The National Endowment for the Arts has announced the recipients of the 2012 NEA Jazz Masters Awardthe nation's highest honor in jazz. The five recipients are drummer-keyboardist Jack DeJohnette, saxophonist Von Freeman, bassist and composer Charlie Haden, singer Sheila Jordan and trumpeter Jimmy Owens (pictured). As a longtime educator, the latter will receive the 2012 A.B. Spellman NEA Jazz Masters Award for Jazz Advocacy.
Each will receive a one-time award of $25,000 and be honored at the annual awards ceremony and concert, produced by Jazz at Lincoln Center at its home, Frederick P. Rose Hall in Manhattan next January.
With this class, the NEA is celebrating the 30th anniversary of the NEA Jazz Masters Awards, which recognize outstanding musicians for their lifetime achievements and significant contributions to the development and performance of jazz. Ironically, the NEA Jazz Masters program is going away... making this its final class of recipients. The agency has proposed one program to honor artists in all disciplines. It's called the NEA American Artists of the Year awards.
This condensation means jazz artists will still have an opportunity to receive lifetime achievement recognition from the NEA, although their nominations will have to compete with other varieties of artists. We'll have to wait and see how that works out, just as the jury is still out over the Grammys consolidation hornet's nest this spring.