Jarrett, Braxton, Davis, Aebersold named 2014 NEA Jazz Masters
Posted 6/27/2013

The National Endowment for the Arts has named Keith Jarrett, Anthony Braxton, Richard Davis and Jamey Aebersold as 2014 NEA Jazz Masters. These musicians and educators, now awarded the nation’s highest honor in the field, are recognized for their lifetime achievements and exceptional contributions to the advancement of jazz. They will each receive a one-time award of $25,000.

“On behalf of the National Endowment for the Arts, I am proud to announce the newest class of NEA Jazz Masters,” said Joan Shigekawa, NEA acting chairman. “The NEA is committed to supporting this uniquely American art form, whether it’s through educational materials such as NEA Jazz in the Schools, supporting performance and educational activities by the Jazz Masters through Jazz Masters Live, or in this case, honoring the individuals who have devoted their lives and careers to mastering, sharing and expanding this music.”

Pianist Jarrett’s talent for playing both abstractly and lyrically, sometimes during the same musical work, continues to astound and delight audiences around the world. His ability to work in both the jazz and classical fields as performer and composer demonstrate the breadth of his creativity. The NEA’s citation for Jarrett’s work in both jazz and classical is particularly apt this year as it falls between album releases in both genres: the new CD Somewhere (ECM) with Gary Peacock and Jack DeJohnette, marking the trio’s 30th anniversary year, and J.S. Bach’s Six Sonatas For Violin And Keyboard (ECM) with violinist Michelle Makarski, scheduled for Sept. 3.

“Along with Bill Evans, Keith Jarrett is perhaps the most influential pianist in the history of improvised music because of his mastery of the instrument, his creativity and deep harmonic knowledge,” said 2012 NEA Jazz Master Charlie Haden, who has performed and recorded alongside Jarrett. “His playing transcends category.” Born in Allentown, Pa., Jarrett currently resides in Oxford, N.J.

Braxton’s highly advanced compositions almost defy categorization. A saxophonist, clarinetist, flutist and pianist, Braxton is a hero of the avant-garde and a prolific recording artist who is celebrated for his fearless pursuit of radical new sounds and lofty concepts. He is also one of the nation’s most respected jazz educators. In 1981 Braxton was named a Guggenheim Fellow, and in 1994 he received a MacArthur Foundation “genius” grant.

“Anthony Braxton’s expansive catalog has always been an inspiration,” said Jason Moran, jazz pianist and artistic advisor for jazz at the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts. “[He is] a beautiful artist in every sense of the word: performer, composer, educator, co-conspirator. Braxton is a supreme improviser and composer who searches with sounds.” A native of Chicago, Braxton currently lives in Middletown, Conn., where he works as a tenured professor of music at Wesleyan University.

One of the premier jazz bassists in history, Davis is widely recorded, not only in jazz settings but also in the pop, rock and classical genres.

“Richard Davis, with his wide palette of skill sets, has been an inspiration for me and many bassists,” said bassist Linda Oh. “To me, he shows strength and versatility within his musicianship—a versatility that seems to not compromise integrity and individuality, something many bassists can only dream to achieve.” In addition to his prowess on bass, Davis is a noted educator. Born in Chicago, he currently resides in Madison, Wis., where he has served as a professor at the University of Wisconsin–Madison since 1977.

Aebersold, an educator and multi-instrumentalist (saxophone, piano, bass, banjo) who has published a vast number of instructional jazz books and interactive play-along recordings, is the recipient of the 2014 A.B. Spellman NEA Jazz Masters Award for Jazz Advocacy. The award is bestowed upon an individual who has contributed significantly to the appreciation, knowledge and advancement of the art form of jazz.

“Jamey Aebersold has made enormous contributions to the jazz world through his tireless efforts as a performer, educator and publisher,” said 2000 NEA Jazz Master David Baker, who is also on the faculty of the Summer Jazz Workshops that Aebersold directs. “As the creator of the innovative and groundbreaking Jamey Aebersold Jazz Play-A-Long recordings series, as the longtime director of the Jamey Aebersold Summer Jazz Workshops, as an exceptional clinician and performer, and as the publisher of an extensive catalog of jazz materials, Jamey has revolutionized the way people practice, teach, create and perform their music. Jamey has carried his message that ‘anyone can improvise’ and that ‘creativity is part of the nature of every person’ throughout the world to great success, impacting generations of both aspiring and established jazz performers and teachers.” Aebersold was born in New Albany, Ind., where he still lives. He is a retired faculty member from the University of Louisville.

The NEA will again partner with Jazz at Lincoln Center in New York City to produce an awards ceremony and concert in honor of the 2014 NEA Jazz Masters that will be webcast live on Jan. 13, 2014, on arts.gov and jalc.org/live. A limited number of free tickets will be available for the public. More information about the awards ceremony and concert and how to obtain tickets will be released this fall.

Each year since 1982, the Arts Endowment has conferred the NEA Jazz Masters Award to living legends who have made major contributions to jazz. With this new class, 132 awards have been given to great figures of jazz in America, including Count Basie, George Benson, Art Blakey, Dave Brubeck, Ornette Coleman, Miles Davis, Ella Fitzgerald, Dizzy Gillespie, Lionel Hampton, Herbie Hancock, Abbey Lincoln, Max Roach, Sonny Rollins, Cecil Taylor, Sarah Vaughan, Nancy Wilson and the Marsalis Family.

The NEA is currently accepting nominations for the 2015 class of NEA Jazz Masters. The deadline is Oct. 1, 2013. Fellowships are awarded to living individuals on the basis of nominations from the public, including the music community. Nominees must demonstrate a significant contribution to the art form through their publicly recognized and accessible body of work in the field of jazz. Only living musicians or jazz advocates may be nominated for the NEA Jazz Masters honor. For the 2014 NEA Jazz Masters, the panel considered 144 nominations.

For more information on the NEA Jazz Masters, visit arts.gov.


Pianist Keith Jarrett is among the four artists named a 2014 NEA Jazz Master. (Photo: Rose Anne Colavito)


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