2012 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 are presented in conjunction with the  Jazz Journalists Association's annual Jazz Awards honoring significant achievements in jazz music and journalism.  Jazz Heroes are nominated by their communities and usually presented with their Award during a party or other celebration organized by local jazz organizations and  open to the public.

2012 JJA Jazz Awards 'Jazz Heroes'

Leon Anderson, Jr.-Tallahassee, FL
Lamont Arthur - Tucson, Arizona
Robin Bell-Stevens -New York City
Pauline Bilsky - Boston
John Calloway - San Francisco Bay Area
Orbert Davis - Chicago
Bert Dearing, Jr.- Detroit
Adrian Ellis- New York City
Jacques Emond - Ottawa, Canada
Danny Harper- Atlanta
R.Gary Langford- Gainesville,FL
Roger Manins - Auckland, New Zealand
Bill McCann - Schenectady, New York
Catalina Popescu - Los Angeles
Sam Reed - Philadelphia

Words and Music Award: Albert Murray co-presented by the Jazz Journalists Association and the Jazz Foundation of America

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

Danny Harper- Atlanta

Danny Harper- Atlanta 2012 Jazz Hero
In Atlanta, two or three new jazz clubs pop up each year and are gone by the end of whatever season they appear. Musicians emerge, but leave once they achieve professional status because they can’t make a living in Atlanta unless they teach at the college level (as many do). Competition for gigs is high, and most artists demonstrate little staying power  However  --  trumpeter Danny Harper has been a consistent and prominent force, fundamental to the Atlanta jazz scene for all of the past 12 years.

The eldest brother of  the Harper family that also produced drummer Winard and trumpeter Philip, Danny has been playing professionally since 1980. Having gotten his Music Education degree from Morris Brown College, he was encouraged by trumpeter and renowned talent scout Donald Byrd to study with pianist and bebop scholar Barry Harris in New York City. While living there in the mid-’80s, Danny led the house band at the Blue Note Jazz Club, hosting its midnight jam sessions. He returned to the Atlanta area to complete his Masters in Music/Jazz Studies degree at Georgia State University in 1999, and the following year launched the weekly, open-to-all-comers Danny Harper Jazz Jam Session, held every Tuesday night at Churchill Grounds.

Danny’s sessions are signature events at Churchill, Atlanta’s premiere jazz club, significant to its success. Among the highlights each time he plays are the warm obligatti he provides for singer Terry Harper, his wife. He is an ego-free master, quietly practicing his craft by bringing others to the stage, and teaching as he plays. He mentors many musicians, an invaluable service or which he gets very litte credit. Up until now, that is, because Danny Harper -- together with his wife and brothers -- is indisputably a Jazz Hero.
-- J. Scott Fugate
Danny Harper will be honored as a Jazz Hero at a JJA Jazz Awards Atlanta Satellite Party on June 24 at Churchill Grounds Jazz Cafe.

R. Gary Langford – Gainesville, Florida

R. Gary Langford is Professor of Music Emeritus at the University of Florida in Gainesville, who as UF’s Director of Jazz Studies from 1981-2006 regularly taught a popular jazz history course that introduced thousands of undergraduates to the music. A trumpeter who, during his graduate studies at North Texas State University was a soloist with the One O’Clock (Jazz) Lab Band, he’s also an accomplished arranger and composer.

         Gary held offices in the International Association of Jazz Educators, Florida Unit (President from 1984-1986), and was honored by IAJE in 1982-1983 as its Outstanding Jazz Educator.  He has been the recipient of many other honors: Teacher of the Year from UF’s College of Fine Arts, a TIP award for excellence in teaching, twice a finalist for the prestigious UF Alumni Association Distinguished Professor Award, the Foundation For The Promotion of Music’s 1997 Musician of the Year and the 1998 College Music Educator of the Year for the state of Florida (conferred by the Florida Music Educators Association).  In 1999 he was awarded the prestigious “Distinguished Service to Music Medal” by Kappa Kappa Psi, the national band fraternity and he was named most co-UF Teacher of the Year for 2006-2007.

 He has directed numerous county, district and all-state bands, including the Alachua County Youth Orchestra; he’s been music director and conductor for more than 25 years.  He’s a Gainesville Jazz Hero deserving wider recognition, and thanks to the JJA is getting some.
Dustin Garlitz
Gary Langford will be honored as a Jazz Hero at a JJA Jazz Awards Gainesville, Florida Satellite Party on June 21 at Leonardo's 706.

Pauline Bilsky - Boston

Pauline Bilsky-Boston
Pauline Bilsky, executive director of  JazzBoston since its founding in 2006, was nominated as Boston's 2012 Jazz Hero for her role in making the grassroots nonprofit organization into a unifying force and powerful advocate for Greater Boston's entire jazz scene. For her dedication and resulting successes, she stands out as a Jazz Hero.

Pauline has been a communications consultant to major for-profit and not-for-profit organizations for 30 years. Since the 1980s she has also been deeply engaged in the arts on a pro bono basis. Pauline served for several years as trustee of the New York Foundation for the Arts, where she was a member of the Executive, Nominating, and Development Committees working closely with Executive Director Ted Berger (now retired) who remains her role model. Through most of the 1990s she was executive director of RUBad, Inc., a nonprofit corporation established to sponsor the projects of composer Henry Threadgill. Ever since then, her life has revolved around the jazz scene in New York and now in Boston where she and her husband reside.

In 2005 Pauline joined a group of musicians, presenters, educators and journalists to found JazzBoston based on the conviction that the music and the musicians would be best served by uniting the city’s fragmented jazz community in collaborative efforts to strengthen and grow the scene. She became the organization’s first President and Executive Director and continues in those roles today. Her responsibilities include maintaining focus on the organization’s vision, setting strategy, establishing strategic and collaborative partnerships throughout the city’s jazz and broader arts communities, and representing the organization to the media and the public. 

She also plays a central role in developing and delivering Riffs & Raps®, a family of community based jazz education programs for all ages, and the planning and executing special events. Those have ranged from artist meet-and-greets at the Berklee Beantown Jazz Festival, Courtyard Concerts at the Boston Public Library and group trips to the Panama Jazz Festival, to Jazz Week, the annual 10-day area-wide celebration of the local music scene, now in its sixth year and officially recognized by the Mayors of Boston, Cambridge, and Somerville and the state’s Governor. Pauling creates or oversees all JazzBoston’s communications; shares responsibility for the design and maintenance of the organization’s website (which has become the go-to place for info on local and far-flung jazz musicians and fans) and is administrator of JazzBoston’s social media platforms.

Thanks to Pauline’s guidance JazzBoston has won the trust of an extensive network of artists of all persuasions and formed durable partnerships with such of the city’s and state’s leading institutions as the Boston Public Library, Boys and Girls Clubs, Berklee College of Music, New England Conservatory, Greater Boston Convention and Visitors Bureau, and Massachusetts Office of Travel and Tourism. 

One of Pauline’s most admirable, inspiring characteristics is that she continues to acquire new skills. She is fluent in French and can carry on simple conversations in Spanish, Italian, and Russian.  She was recently certified as a community TV producer. And she is trying to find the time to learn to play the trumpet. "She is a true jazz hero,” veteran jazz journalist Nat Hentoff, a  self-identified Boston Boy though he’s lived in NYC for decades, said of Pauline Bilsky. “I've been waiting for someone like her for a long time. Her name will be in the history books on jazz in Boston."
--Dayla Arabella Santurri
Pauline Bilsky will be honored as a Jazz Hero at a JJA Jazz Awards Boston Satellite Party at Wally's Jazz Cafe,427 Massachusetts Ave, from 5:30-7:30pm on June 20. Save the date and stay tuned for further details.

Leon Anderson, Jr.-Tallahassee, FL

Leon Anderson, Jr. is being honored as a Jazz Hero for the jazz studies program he leads at Florida State University College of Music, Tallahassee that turns out  and molds some very swinging young lions, for doing everything he can to assist the jazz scene in Tallahassee and the surrounding Big Bend area, and for his own professional musical contributions as a drummer extraordinaire.

Since joining the FSU faculty in 1998, Leon has helped to attract some of the most talented professional  musicians in the U.S. to teach jazz’s next generation of musicians, players who emerge in clubs such as our own B. Sharp’s, where he leads groups regularly. Saxophonist Steve Wilson, on the jazz faculty at at New York University, made a point during his recent visit here with bassist Christian McBride of complimenting Leon’s students, saying there are only three or four schools able to produce such quality players as those who experience Leon’s tutelage at FSU. “Leon is a real pleasure on the bandstand and a real treasure in the classroom,” Wilson has said. “He embodies the best of what we aspire to be as artists/educators.”

Leon has a background in both classical and jazz percussion, having received a B.A. in Music Education from Louisiana Tech University and an MA in Percussion Performance at Southeastern Louisiana University. His mentors have included pianist Ellis Marsalis and reeds player Victor Goines, with whom he currently tours (as well as with Walter Payton and the Snapbean Band and the Third Coast Jazz Quintet). The range of his associations is indicative of his mastery and flexibility: he has been a featured soloist with pianist Marcus Roberts’ trio, with the Los Angeles Philharmonic Orchestra at the Hollywood Bowl and the Great Saxophone Legends concert at the Jacksonville Jazz Festival. He’s performed with the Baton Rouge Symphony Orchestra, the Louisiana Philharmonic Orchestra, and most recently the Czech National Symphony Orchestra and National Orchestra de France, conducted by Seiji Ozawa. He has been an artist/clinician for several jazz fests throughout the U.S., and been director of the FSU High School Jazz Festival. He has traveled internationally, appearing at the Umbria Jazz Festival in Perugia, Italy, the Inglostadt Jazztage in Bavaria, the Switzerland Jazz Festival in Basel and the North Seat Jazz Festival.

But at the end of the day, jazz will continue to thrive throughout the country as a result of the work musicians akin to Leon Anderson perform where they live, where they work with youth, where they play in small clubs to local audiences. Doing all that, Leon Anderson is an exemplary Jazz Hero.
-- Gerri Seay
Leon Anderson, Jr. will be honored as a Jazz Hero at a JJA Jazz Awards Tallahassee Satellite Party on June 20. The festivities will begin with a reception at B-Sharp's Jazz Club and continue with the award presentation and a concert at Florida State University Auditorium.

Roger Manins - Auckland, New Zealand

Roger Manins
In Auckland, New Zealand, to celebrate with the worldwide jazz community the 30th of April 2012 as UNESCO's designated World Jazz Day, and to join the Jazz Journalists Association's annual campaign to honor jazz's sustaining activists, we have nominated saxophonist, non-profit program director and jazz educator Roger Manins as our first Jazz Hero.

 Roger is certainly one of New Zealand's (and indeed Australasia's) best tenor players and as such he is an inspiration to up and coming jazz musicians in this part of the world. He's easily identified as a player with killer chops, but he also has the ability to tell a compelling story on his horn. As internationally acclaimed NZ pianist Mike Nock has said, "He is an outstandingly gifted musician with a warmly passionate sound, remarkable instrumental ability and total musical integrity." Roger can play convincingly in any jazz idiom from free through post bop to mainstream traditional, his expressivity in any given context attracting and engaging listeners.

 Of equal importance, though, is Roger's role as an educator and enabler. He teaches at the Auckland University School of Music Jazz Programme. Generous with his time when it comes to nurturing up-and-comers, he encourages and pushes those younger players coming out of two local jazz schools when he thinks they need it, insisting that they live up to standards. His real-world feedback is essential to keep emerging musicians challenged but not discouraged.

 Furthermore, he is co-founder with his wife Carolina Moon and friend Ben McNicoll of the not-for-profit CJC 'Creative Jazz Club of Aotearoa," and serves as is the organization's programme director. A world-class venue, the CJC intends to stimulate and develop excellence in the creative improvised/jazz scene, and Roger ensures local diversity is represented. Prominent ex-pat Kiwis and international artists, as well as national and local talents, perform in gigs that change weekly. Roger lived and worked extensively in Australia for 10 years (and in New York City for two), and though he returned to NZ in 2004 he is still very much in demand across the Tasman, gigging and touring at regular intervals, in demand in both Australia and New Zealand as a tenor saxophonist multi reeds and winds player.

He has a very Kiwi sense of humour, both on and off the bandstand. He often slips in sly asides when introducing acts and his YouTube videos on 'How to Play Smooth Jazz' have acquired a cult following. Earnest pupils sometimes contact him to seek instruction, without realizing that Roger Manins is perpetrating a delicious joke. His discography and website is: rogermanins.com.
 -- John Fenton
Roger Manins will be honored as a Jazz Hero at a JJA Jazz Awards Satellite Party on June 20 in downtown Auckland. Stay tuned for further details.

Sam Reed - Philadelphia

Sam Reed- Philadelphia
Sam Reed has been a leading member of the Philadelphia jazz and music scene for over 60 years. Born on October 18, 1935, in Kinstree, South Carolina, Sam and his family were part of the Great Migration north that many African Americans took from the south looking for better opportunities for their families. Like his contemporaries John Coltrane, the Heath Brothers and Dizzy Gillespie, Sam moved to Philadelphia.  

Sam began his early career with the drum and bugle corps at the American Legion Lincoln Post 89 in South Philly. He was inspired to play music through his friendship with Albert "Tootie" Heath, the youngest of the Heath Brothers. When he would go to Tootie's house he would see brother Jimmy practicing. So Sam convinced his father to buy him a saxophone. Sam went on to attend Mastbaum Vocational and Technical School. Mastbaum had a great music program and includes Lee Morgan among its alums. Sam also attended Combs College of Music.

As Sam's early music career began to take off, he played with other Philadelphians like Albert Heath, Bobby Timmons, Lee Morgan, Spanky Debrest, Kenny Barron, Lex Humphreys, McCoy Tyner, Reggie Workman, Mickey Roker and Donald "Duck Bailey just to name a few. Philadelphia at that time and even now continues to be a fertile breeding ground for world class artists.
In the late 50's and early 60's, Sam worked at Philadelphia's famous Uptown Theater and was called to take over the shows for Bill Massey after he died. The Uptown was pure R&B, Blues and Rock and Roll; however, Sam was a bebopper at heart, so when he became the house leader he added jazz shows between the pop acts. The short list of performers included Cannonball Adderly, Art Blakey and the Jazz Messengers, Oscar Brown, Nancy Wilson and Jimmy Smith. The Rhythm & Blues  artists that were featured included Lou Rawls, Otis Redding, Fats Domino, Sam Cook, Isaac Hayes, Jerry Butler, Brook Benton, Diana Ross and the Supremes, Joe Tex and Stevie Wonder just to name a few.

Sam also did studio work with Kenny Gamble and Leon Huff, who later built Philadelphia International Records. This collaboration lead to an opportunity for Sam to work with Teddy Pendergrass, and Sam served as Teddy's music director for many years.

Currently Sam fronts his own group and also works with Odean Pope's "Saxophone Choir". He was also instrumental in starting The Point Breeze Performing Arts Center in South Philadelphia. Mr. Reed's musical gift has taken him from the Philadelphia area to the international music scene, and he continues to give back through his work and dedication to the art. We are blessed to be able to honor Mr. Sam Reed, an authentic jazz hero.
--Joseph Harrison
Sam Reed will be honored as a Jazz Hero at a JJA Jazz Awards Philadelphia Satellite Party June 24 at the Top Shelf Lounge. Save the date and stay tuned for further details.

Lamont Arthur- Tucson, Arizona

Lamont Arthur has been playing, composing and teaching jazz in Tucson for the last four decades, and these days also mentors young musicians at the Tucson Jazz Institute. Born in the Panama Canal Zone, the son of a U.S. Army lieutenant, Lamont found himself growing up at Ft. Huachuchua in southern Arizona.

Lamont turned his musical attentions to the Hammond B-3 organ after first trying his hand at the glockenspiel, and in his teens played in mixed-ethnic rock groups at the Card Cayon Corral in Sierra Vista. By the early ‘70s he had moved to Tucson and began playing with veteran saxophonist Mike Kuhn, gigging at the loose network of clubs in Tucson; the Pirates Den, Fun Factory, Bobby McGee and Mr. Merlin's. On the B-3, Lamont played blues, reggae, gospel and “crossover” -- meaning whatever was called for, regardless of presumed genre boundaries. From 1990 to ‘97 he played at Sakura's Japanese Restaurant with guitarist Phil Davis as a duo called L.A.P.D., which attained cult status and drew legions of Tucsonans to hear their intepretation of standards and uptempo barn-burners.

Throughout his career Lamont has always tried to give back to his supportive community through music. He’s performed for the Tucson Jazz Society at the Oro Valley Jazz Festival and the Jazz Guild of Tucson. He’s collaborated with Tucson Jazz fixtures such as "Sly" Dan Pensky guitarist Larry Redhouse, pianist Rob Boone, and bassists Gil Rodriguez, Elliot "Kirk" Kuykendal and drummer Pete Swan.

When Lamont gets a Tucson Jazz Institute student who is classically trained, he makes it his goal to get them to use their hearts and ears at least as much as acquired technique. That’s what he himself has done as an unsung hero in the Tucson jazz community -- and what it’s expected Lamont Arthur will continue to do, having now been “sung” as a Jazz Hero by the JJA.
-- Jake Feinberg
Lamont Arthur will be honored as a Jazz Hero at a JJA Jazz Awards Tucson Satellite Party June 24 at Mr. Heads Art Gallery & Bar. Save the date and stay tuned for further details.

Jacques Emond - Ottawa, Canada

Jacques Emond  Ottawa, Canada 2012 JJA Jazz Hero
Jacques Emond tells his own story:

“I became involved with the Ottawa International Jazz Festival from the beginning in 1981. At first, my involvement consisted of manning barricades, putting out posters as well as acting as MC on most of the shows.

In 1982 I was elected to the OIJF Board of Directors, remaining until 1991 working on various projects but mostly on the programming of the Festival. I was also the liaison person with the French medias, municipalities and organizations. In 1991 I resigned from the Board to work as a consultant in charge of programming, a position that lasted until 2010.

“In 1976 I was a founding member of the local jazz society: Jazz Ottawa. For five years I was president of the organization and responsible for producing a number of concerts featuring visiting artists from Canada and various other countries.  In 1990 I was involved in producing the acclaimed worldwide Ellington 90 Conference held in Ottawa.

I’ve also been a jazz broadcaster for close to 30 years with radio stations CIMF-FM in Hull, CKCU-FM in Ottawa. In September 2002 I began hosting a three-hour jazz show heard seven nights a week and heard on the new classical station: Classique 97.1. This lasted for two years. I also hosted an all-big band show on CBC’s Galaxie, The Continuous Music Network. I was the jazz writer for the French publication OutaouaisScope and edited the Jazz Ottawa newsletter for a number of years, and was the jazz consultant for a team of writers preparing a French language dictionary.

“I’ve been on various juries including the Ontario Arts Council’s Popular Music Program, The Montreal Jazz Festival’s Alcan Jazz Competitions and on six occasions a member of the jury for the Juno awards in the jazz category as well as a committee examining the structure of the Jazz Awards selection. I’m a member L’ADISQ in Quebec, on the jury for best jazz recordings. For the last several years I’ve been involved in the Jazz Report magazine annual selection of all-star musicians for each instrument, as well as on the Canadian Collectors Congress Association committee to select the best Canadian Traditional group. For over 15 years I’ve been teaching an adult education jazz course in both Ontario and Quebec. In 2007 I was a member of the selection committee for the Ontario Arts Council for the Hueck-Walford Award for classical and jazz piano. Some years ago I worked with Television Quebec on a short documentary guiding the viewers through the various sites where jazz could often be heard in Hull, Quebec during the 1940s, ‘50s and ‘60s.

“On February 28, 2012 I received from  the French Government the  Chevalier de L’Ordre Des Arts Et Des Lettre (Knight Of The Order Of Arts And Letters).”

To which the JJA humbly asserts the obvious: Jacques Emond is a Jazz Hero.
Jacques Emond will be honored as a Jazz Hero at a JJA Jazz Awards Ottawa Satellite Party June 18 at Cafe Paradiso. 

John Calloway - San Francisco Bay Area

John Calloway San Francisco Bay Area 2012 JJA Jazz Hero
John Calloway is a multi-instrumentalist, composer, arranger, educator and a cornerstone of the Bay Area Latin and world music scenes since the 1970s. Adept at flute, piano, and percussion, John has collaborated with a who’s-who of Bay Area jazz and Latin jazz innovators, including Jesus Diaz, Pete Escovedo, Mark Levine, Rebeca Mauleon, Marcus Shelby, Larry Vukovich and Wayne Wallace, not to mention his essential work as a collaborator for over three decades with five-time GRAMMY® nominee John Santos.

He’s also performed with such internationally known artists as Dizzy Gillespie, Los Van Van, Orlando “Maraca” Valle, Max Roach, Arturo Sandoval, Omar Sosa and Israel “Cachao” Lopez.

As a composer, arranger and performer, Dr. Calloway was an essential part of GRAMMY® nominated recordings with the Machete Ensemble and Ritmo y Candela, and has an established record as an arranger/composer for many bands and ensembles across the country.

As a bandleader John has lead his own ensembles since the 1990s, releasing two CDs, “Diaspora” (2003, Bombo Music) and “The Code” (2007, Bombo Music) that featured Bay Area jazz and Latin musicians as well as Cuban artists Pancho Terry, Maraca and Omar Sosa. His sextet has performed at many of the major jazz festivals, including Stanford, Monterey and the San Jose Jazz Festival.
As an educator, John currently teaches courses in Latin American music and culture at San Francisco State University, where he founded and still directs the university’s highly popular Afro-Cuban ensemble.

He is also a clinician at the Stanford Jazz Workshop and a longtime faculty member of JazzCampWest. For many years he was the program coordinator for PlazaCuba, a performing arts organization that offers courses in conjunction with the National School of the Arts in Havana, Cuba. Working with young musicians in the Bay Area, he is a founding member and musical director of the Latin Jazz Youth Ensemble of San Francisco, which provides free training and mentorship to students in Latin and jazz music.

John holds a B.A. in music from the City University of New York, an M.A. in music from San Francisco State University and a Doctorate in Education from the University of San Francisco. He currently serves as an Arts Commissioner for the City of San Francisco, and is on the advisory boards of the San Jose Jazz Society and the Arts Education Master Plan for the San Francisco School District.
--Wayne Saroyan  Photo copyright © 2011 Wayne Saroyan/JazzWest.com
 John Calloway will be honored as a Jazz Hero at a JJA Jazz Awards SF Bay Area Satellite Party on June 20 at the Hall of Culture at the African American Cultural Arts Complex, 762 Fulton Street,  San Francisco. The event, which begins at 6:30 pm, is free and open to the public.

Orbert Davis - Chicago

Orbert Davis Chicago 2012 JJA Jazz Hero
Orbert Davis is one of the most ebullient, energetic and outgoing jazz heroes in Chicago, a city that has produced many. A trumpeter and co-founder of the Chicago Jazz Philharmonic -- a 55+ piece symphonic ensemble -- Orbert has also been an enthusiastic educator, not only as Clinical Associate Professor of Jazz Studies at the University of Illinois at Chicago but also with students in Chicago’s public schools.

He established Jazz Alive (formerly Music Alive) as a Chicago Jazz Philharmonic’s education program, to focus on student enrichment and music advocacy, emphasizing the connections jazz provides between disciplines, professional development and parental involvement. In his words “By building music programs and jazz bands at the elementary level we can effectively improve the quality of CPS high school bands all around and can demonstrate involvement in music keeps our children focused and in school.”

Earlier, Orbert had developed teacher-training curriculum for Urban Gateways, the Illinois Resource Center and the Chicago Humanities Festival. He hosts a weekly radio show, The Real Deal, on WDCB-FM. In 2011 he was the first local musician to serve as Artist in Residence at the Chicago Jazz Festival. He has recorded prodigiously, earned numerous citations and honors -- including a recent Emmy for composing and producing an original score for the PBS documentary, “DuSable to Obama: Chicago’s Black Metropolis.” The JJA is proud to add its acclaim for all the good works of Jazz Hero Orbert Davis.
--Susan Fox, Elastic Arts Foundation
Orbert Davis will be honored as a Jazz Hero at a JJA Jazz Awards Chicago Satellite Party hosted by  and at the Elastic Arts Foundation,2830 N. Milwaukee Ave, at 6pm on June 23. More info

Bill McCann - Schenectady, New York

Bill McCann Schenectady, New York 2012 JJA Jazz Hero
Bill McCann has graced the airwaves, mixing mainstream and classic jazz with new releases as host of "The Saturday Morning Edition of Jazz" since April, 1985. His weekly four hour program, 8 am to noon, issues from the studios of WCDB-FM, the station at the University at Albany, State University of New York, and is heard on-line at WCDBFM.com. An attorney by day, Bill is  also member of the board of directors of A Place For Jazz, a not-for-profit corporation based in Schenectady, New York, which has presented concert series for more than 25 years, as well as providing scholarships and clinics to students in local schools and colleges.

A strong believer in supporting his local scene, McCann invites area musicians and promoters to showcase their projects in an oft-featured segment of his “Saturday Morning Edition” called "the Jazz Corner"; several times a year he invites local fans and players to sit in as guest DJ's, picking featured music. He’s instituted special programs including an Annual Duke Ellington Birthday Bash (just prior to Ellington’s birthday, April 29), and an Annual Jazz Christmas Show -- nine hours long on the Saturday before Christmas (and Bill’'s favorite show of the year; he likes to say it is "All of your favorite holiday music done in a Jazzy way."

Bill grew up in a Rockland County suburb of New York City. His father was a jazz fan and his major influence, introducing him to the music via recordings, jazz performances in clubs and at concerts throughout the metropolitan area. He regularly attended meetings with his father of the Jazz Record Masters of Northern New Jersey, a group that still meets most Tuesday nights to hang out for listening parties, and he tagged along when his father made regular guest appearances on Steve Possell's "Good Old Jazz" radio show on local WRKL-FM.

For his jazz support efforts, Bill has been named "Best Jazz DJ" by Metroland, a weekly alternative news and arts publication in New York’s Capital District, and has received official appreciation from the Albany Musicians Association, Local 14 of the American Federation of Musicians. In April of 2010, he marked the 25th Anniversary of his Saturday morning radio program with a day of jazz at the University at Albany, featuring seven bands constituted with the who’s who of area jazz musicians. As Tom Bellino, president of the Catskill-based non-profit jazz promotion group Planet Arts says, "Bill's a real community guy when it comes to supporting music. If it wasn't for guys like Bill and shows like his, I think there'd be a real void. Plus, his articulation - the way he speaks - is coming from the jazz vernacular."

Bellino calls Bill a resource for the region; McCann himself describes his program as his weekly therapy session. "I play what I love. That way, my excitement gets carried over the airwaves, and when I get excited, it just gets other people excited."  McCann often gets so excited that he comes back on air after a segment of music saying breathlessly, "Man, if that didn't get you going, you need to seek immediate, and I do mean immediate medical attention, 'cause you just might be dead." Bill McCann is a real live Jazz Hero.
-- A Place for Jazz
Bill McCann will be honored as a Jazz Hero at a JJA Jazz Awards Schenectady Satellite Party at The Van Dyck on June 23. Save the date, and stayed tuned for details.

Bert Dearing, Jr.-- Detroit

Born and raised in Detroit’s musically rich Paradise Valley neighborhood, Bert Dearing, Jr. began his entrepreneurial career as a youngster while managing a paper route and working in his grandfather’s eastside Detroit grocery store. His love for jazz music and his family’s strong business legacy along with the thriving Paradise Valley Community which by 1920 contained 350 African-American owned  businesses including a movie theater, the only black-owned pawn shop in the United States, a co-op grocery and a bank, inspired Bert to open his first jazz club, Bert’s Black Horse Saloon in 1968.

Since then Bert has owned and operated a more than a half-dozen successful night spots that have always featured an array of jazz music in and around the city of Detroit.  Many national and local musical luminaries have graced his stage in the 40+ years that he has been in business. On any given night his club could feature as he put it, “anybody that was in town,” and patrons could be treated to an impromptu performance by the likes of Earl Van Dyke and his fellow Funk Brothers, Betty Carter, Marcus Belgrave, James Carter, Stevie Wonder or Chaka Khan, among others. Bert also gets credit for single handedly sparking a revival within the jazz community of “jam sessions” in the area.  

His longest running club, the current Bert’s Marketplace, is an entertainment and business multiplex that includes a jazz club, a private club called the Motown Room, a barber shop, beauty salon and a 1000-seat supper club called Bert’s Warehouse Theater all located in the heart of Detroit’s  historic Eastern Market.  There is something happening every night at Bert’s and while other local establishments are feeling the pressure of economic downturn, Bert’s over 100,000 annual patrons are a solid base of support—proving Detroiters love jazz music.

Bert Dearing’s behind-the-scenes commitment and contribution to the Motor City’s jazz scene are among the reasons that scene is still happening, and earns him grateful recognition as a Jazz Hero. 
--Greg Dunmore
Bert Dearing will be honored as a Jazz Hero at a JJA Jazz Awards Detroit Satellite Party at The Jazz Room at Bert's on June 28.

Catalina Popescu – Los Angeles

When Catalina Popescu emigrated to the U.S. from her native Romania in the ‘70s, the idea of running a jazz club was nowhere in her mind. But in 1986, ten years after her arrival in Los Angeles, she and her husband, Bob, opened the supper club that would soon become a primary Southern California jazz destination. 
Encouraged to do so by veteran jazz saxophonist Buddy Collette, who was their first opening act (and, incidentally, a JJA “A Team” honoree), the room – named Catalina Bar & Grill and positioned just off busy Hollywood Boulevard – slowly found its way, surviving while many other jazz clubs came and went. 

Catalina often cites the support of Dizzy Gillespie, another of the first major name jazz artists to work the room, for giving the club its initial momentum. But the list of stellar performers who have appeared there is long and illustrious. Among them: Art Blakey, McCoy Tyner, Chick Corea, Joe Williams, Ray Brown, Ahmad Jamal, Joe Williams, Max Roach, Carmen McRae, Betty Carter, Ron Carter, Joe Henderson, Benny Carter, Tony Williams, Joe Zawinul, John Pizzarelli, Jane Monheit, Tierney Sutton, Marcus Miller, Wynton Marsalis, Branford Marsalis, Karrin Allyson, Joshua Redman, Michael Brecker, Dee Dee Bridgewater and Jimmy Scott, for starters. 

Los Angeles’ many top notch resident jazz artists also are frequently scheduled at Catalina’s. She is receptive to young, emerging players, sometimes booking them even if they are still at student levels. As well, Catalina has often hosted charitable events supporting jazz and music education organizations.

In 2003, Catalina and Bob Popescu made the daunting and expensive decision to move Catalina Bar & Grill from its Cahuenga Blvd. location to a considerably larger location in a high rise building on Sunset Blvd. Intimately involved with every decision regarding the redesigning of the room – from audience sightlines and acoustics to the choice of colors and furnishings -- Catalina created a space that is warm, visually appealing and eminently suited to listening. 
When Bob Popescu died in 2008, Catalina carried on, despite the challenge of having to do so without her life partner.  It wasn’t easy, but with the help of her Mom working busily in their cozy war room near the kitchen she has sustained both the visibility and the high quality programming that have characterized Catalina Bar & Grill from the beginning. More than that, Catalina’s determination to maintain the authentic identity of the room that bears her name continues – during an era of economic distress -- to provide music listeners, as well as great jazz artists, with a world class performance space. The JJA is pleased to celebrate Catalina Popescu as a Jazz Hero. - Don Heckman, the International Review of Music
Catalina Popescu will be honored as a Jazz Hero at a JJA Jazz Awards Los Angeles Satellite Party at the Blue Whale on June 23.

Robin Bell-Stevens-- New York City

Robin Bell-Stevens is the president and CEO of Jazzmobile, Inc., and a living embodiment of its mission: to present, preserve, promote and propagate America’s classical music. Elegant, reserved, gracious and well-known within the tri-state jazz community, Robin is a master of keeping musicians, students, fans and more general audiences from the five boroughs of New York City culturally connected via pioneering jazz education programs and Jazzmobile's famous free summer out-of-doors performances, as well as the recently instituted and popular Jazzmobile vocal competition that extends its mission even farther.

The daughter of Aaron Bell, bassist for Andy Kirk, Lucky Millinder, Teddy Wilson, Billie Holiday, Lester Young, Dick Haymes and eventually the Duke Ellington Orchestra, Robin, like the best musicians as well as administrators came to her Jazzmobile gig the old-fashioned way -- by working hard at all kinds of other gigs first. The founder and chief executive of an events-marketing firm, she served as the director of public relations and special events for the Jackie Robinson Foundation. As executive producer for 20 years of its “An Afternoon of Jazz Festival,” she established the event as the premier outdoors one-day music gathering.  She was director of marketing and creative services for Jazz at Lincoln Center, the largest not-for-profit arts organization committed to promoting appreciation and understanding of jazz, before signing on with Jazzmobile.

Robin’s non-profit service has included being an active board member of many influential institutions: The Louis Armstrong Educational Foundation, Jazz Studies Department at Columbia University Advisory Board, WBGO Jazz 88.3 FM's Community Advisory Board, Society of Singers/East Coast, The Women’s Committee of the Central Park Conservancy (she co-chaired its Upper Park Partners Committee) and The Carter Burden Center for the Aging (she co-chaired the Marketing Committee). She is also a former president of The New York Coalition of 100 Black Women — the flagship chapter of the National Coalition of 100 Black Women --- and was previously on the board of the National Alliance of Breast Cancer Organizations (NABCO).

Again and again, Robin has proved to be an invaluable non-profit administrator, fundraiser, marketing executive and music producer. The JJA is proud to hail her as a Jazz Hero. -- Kirpal GordonRobin Bell-Stevens will be honored as a Jazz Hero at the JJA Jazz Awards Party at the Blue Note Jazz Club in New York City on June 20. This event is open to the public and tickets are now available.

Adrian Ellis-- New York City

Adrian Ellis, executive director of Jazz at Lincoln Center from 2007 to 2011 and now a special consultant to the Jazz at Lincoln Center board, is an insightful analyst of the non-profit arts presenting world who stabilized the organizational and financial position of "the House that Swing built" through astute management and imaginative expansion.
Having taken the administrative helm of an institution with a $35 million annual budget, which was facing diverse challenges in its second year in a grand new facility, Adrian controlled expenses, prevented economic crises, and helped create a culture in which the directing team could sift multiple opportunities and prioritize the right ones.

Many JALC projects during Adrian's tenure were strictly home-based, such as his enlivening of the Atrium, among other public spaces in the Lincoln Center constituent's fifth and sixth floor facilities at the Time Warner Center in Columbus Circle, and nurturing of Essentially Ellington as well as other public education programs for students ranging from pre-schoolers to advanced adults. Several memorable events -- including the Lincoln Center Jazz Orchestra's concert performance at President Barak Obama's inauguration and the festive National Endowment of the Arts Jazz Masters concert broadcasts in Frederick P. Rose Hall -- set the organization directly at the center of U.S. semi-official culture. Yet another remarkable aspect of Adrian's efforts on behalf of JALC was his realization of possibilities for Jazz at Lincoln Center overseas. He is justifiably proud of the links he helped JALC establish with the Cuban musical community during the Jazz Orchestra’s 2010 visit to Havana,  the ten-year partnership he negotiated for the Orchestra at the Barbican Center in London, partnerships he forged with the Turkish Embassy celebrating the legacy of Ahmet Ertegun, the St. Regis luxury hotel chain to open five new JALC jazz clubs starting in 2013 in Doha, Qatar and the Jazz Foundation of America (Playing Our Parts).

His audience development initiatives included instituting a series curated by Michael Feinstein exploring links between jazz and popular song and one curated by Taj Mahal focusing on the blues. He established new relations with national funders including the Mellon, Doris Duke, Rockefeller, Ford and Kresge foundations, and encouraged Robert O’Meally (now on the JALC board) to curate museum-quality exhibitions on the works of David Stone Martin, Herman Leonard and Chuck Stewart, among others, in what was previously just a corridor. 

As a result, Jazz at Lincoln Center under Adrian Ellis became more animated, friendlier, and fulfilled its promise of high quality programming, to serve as a model for arts organizations producing and presenting jazz elsewhere. He has shown it can be done, and has raised the standard against which all efforts will be compared.

While Adrian returns to head up his own AEA Consulting firm, which he founded in 1990, he has not left jazz. He moderated panels produced by the Jazz Forward Coalition at the 2012 Association for Performing Arts Presenters convention and has become an informal advisor to such activity centers as the New School Jazz and Contemporary Music program. His clear and down-to-earth thinking will no doubt continue to produce commentary and assert influence on the larger not-for-profit art sector, but he stands tall simply as a Jazz Hero. -- Howard Mandel
Adrian Ellis will be honored as a Jazz Hero at the JJA Jazz Awards Party at the Blue Note Jazz Club in New York City on June 20. This event is open to the public and tickets are now available.

Albert Murray--Words and Music Award (co-presented by the Jazz Journalists Association and the Jazz Foundation of America)

At 96, Albert Murray is one of America's most significant writers on the blues, jazz and their influence on American culture. In his non-fiction books The Omni-Americans, The Hero and the Blues, Stomping the Blues, The Blue Devils of Nada and From the Briarpatch File as well as in his novels Train Whistle Guitar, The Spyglass Tree, The Seven League Boots and The Magic Keys, Murray details his ideas on art vs. chaos, literature and history, identity and heroism, with the blues idiom serving as an intellectual compass and touchstone.

In a 1996 interview, Murray described the blues idiom as: “. . . an attitude of affirmation in the face of difficulty, of improvisation in the face of challenge. It means you acknowledge that life is a low-down dirty shame yet confront that fact with perseverance, with humor, and above all, with elegance.”

The blues idiom and jazz are to Murray quintessential American attitudes and artistic forms grounded in a black American experience, available for embrace by all. In Stomping the Blues, winner of the ASCAP Deems Taylor award in 1977, Murray places the music in a context of myth and ritual, with jazz serving the affirmative, communal function of banishing the blues, at least momentarily.

Murray grew up in Alabama during Jim Crow, was a star student at the Mobile County Training School, and a scholarship student at the Tuskegee Institute from 1935-1939, where he met and married his beloved wife Mozelle in 1941 (their daughter Michele was a professional dancer with the Alvin Ailey Dance Theater). At Tuskegee he also met fellow writer Ralph Ellison, with whom, later, he formed a close personal, musical and literary friendship. Their selected letters from the 1950s were published in 2001 as Trading Twelves.

In 1943, during World War II, Murray enlisted in the U.S. Army Air Corps; he retired from the U.S. Air Force with the rank of major in 1962, the year he settled his family in New York City. He had met his hero Duke Ellington in 1946, and they remained friends until Ellington’s death in 1974.  Duke described Murray as a “man whose learning did not interfere with his understanding. . . He’s the unsquarest person I know.” In the summer of 1950, Murray met the artist Romare Bearden in Paris. Their close friendship and artistic collaboration resulted in Murray being the source of the titles of many of Bearden’s classic works.

Murray taught at Tuskegee, Colgate University, Barnard College, Drew University, Washington and Lee University, the Columbia School of Journalism and Emory University, where he was writer-in-residence. In 1997, he was inducted into the American Academy of Arts and Letters, received an honorary doctorate at Hamilton College and the Ivan Sandrof Life Achievement Award from the National Book Critics Circle.  In 2007, he was given the Du Bois Medal by Harvard University’s W.E.B. Du Bois Institute.

In addition to his non-fiction, fiction (which details the maturation and adventures of a protagonist nicknamed Scooter) and book of poetry Conjugations and Reiterations, Murray is the writer of the as-told-to autobiography of Count Basie, Good Morning Blues.  His 1971 masterpiece, South to a Very Old Place, was nominated for a National Book Award. In 2011, through the efforts of Murray scholar Paul Devlin, Murray’s conversations with jazz drumming pioneer Papa Jo Jones from 1977-1985 were collected, transcribed, edited and released as Rifftide: The Life and Opinions of Papa Jo Jones (a nominee for the Jazz Journalists Association’s 2012 “Best Book of the Year” Award).
In concert with the big band sounds that were the soundtrack of his youth and young adulthood, Murray calls jazz the “fully-orchestrated blues statement,” a fine art that extended, elaborated and refined the folk, pop and classical music around it. His profound influence on Wynton Marsalis—introduced to Murray by the writer Stanley Crouch—resulted in the creation of Jazz at Lincoln Center, for which he is recognized as the intellectual father, serves on the Board of Directors, and was honored in 2009 with an Ed Bradley Award for Leadership.

The "Words and Music" Award, co-presented by the Jazz Foundation of America and the Jazz Journalists Association, takes into account both Albert Murray’s words about music and the music of his words, in recognition of his service to listeners and readers, students and musicians, his nation and culture, to blues and jazz.  – Greg Thomas
Albert Murray will be honored at the JJA Jazz Awards Party at the Blue Note Jazz Club in New York City on June 20. This event is open to the public and tickets are now available.

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