk, a pianist, was born September 10, 1940 in Yoakum, Texas. His musical knowledge and worldwide experience spans over more than 50 years. His style, deeply-rooted in the blues, is an example of richness and experience. He came up in the wake of a group of incredible Texan jazz and blues artists including David "Fathead" Newman, Russell Jacquet, Arnett Cobb, Don Wilkerson and Ornette Coleman; his own sound has that unique Texas flavor.

In 1959, Polk moved to Austin to attend Huston-Tillotson College, from which he graduated in 1962 with a B.A. in music education. He also started his own band, James Polk & the Brothers, one of the first integrated ensembles in a still largely segregated town, thus beginning a vital transformation of Austin into the booming center for live performance it is today. Featuring such fine Austin area musicians as Martin Banks, W.C. Clark, Matthew Robinson and Angela Strehli, James Polk & the Brothers became a Blakey's Messengers-style music academy for blues, funk, and jazz players.

Polk is probably best-known for his work with Ray Charles. From 1978 to 1985, he toured and worked as an organist, pianist, writer, arranger and conductor. He was featured on several of Charles' records, including Ain't It So (Concord, 1979), Brother Ray Is At It Again (Crossover/Atlantic, 1980), Wish You Were Here Tonight (Concord, 1983), and The Spirit of Christmas (Concord, 1985), and was twice nominated for Grammy Awards.

Moving back to Austin in 1988 after ten years of living in Los Angeles, James returned to college for his Master of Music degree from Southwest Texas State University '91. He was awarded an Honorary Doctorate of Music from Huston-Tillotson in '95. He retired from teaching in 2006 and received Professor Emeritus status of Jazz Studies in the School of Music at Texas State University in San Marcos. But the bare facts do not speak to his impact upon this city. As he continues to perform today, as a leader, pianist and occasional singer in his own trio, and in the Centerpeace Jazz Band, James Polk is widely recognized as our leading jazz artist, and thus an Austin jazz hero.
-- Fito Kahn
Austin Jazz Alliance and the City of Austin presented James Polk with his Jazz Hero Award on April 11 at a ceremony where April was proclaimed Jazz Appreciation Month in Austin.

Julian Priester-- Seattle

Trombonist Julian Priester, also known as Pepo Mtoto (“Spirit Child”), has from the very beginning of his musical career demonstrated Zen-like equanimity when presented with conflicts or opposites. Growing up in a South Side of Chicago neighborhood with the hard rocking blues of Muddy Waters and Bo Diddley in his head but high school band disciplinarian Captain Walter Dyett instructing him in something very different may have had something to do with it. Or maybe it is just his calm personality, his ability to listen and absorb, and the subtlety of his expressivity, characteristics evident in his own music of the past nearly 60 years, from his first jobs in Sun Ra’s Arkestra through his retirement last year from the faculty of Cornish College of the Arts in Seattle.

Whatever the magic quality, Priester has it in abundance, and it’s allowed him to heroically straddle the entirety of jazz, from touring with unrelenting swinger Lionel Hampton to standing with hard boppers including Max Roach and Art Blakey to conjuring up vivid responses to Mwandishi Herbie Hancock’s electronics and indulging in the freest of improvisations in Quartett with singer Jay Clayton, bassist Gary Peacock and drummer Jerry Granelli. Probably it’s just Julian Priester being himself.

However he’s done it, Priester has created much beauty and inspired considerable admiration throughout his jazz life, sustaining himself and his family despite the challenges and uncertainties that independent artists in American almost always have to deal with. The sheer excitement of playing jazz is obviously a powerful draw: having worked with Dinah Washington, John Coltrane and Charles Mingus, among others, Priester accepted an invitation into Duke Ellington’s prestigious and long-established band in 1969, only to leave it months later for the vast unknown of Hancock’s then unprecedented, motivically organized synthesizer-and-rhythm sextet.

In the late '70s, after committing himself to a position at Cornish which he would hold for 32 years, he continued to perform as both bandleader and sideman in Charlie Haden’s Liberation Music Orchestra, Dave Holland’s Quintet and, still, with Sun Ra. He recorded albums of his original compositions, too, some of which were covered by Ray Charles, Philly Joe Jones and Abbey Lincoln. If dedication, depth and consistency can be modeled for the benefit of students in one’s charge, Julian Priester has been the professor in Seattle who’s done it.

At Cornish he taught “spontaneous composition” and imparted his sense of serenity, too. As writer Steve Griggs quoted Priester in an article published by Earshot Jazz upon the closing of his Cornish office in May 2011, “I encourage students to stay open minded when they get discouraged. I remind them that bad experiences are only temporary.”  That’s not just something he says, it’s something he lives. He continued, “My high school band director Captain Dyett outlawed the word ‘can’t.’ He emphasized positive thinking. Positive thinking attracts positive things. I attribute my success to being in the right place at the right time. Benefits came my way. I was always rescued from crises.”

Yet crises do come. As Griggs noted in his article, “Relieved of the teaching load at Cornish, Priester looks forward to opportunities as guest clinician and lecturer. With plenty of time to log the required three hours of daily trombone practice, his physical energy is not always up to the task. A liver transplant in 2000 stabilized his health. Now, dialysis improves his energy, and he is in line to receive a kidney transplant. Meanwhile, he searches for a way to release a 2007 recording his band Priester’s Cue.” Julian Priester’s quiet forbearance in pursuit of creative goals is the reason the JJA calls him a Jazz Hero.

Julian Priester will receive his Jazz Hero Award at an informal celebration, free and open to all, on April 30 at 6 pm, at Tula's Restaurant and Jazz Club, 2214 2nd Ave. in Seattle.

Bill Royston-- Portland, Oregon

Jazz presenters are not often showmen, but Bill Royston, the retired artistic director of PDX Jazz, which put on the Portland Jazz Festival, has been one. His distinctive white beard, the twinkle in his eyes and his somewhat grandly theatrical way with announcements at some of the larger shows of the annual ten-day, multi-stage event he took over in 2004 were unabashed ways to make everything a little bigger, more glamorous and fun. Happily, Royston had big ears and a sharp sense for music that would attract an audience and very likely grow it. In the eight years of his stewardship he negotiated the Festival through tight financial straits and undeniably put it on the international jazz map.

Royston was anything but single-minded in his bookings. He brought in challenging icons such as Ornette Coleman and Cecil Taylor for rare Pacific Northwest appearances, reached out to the ECM and Blue Note Record labels for support of especially well-chosen artists from their catalogs, scheduled neo-swing ensembles and Latin bands for dancing, the Master Musicians of Joujouka for anarchic exoticism, spotlit local artists -- and there are some very good ones in Portland, such as vocalist Nancy King, pianist-songwriter Dave Frishberg, guitarist John Stowell -- and took chances on musicians he just liked. These might be pianists he’d discovered on a beach in Baja, California, New Orleansians in exile from Hurricane Katrina (Bill publicly offered housing and gigs to any of those who cared to brave Portland’s less sunny clime) or Scandinavian bands he thought would be resonant. He was often right.

Having gotten his start in the performing arts as the artistic director of the Pittsburgh Laboratory Theater in 1971, Royston switched from Shakespeare to jazz in 1986, staging concerts at Penn’s Landing (a 10,000 seat outdoor amphitheater), Philadelphia Mellon Jazz, the Berks Jazz Fest (in Reading, PA), the Clifford Brown Jazz Festival (Wilmington, DE), Rehoboth Beach Jazz Festival (near Washington, D.C.), the Poconos Jazz Festival and, starting in 1996 when he relocated to the Oregon, the Mt. Hood Jazz Festival. He put on an Oregon Coast Jazz Festival in Newport before starting up in Portland.

He’s had stints in academia as an associate professor in the Graduate Program of Arts Administration at Drexel University in Philadelphia, and the Master of Arts Management Program at Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh. From 1985 to 1992 he was theater critic for Philadelphia’s After Dark magazine. Understanding the value of direct contact media, Royston was innovative in adding “enhancement programming” -- panel discussions, public interviews and the like -- to the Portland festival schedule, employing journalists from outside Portland as well as tapping the rich trove of local media and educational personnel. In retirement, Bill Royston intends to drink his share of Rogue Jazz Guy Ale, which has his face on its label. The official brew of the Jazz Journalists Association is Brother Thelonious Belgian Style Abbey Ale, but just this once we’ll hoist a Jazz Guy, in honor of Bill Royston, Jazz Hero.

Bill Royston  received his Jazz Hero Award at the PDX Jazz Festival/Bad Plus Concert on April 28. Photo by Matt Fleeger.


Ken Tittelbaugh-- Nogales, Arizona

Trombonist Ken Tittelbaugh served as director of bands in the Nogales Unified School District for 25 years, and since 2008 has been chairman of the board for the Charles Mingus Hometown Music Festival, honoring the great bassist and composer who was born in this town on the U.S.-Mexico border (Mingus was taken to Los Angeles before his first birthday, however, and mostly raised there). Known by students and parents as "Mr. T," Tittelbaugh enabled the NHS Band -- "the Pride of Nogales" -- to march in three Fiesta Bowl Parades, and his student jazz bands won numerous awards at regional and state competitions as well as the Northern Arizona University Jazz Festival; one of them even performed at the National Convention of the Music Educators Conference in Phoenix.

His prowess as a teacher, organizer, coach and leader is evident from the forays his charges made. From 2004 to '06 Ken directed the Arizona Jazz Academy student "Basie Band," and it advanced to playing at the Fullerton Jazz Festival and the New Orleans Heritage Jazz and Heritage Festival besides going on a European tour that included two performances at the Montreux Jazz Festival. His skills as an administrator are notable, too -- he was active in the International Association of Jazz Educators (Western Region Coordinator for eight years), chaperone to student attendees at IAJE conventions and elsewhere, and also president of the Arizona Association for Jazz Education.

In 2001 Ken was recipient of the "Jazz for the Next Generation Award" sponsored by America West Airlines and presented at the Sedona Jazz on the Rocks festival, an honor he continued to validate in part by co-founding the Santa Cruz Jazz Orchestra specifically to appear at the Charles Mingus Hometown Music Festival in 2008 (Nogales is in Santa Cruz County). He directed the Big Band Sounds orchestra of Green Valley from 2010 to '12, too. Southern Arizona is a hot, dry area, but thanks to Ken Tittelbaugh jazz blooms here among the young, and for everybody, which qualifies him richly as a Jazz Hero.

 Chuck Graham
Nogales Mayor Arturo Garino presented Ken Tittelbaugh with his Jazz Hero Award at the Charles Mingus Hometown Music Festival on April 20. Photo by Yvonne Ervin


Jim Wadsworth-- Cleveland, Ohio

As the founder of Jim Wadsworth Productions, the Cleveland-based music booking and management company established in 1990, and as music producer at Nighttown in Cleveland Heights, Jim Wadsworth introduces hundreds of people to established and emerging jazz musicians every week, which adds up to tens of thousands over the course of his ongoing tenure in the Ohio city on Lake Erie, roughly halfway between Chicago and New York.

Nighttown was founded 48 years ago in emulation of a Dublin pub (it's named for the red light district in James Joyce's Ulysses, which is read aloud there every Bloomsday, June 16), and, coincidentally, is home to the Press Club of Cleveland and its Cleveland Journalism Hall of Fame. But under Jim's balanced curatorial hand, the club has become a celebrated beacon for jazz in year-round. Local artists are showcased and national artists perform on a regular basis. For example, during this JazzApril his bookings range from guitarist Leni Stern with her African trio and soul jazz pianist Joe Sample to rising local saxophonist Bobby Selvaggio, the Sammy DeLeon/Jackie Warren Latin Jazz Sextet, singer Evelyn Wright with the Roy King trio, Boston's Occidental Gypsy pop-folk-jazz band, and a Jazz in the Heights for Human Rights benefit with saxophonist David Kay's band Blue Note City (Kay promises they will play Clevelander Donald Malloy's song "Shango"). Wadsworth has also forged a productive ongoing relationship with Cleveland's Tri-C Jazz Festival, presenting tenor saxophonist Javon Jackson in a special "Dexter @ 90" program celebrating the late Dexter Gordon, with a short film and discussion with Gordon's widow Maxine as part of the partnered event.

Music booking and management are two of the essential services in the jazz world that are little understood and less often honored; nothing about Wadsworth's determined efforts, though concentrated in for-profit spheres, has been easy. Yet he has opened his doors to student groups, collaborated on master classes and even let Tri-C jazz camp groups perform at Nighttown. Jim Wadsworth isn't simply a promoter; has grown the Cleveland-area audience for the jazz art form at every level. Now that's a Jazz Hero!

-- Karen Sandstrom
Jim Wadsworth's Jazz Hero Award was  presented on April 19 at the Opening Night Party for the 34th Annual Tri-C JazzFest.


Melissa Walker-- Newark, New Jersey

An acclaimed jazz vocalist and recording artist for nearly 20 years, most recently featured on Christian McBride's 2012 Grammy-winning The Good Feeling, Melissa Walker has also founded Jazz House Kids, which in its first 11 years has been recognized widely (but to quote JazzTimes) as "one of the most successful and respected jazz education programs in the country" and, just as a side project, launched the Montclair Jazz Festival in 2010.

Jazz House Kids, of which Walker is president, is "successful and respected" because it is dynamic and far-reaching. Providing year-round musical, educational and cultural programs to students, teachers, adults and families, Jazz House Kids currently conducts more than 80 programs each year and serves more than 350 New Jersey school students age eight to 18, each week. In February 2013 it entered a new 4,000 square foot state-of-the-art facility of studios and offices in the hub of Montclair's arts and music district, which it expects to be pivotal in the town's developing artistic corridor and cultural dynamics. The JHK mission is to build community through the rich legacy of jazz.

Being dedicated to improving arts education for all individuals, based on the premise that everyone is inherently musical, is a challenge. But under Walker's guidance Jazz House Kids has established programs such as the Vocal Summer Jazz Choir, for developmentally challenged students of varying ages; the Give an Instrument Fund to get gear to students who otherwise couldn't afford it, and the John J. Cali Scholarship Fund for programming and lesson support. Other JHK efforts are the Let's Build a Jazz House Workshop Series®, the Jazz House Music Club, Inside the Jazz Note®, the Summer Jazz Workshop and Jazz Across the Curriculum®. The Montclair Jazz Fest, attendance free, brings together scores of student musicians including the Jazz House Big Band and jazz headliners from the Tri-State area.

Melissa's leadership has attracted an all -star roster of JHD champions -- Harry Belafonte, Wayne Shorter, Pat Metheny, Dianne Reeves, Chick Corea, Joe Lovano and Esperanza Spalding, among them, and she has received numerous awards, some of which she shares with Christian McBride, her husband. But she does not rest: She is currently attending the Institute for Ethical Leadership - Rutgers Business School Prudential Executive Leadership Fellows Program, having previously studied at the Nonprofit Sector Resource Institute/Center for Public Service at Seton Hall University. So the Jazz Journalists Association is proud to honor her as a Jazz Hero, and hope her example will generate many more

-- Jeff Tamarkin

2012 Jazz Heroes
Previous years' Jazz Heroes and  "A-Team" honorees