Voting for the 2020 JazzTimes Readers’ Poll was conducted via an online survey at JazzTimes.com. Winners are bolded; runners-up are listed below in order of number of votes (an asterisk * denotes a tie). When casting their ballots, readers were asked to focus on artists’ achievements occurring between January and December 2020.
The BMI Foundation is extending the deadline for scholarship applications to FRIDAY, JANUARY 29th, 2021
including the Future Jazz Master Scholarship, John Lennon Scholarships, peermusic Latin Scholarship and the Nashville Songwriting Scholarship.
Program applications must be completed online no later than Friday, January 29, 2021 11:59PM. For complete details and to apply, please visit bmifoundation.org/programs.
Apply now! Program details below.
BMI Future Jazz Master Scholarship
The sixth annual BMI Future Jazz Master Scholarship will award $5,000 to a rising jazz star pursuing a graduate degree in Jazz Studies, Jazz Performance, or related majors. The award was established in 2015 in honor of the NEA Jazz Masters Fellowship, a lifetime achievement recognition program of the National Endowment for the Arts. bmifoundation.org/jazzmaster
John Lennon Scholarships
The 24th annual John Lennon Scholarships will award three prizes totaling $20,000 to U.S. college-student songwriters (age 17 to 24) for the best original songs submitted to the competition. Established in 1997 by Yoko Ono in conjunction with the BMI Foundation, this scholarship program honors the memory of one of the preeminent songwriters of the 20th century, John Lennon, and has become one of the nation’s most esteemed accolades for emerging artists.bmifoundation.org/lennon
Nashville Songwriting Scholarship
The sixth annual Nashville Songwriting Scholarship will award $5,000 for the best original song in any of the following genres: Americana, blues, bluegrass, contemporary Christian, country, folk, and roots. The contest is open to students between the ages of 17 and 24, who are enrolled in any college or university located in the United States. GRAMMY-winning recording artist and BMI songwriter Kacey Musgraves endorses the competition and serves as a final judge. bmifoundation.org/nashville
peermusic Latin Scholarship
Established by music publisher Ralph Peer II and generously funded by peermusic, the 18th annual peermusic Latin Scholarship competition will award a $5,000 scholarship for the best original song or instrumental composition in any Latin genre. The contest is open to students between the ages of 17 and 24, who are enrolled in any college or university located in the United States and Puerto Rico. bmifoundation.org/peer
BMI Founders Award for Radio Broadcasting-Deadline is April 2, 2021
The third annual BMI Founders Award competition is open to radio broadcasting students age 17 - 24 nationwide. A $5,000 scholarship will be awarded for the best original essay response entry. The program was established in 2015 to recognize future innovators of broadcast radio, and commemorates the group of radio industry leaders who founded Broadcast Music, Inc. in 1939. bmifoundation.org/broadcast
About the BMI Foundation
The BMI Foundation is a nonprofit organization founded in 1985 to encourage the creation, performance, and study of American music. The Foundation’s programs include competitive scholarships for songwriters and composers, operating grants for nonprofit arts presenters, and support for innovative music education initiatives in schools and communities across the country. For more information about the work of the Foundation, please visit . For exclusive news and content, follow @bmifoundation on Instagram and Twitter, and like “BMI Foundation” on Facebook at facebook.com/bmifoundation.
The Global Music Venue Jazz Fest
January 15-17, 2021
An impressive lineup united virtually!
The inaugural Global Music Venue Jazz Fest will run January 15-17, 2021; bringing together renowned global artists for a series of solo performances, masterclasses and interactive Q&As. Participants include Terri Lyne Carrington, John Patitucci, Kenny Werner, Larry Goldings, Melissa Aldana, Peter Bernstein, Sullivan Fortner, Lage Lund, Alexa Tarantino, Gilad Hekselman, and Tom Oren. The 3-day virtual event will include free educational opportunities for aspiring jazz musicians.
The Global Music Venue Jazz Fest is an initiative by producer Lolivone de la Rosa, an emerging guitarist and composer pursuing a degree in Contemporary Writing & Production and Guitar Performance at Berklee College of Music.
For more information on the 2021 Global Music Venue Jazz Fest and ticket inquiries please visit . The event will be viewable via a private link, sent via email an hour before the event start.
2021 Grammy Nominations
The Grammy Awards have been postponed until March 14:
This year’s Grammy nominees in Jazz and Blues include a number of women. Most of them are no surprise being veterans from past nominations and Grammy winners. However, there are a couple of new artists that have been rewarded for their fresh sounds and unique approaches - the Croatian singer, Thana Alexa and the U.S. born daughter of African immigrants, Somi.
Best Jazz Vocals:
Thana Alexa, CD, Ona
Carmen Lundy, CD, Modern Ancestors
Somi, CD, Holy Room
Group – Terri Lyne Carrington and Social Science, CD, Waiting Room
Orchestra – Maria Schneider, CD. Data Lords
Best Contemporary Blues Vocals:
Ruthie Foster, CD, Live at the Paramount
Bettye LaVette, CD. Blackbirds
The 63rd Annual Grammy Awards ceremony will be held on January 31, 2021 at the Staples Center in Los Angeles. It will recognize the best recordings, compositions, and artists of the eligibility year, running from September 1, 2019, to August 31, 2020.
The 2021 Grammy Award nominees will be announced on Tuesday at noon ET/9 a.m. PT, courtesy of Recording Academy interim president Harvey Mason Jr., special guests Dua Lipa and Imogen Heap and other presenters.
The one-hour livestreamed event will air on Grammy.com, as well as on the Recording Academy’s social media platforms. CBS All Access and Pluto TV will also stream the announcement.
Additional artists participating in this year’s ceremony include Christian music singer Lauren Daigle, country music singer-songwriter Mickey Guyton, Nigerian Afropop signer Yemi Alade, classical violinist Nicola Benedetti and regional Mexican singer-songwriter Pepe Aguilar. “CBS This Morning’s” Gayle King and “The Talk” host Sharon Osbourne will also appear at the event.
Christmas Eve with Jazzmeia Horn
Dear Friends and Fans,
This year has been a tough one for us all, but with each other's support we stand tall in unity. The effects of COVID-19 have been extremely challenging for everyone, including artists, as we have been isolated from our communities and supporters.
Although the world has changed, art is still essential to our everyday lives as human beings. With my music, I strive to create art that inspires and uplifts people through traumatic experiences, especially during this era of adversity that we are all facing. Music feeds the soul and encourages healing. Nina Simone said it best, “It's an artist's duty to reflect the times in which we live.” Now more than ever it is important for patrons of the arts to offer financial support to artists, enabling us to continue to create through these challenging times.
During my time in quarantine, I've written a book and composed songs from the depths of my soul in which people of all races, identities, classes, and religions can relate. I desire to share my artistry with you.
Join me and my team at Artistry of Jazz Horn on Christmas Eve as we present your favorite Christmas songs and offer to you the premiere of my latest unreleased project entitled “Where We Are” which is now available for vinyl pre-order.
Thank you, "Yours in Music, Jazzmeia"
“If nomenclature is destiny, Jazzmeia Horn was indeed born to swing. Maturing in what is proving to be a renaissance period for female jazz singers, Horn—who has won in both the Thelonious Monk and Sarah Vaughan vocal-jazz competitions—holds her own as an assured and spunky interpreter of song.”
The New Yorker
“Horn is among the most exciting young vocalists in jazz, with a proud traditionalism that keeps her tightly linked to the sound of classic figures like Nancy Wilson and Betty Carter, but a vivacity of spirit and conviction that places her firmly in the present.”
The New York Times
“...Jazzmeia Horn breaks free of the constraints of vocal jazz, offering a mature album of original music that speaks to self-love, self-expression, and perhaps most importantly, the courage to love unconditionally.”
Facebook: Jazzmeia Horn Fan Page
Pre-order Album Now
Ella - Forever the First Lady of Song
November 14th 7PM EST
In 2017, Jazz at Lincoln Center’s annual gala celebrated Ella Fitzgerald's centennial in what remains one of our most beloved concerts. Now, due to popular demand, we're re-airing this special performance for the first time, honoring a woman whose legacy and influence define a classic era of jazz.
The University of Pittsburgh will host its 50th Annual Pitt Jazz Seminar and Concert: Celebrating Dr. Nathan Davis and Geri Allen, online on Nov. 2 through 7
- with performances by national artists Terri Lyne Carrington, Vijay Lyer and Nicole Mitchell, along with Pittsburgh-based musician Dwayne Dolphin. The week also inlcudes panel discussions, a cyber symposium in collaboration with Columbia University, performances by faculty, and reflections on the past five decades of Pitt Jazz. To see the full schedule, go to jazz.pitt.edu.
Current Director of Jazz Studies at Pitt, Nicole Mitchell states, “The Pitt Jazz Studies Program is one of the oldest and most reputable in the country and it’s our immense honor to herald visionaries Dr. Nathan Davis and Geri Allen who built it with creativity, love, inventiveness and tenacity so that it can stand strong today. It’s important for us to remember from where we came so we can plan well where we will go for the next fifty years in jazz.”
Cécile McLorin Salvant Wins 2020 MacArthur Foundation “Genius” Grant
By Allison Hussey for Pitchfork
October 6, 2020
The musician is being recognized for “using manifold powers of interpretation to infuse jazz standards and original compositions with a vibrant, global, Black, feminist sensibility”
Jazz singer and composer Cécile McLorin Salvant has been awarded a fellowship with the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation. She is the only musician in this year’s group of “genius grant” recipients. She joins several other scientists, writers, and scholars among the 2020 honorees, who will each receive $625,000 to use over five years.
The foundation recognized Salvant for “using manifold powers of interpretation to infuse jazz standards and original compositions with a vibrant, global, Black, feminist sensibility.” Her most recent studio album was 2018’s The Window.
Last year’s group of MacArthur fellows included guitarist Mary Halvorson.
By David Peisner for the New York Times
Aug. 24, 2020
Didn’t Know the Beatles’ ‘Blackbird.’ Then It Helped Her Fly.
Ten years ago, the Fab Four’s song about civil rights gave the soul singer a creative spark. Now she’s releasing an album of tracks originally popularized by Black women.
In the summer of 2010, the soul singer Bettye LaVette stepped onstage at the Hollywood Bowl in Los Angeles with a 32-piece string section behind her and performed a four-decade-old song she’d only just learned: the Beatles’ “Blackbird.”
At the time, LaVette was about seven years into a long-overdue career resurgence. As a teenager in the 1960s, she had scored a few memorable R&B hits, including the slinky, aching “Let Me Down Easy,” but she failed to make the kind of impact that many of the artists she came up alongside in Detroit — Diana Ross, Marvin Gaye, Martha Reeves, Aretha Franklin — enjoyed. To many record collectors, LaVette was a great forgotten singer whose earthy voice could transform any song into something more than even its author imagined. To most everyone else, she was just forgotten.
For decades, she’d had albums shelved, projects scuttled and even one manager shot. LaVette calls this seeming yen for misfortune “buzzard luck,” but beginning around 2003, her fortunes began to change with a string of critically acclaimed albums.
Preparing for the Beatles tribute, her husband, Kevin Kiley, suggested she perform “Blackbird.” “I’d never heard the song before in my life,” LaVette said in a phone call from her home in West Orange, N.J., where she has been riding out the coronavirus pandemic. “Kevin played it for me and I said, ‘I wonder if people know he’s talking about a Black woman?’”
Performing to a packed crowd 10 years ago, LaVette felt a deep connection to the signature lyric. “I just said, ‘All my life I’ve waited for this moment to arrive.’ That is exactly how I felt.”
LaVette rejiggered the song into the first-person, slowed the tempo to a crawl and added a bed of strings. Her wholesale reinvention of the classic tune became the foundation for an album that would take another decade to blossom. “Blackbirds,” due Friday, is a collection of songs celebrating the formative work of — as LaVette calls them — “black birds.” All the songs, save for the Beatles song that inspired it, were originally popularized by Black female singers, including Nina Simone, Billie Holiday and Dinah Washington.
“These women are the first Black women singers I heard,” she said. “Knowing what all these women went through, I can find myself in each of the songs because I’m a black bird too.”
Please click on link above for full article.
Helen Jones Woods
Member of an All-Female Jazz Group, Dies at 96.
She played trombone in the multiracial International Sweethearts of Rhythm, but later put down her horn forever. She died of the coronavirus.
Helen Jones Woods was an African-American jazz musician who toured the country, including the Jim Crow South, in the 1930s and ’40s. This could be the start of a familiar story of racism on the road. But Ms. Woods’s journey has some distinctive wrinkles.
Ms. Woods played trombone in the International Sweethearts of Rhythm, an all-female, multiracial ensemble so anomalous that the white members had to wear blackface in the South to avoid trouble.
When the group split up in 1949 — bruised by the road and feeling exploited financially — Ms. Woods found the classical world no less racist. After her first performance with the Omaha Symphony, her father, who did not share her light complexion, picked her up, tipping off the orchestra that she was not white.
“They fired her,” said Ms. Woods’s daughter Cathy Hughes, a founder and chairperson of Urban One, a media company that focuses on Black culture. “She never touched her horn again.”
Ms. Woods died on July 25 of the coronavirus in a hospital in Sarasota, Fla., her daughter said. She was 96.
“I was absolutely stunned and speechless (I’m never speechless) when I learned I was receiving the award. What an honor to be in such great company of others that have received it and to be acknowledged in such a big way for the work I love to do in jazz. I will continue my work to the best of my ability as long as I’m allowed to.”
Dorthaan Kirk has been a major force at WBGO Jazz 88.3 FM, Newark Public Radio—the only full-time jazz format station in New York and New Jersey—working in various roles for more than four decades. Called “Newark’s First Lady of Jazz,” Kirk has been active as a curator and producer of jazz events primarily in and around Newark, New Jersey, and is an avid supporter of musicians and jazz education for children.
Kirk grew up in Texas and lived in California before moving to the East Coast in 1970 with husband Rahsaan Roland Kirk, a jazz great known for playing multiple horns simultaneously, whose career she managed. Kirk was already a jazz fan before marriage, but her husband introduced her to more musicians and new venues, and she became more knowledgeable about jazz history through him.
When her husband died unexpectedly in 1977 at age 41, Kirk wanted to continue to work in the jazz business. She was introduced to Bob Ottenhoff, who was working on getting the Newark Board of Education to transfer their underutilized broadcast license to create the first public radio station in New Jersey, as a full-time jazz station. Ottenhoff hired Kirk as one of the original employees that launched WBGO in 1979. Before retiring in 2018, Kirk was the special events and community relations coordinator; the curator of the station’s art gallery, which is open to the public; and managed the annual WBGO Jazz-a-thon as well as the WBGO Children’s Jazz Series, which offers free jazz concerts by top-name musicians specifically for young people since 1993.
Kirk has been active for decades in the Newark community presenting jazz events. In 2000, she coordinated with the Rev. Dr. M. William Howard Jr. of the Bethany Baptist Church in Newark to present free-of-charge monthly Jazz Vespers, live jazz events during the months from October to June, that have featured nationally renowned performers, such as Jimmy Heath, Jon Faddis, and Gregory Porter. Since 2012, Kirk has been the consultant producer for a monthly jazz brunch series titled Dorthaan’s Place in her honor at the New Jersey Performing Arts Center’s Nico Kitchen & Bar in Newark. In addition to recruiting talent, she has also acted as master of ceremonies for these events.
She continues to be the keeper of the flame of her late husband’s musical legacy: managing his music; acting as administrator of his publishing company; and organizing special events in his honor, such as the tribute at St. Peter’s Church in New York City in December 2007.
Kirk has been the recipient of numerous awards from the City of East Orange, City of Newark, and New Jersey State Assembly for her community-based initiatives in the arts. In 2013, she received the Humanitarian Award from the American Conference on Diversity, Essex County Chapter. For her 80th birthday in 2018, the Dorthaan Kirk Scholarship Opportunity Fund was created to support jazz students in the Newark area.
Annie Ross 1930–2020
Annie Ross, a British-American vocalist who was among the most celebrated jazz singers of the 1950s and a noted character actress and cabaret singer in her later years, died July 21 at her home in New York City. She was four days shy of her 90th birthday.
Annie Ross, Birdland, NYC, September 2015 (photo: Jeff Tamarkin)