Saxophonist Greg Osby, vibraphonist Stefon Harris, saxophonist Ornette Coleman, and trumpeters Dave Douglas and Wynton Marsalis are among those nominated for the Jazz Awards 2000, to be issued Sunday at New York's Knitting Factory.
The fourth-annual edition of the awards, run by the Jazz Journalists Association, consists of 37 categories, including Musician of the Year, Tribute Album, Composer, Recording Debut and the usual instrumental niches. There are also award categories for journalists, books and Web sites.
(Click here for a full list of Jazz Awards 2000 nominees.)
The 300 or so members of the JJA, including writers, photographers, broadcasters and new-media professionals, were polled in April for nominees, and will vote on the winners. The awards cover the 12 months from May 1, 1999 to May 1, 2000.
How jazz awards are selected has always been a subject of hot debate in the jazz community. Some say they are a boon to the industry, others think they're capricious and insult the art form. The Billboard/BET Jazz Awards, announced June 9, were based strictly on SoundScan sales figures, leading some to question their point.
"I know there is the whole issue about awards," said jazz writer Howard Mandel, president of the JJA. "Of course, these are not binding, and I feel a little embarrassed by it in some ways. But in recent years, I feel that the JJA can offer a breadth of viewpoints that make it interesting."
The categories are as wide-ranging as the artists nominated. Last year's winner of the Lifetime Achievement Award, tenor legend Sonny Rollins, will be joined this year by either Coleman, bassist Milt Hinton, drummer Elvin Jones, pianist Cecil Taylor or trumpeter Clark Terry. Marsalis is up for Musician of the Year and joins Douglas in the running for Trumpeter of the Year.
The late Milt Jackson won last year's prize for Marimba/Vibes Player of the Year. This year, that award will go to either Gary Burton, Bobby Hutcherson, Bill Ware, Steve Nelson or Stefon Harris. Last year Harris won the award for Best Recording Debut as a leader for Red Cloud of Dust.
In the Critics Choice Album of the Year category, middle-aged guns battle with the masters. Forty-year-old saxophonist Greg Osby's Invisible Hand (Blue Note), 38-year-old brass man Terrance Blanchard's Jazz in Film (Sony Classical), 63-year-old pianist Andrew Hill's Dusk (Palmetto), 73-year-old saxophonist Sam Rivers' Inspiration (RCA/Victor) and 37-year-old trumpeter Douglas' Soul on Soul (RCA/Victor) are up for the award. Douglas' CD contains the tune "Soul on Soul" (RealAudio excerpt).
Among the new categories this year is Small Ensemble (nonet or smaller), which includes pianist Chick Corea's Origin, bassist Dave Holland's quintet, saxophonist Steve Lacy and trombonist Roswell Rudd's quartet, saxophonist John Zorn's Masada quartet, and Douglas' sextet, quartet, Tiny Bell Trio, and Charms of the Night Sky band.
'Much Needed Award Ceremony'
The awards were instituted in 1997 with a small ceremony hosted by what was then called the critics' circle. After that, impresario Michael Dorf offered to bring his Knitting Factory muscle into the mix. In 1998 and 1999 the JJA-Knitting Factory partnership resulted in big-time awards shows, the first in Lincoln Center's Alice Tully Hall, last year's at the South Street Seaport Atrium.
The arrangement was mutually beneficial. Dorf had a climactic event for his annual jazz festival, and the JJA got a lot of visibility. Dorf's KnitMedia cybercast both shows and last year televised them on the BETonJazz channel.
The Knitting Factory is not an official sponsor of the awards this year
— although they are being held at the venue — because Dorf
had considered participating in the Billboard/BET Awards. Both Mandel and Dorf had early meetings with the organizers of that show, but declined to go along.
"The JJA's is a much needed award ceremony, since the music that is being celebrated here tends to be that which is more critically supported, as opposed to reflected at cash registers," Dorf said. "The JJA awards, which we will be involved with again next year, help boost sales and recognition and hopefully will end some of the infighting that occurs within the jazz community."
Speaking of infighting, the 1998 awards show will always be remembered as the "Snit at the Knit." During the ceremony, author and critic Stanley Crouch made a disparaging comment from the podium about pianist Matthew Shipp. Crouch, who in the '70s was a champion of jazz's cutting edge but has since been on a mission to defend the "traditional jazz canon," accused Shipp of being a quack.
At the Knitting Factory's after-show party, Shipp confronted Crouch and was joined by Mandel. Crouch struck Mandel and a small fracas ensued.
"It was a really silly situation," Dorf said. "The sad thing is that Stanley had first given a really beautiful speech on the importance of jazz before ripping into Shipp with a sneer and a comment."
There was no hostility at last year's show. "The vibe there was really friendly, laid back and fun," keyboardist Joe Zawinul said. "I really enjoyed seeing Wayne Shorter for the first time in years. I was beaming!"
The challenge this year will be to issue all 37 awards in the allotted two hours.
"For so long, people sat around and talked about having this type of award presentation," Mandel said. "We take pride in being able to pull it off."