2021 ‘Jazz Masters’ unveiled

Courtesy of NEA

James on Jazz

The National Endowment for the Arts announced on Wednesday, Oct 21 the 2021 class of NEA Jazz Masters. They are drummers Terri Lyne Carrington and Albert “Tootie” Heath, and reedist Henry Threadgill. Radio host Phil Schaap will receive the A.B. Spellman NEA Jazz Masters Fellowship for Jazz Advocacy.

The National Endowment for the Arts announced on Wednesday, Oct 21 the 2021 class of NEA Jazz Masters. They are drummers Terri Lyne Carrington and Albert “Tootie” Heath, and reedist Henry Threadgill. Radio host Phil Schaap will receive the A.B. Spellman NEA Jazz Masters Fellowship for Jazz Advocacy.

The NEA Jazz Masters fellowship is the nation’s highest honor reserved for living jazz artists and advocates. In addition to their titles, NEA Jazz Master, the four honorees will each receive $25,000. They were selected by a public nomination process and an expert panel review.

In a press release, Mary Anne Carter, chairperson of the National Endowment for the Arts, said, “Following up on 2020’s joyful and inspiring virtual concert, we look forward to working with SFJAZZ to celebrate these honorees next April in an evening that will showcase their incredible contributions to jazz.”

Heath, 85, performed alongside Nina Simone, Dexter Gordon, and John Coltrane, to name a few. He is a remarkable bandleader in his own right. Late greats saxophonist Jimmy Heath and bassist Percy Heath were his brothers and also named NEA Jazz Masters.

At 55, Carrington—the founder and artistic director of the Berklee Institute of Jazz and Gender Justice—is an impressive drummer, bandleader, and activist. She has also served as musical director for the 2019 NEA Jazz Masters tribute concert.

Carrington responded to the NEA award announcement via Twitter, and said, “I am so honored to receive this prestigious award, along with so many heroes, mentors, and, of course, masters of the music. I will continue my work in furthering the music, and in teachings, mentoring, and advocating for the generations behind me.”

Composer, saxophonist, and flutist Threadgill, 76, remains an in-demand artist. He is an original member of the Association for the Advancement of Creative Musicians hailing from Chicago. In 2016, Threadgill was awarded a Pulitzer Prize for his album,

“In For A Penny, In For A Pound” (Pi Records), which features his band Zooid.
Schaap, 69, is a well-known jazz historian who has hosted a jazz show “Bird Flight” on the Columbia University radio station WKCR for 50 years. He is also the founder of the educational program Swing University at Jazz at Lincoln Center.

Due to the on-going pandemic, a celebration of NEA Jazz Masters is scheduled to take place in a free online broadcast on April 22, and will be presented by SFJAZZ.
2020 honorees included bassist Reggie Workman, saxophonist Roscoe Mitchell, vocalist Bobby McFerrin, and producer Dorthaan Kirk.

For more info, visit arts.gov.

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