Now online: this month’s column, about the NEA Jazz Masters, the Marsalis Family, and what I believe to be a certain lapse in judgment. I should note that I filed my copy to JazzTimes on Aug. 10, a few weeks before the hullabaloo caused by saxophonist Phil Woods, who announced his boycott of all future NEA Jazz Masters events. (Peter Hum covered this well over at Jazzblog.ca.)
When the Woods grievance hit the airwaves, I piped up on Twitter that I disagreed with his actions but had to acknowledge that he had a point. In response, guitarist-composer Anthony Wilson wrote this (I’ll collapse his serial installments into one statement):
@anthony__wilson of course Woods has a point, but that's really beside the point... somebody nominated and championed the cause of "marsalis family," and it sure wasn't The Marsalis Family
Which is a big part of my argument in the column. If you managed to read it -- and please, jazzbos, no comments below unless you have -- you’ll hopefully recognize the distinction between my critique of the Marsalis Family award and criticism of the Marsalis Family itself.
Nor should it be construed as an attack on the NEA Jazz Masters program. I’m a fan of the program, its support of musicians, and its effectiveness as a public-awareness engine for jazz. And having attended and covered a handful of the induction ceremonies, including the last two, I can attest to the emotional uplift they provide.
Wayne S. Brown, who has been the NEA’s Director of Music and Opera since 1997, told me that the program is strong, despite a few potential causes for concern. (Chief among them, in no particular order: the current economic climate; increased pressure to pare down government programs; the change in leadership at the NEA last year.)
“We’re very excited about our current position,” said Brown, pictured at right, “not only with the NEA Jazz Masters program, but also the fact that our support for jazz goes beyond that. It includes NEA Jazz Live, a platform for many of our Jazz Masters to appear in residency, particularly those who are no longer performing but have a role in mentoring young jazz artists and participating in community forums. All supported by the Arts Endowment’s funding process. We’re pleased that under our current chairman, the commitment that we’ve known since 1982 has been unwavering.”
My call to transparency, vis-à-vis the Marsalis award, is precisely that: a strong recommendation, one that (I believe) would help smooth over this contentious issue. Now, on to some more enjoyable stuff. Since I can’t seem to find any footage related to the new Marsalis Family album, I leave you with a standout track from a 2003 release.
For more recent thoughts on Wynton and Branford, lookee here.