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National Endowment for the Arts Announces 2008 NEA Jazz Masters

The National Endowment for the Arts announced the recipients of its 2008 NEA Jazz Masters Award on Tuesday night at a press conference held at Dizzy’s Club Coca Cola in Lincoln Center in New York City. The award is considered the nation’s highest honor in jazz. The recipients will each receive a $25,000 fellowship, will appear at an award ceremony and concert next January 12 and have the opportunity to participate in other NEA-sponsored promotional and performance activities. The announcement was made by Arts Chairman Dana Gioia.

One winner of this year’s award was pianist and composer Andrew Hill (pictured), who died in April. Hill was notified of his receipt of the award shortly before his death. His wife, Joanne Robinson Hill, acknowledged the honor on his behalf.

In addition to Hill, this year’s recipients are Candido Camero (rhythm instrumentalist), Quincy Jones (bandleader), Tom McIntosh (composer-arranger) and Joe Wilder (solo instrumentalist/trumpet). This year’s recipient of the A.B. Spellman NEA Jazz Master Award for Jazz Advocacy is Gunther Schuller.

In a departure from tradition, the newly named NEA Jazz Masters were in attendance at the announcement ceremony. They will receive their plaques at the NEA Jazz Masters Awards concert at the annual International Association for Jazz Education (IAJE) conference in January.

In addition to celebrating the new honorees, the crowd at the club also enjoyed a set by 2005 NEA Jazz Master George Wein and the Newport All Stars in celebration of the concert promoter’s 82nd birthday.

Each master artist in the 2008 class has made a unique contribution to jazz:

* Candido Camero is credited with being the first percussionist to bring conga drumming to jazz.

* Andrew Hill spent 40 years composing, performing, recording, and mentoring young musicians. He earned acclaim for his innovative performances and compositions beginning in the 1960s.

* Quincy Jones is an impresario, conductor, record producer, musical arranger, film composer and trumpeter.

* The voice of composer and arranger Tom McIntosh can be heard in the music of Dizzy Gillespie, James Moody and others as well as in Hollywood movies including Shaft.

* For 17 years, Joe Wilder performed with ABC-TV while building his reputation as a popular soloist and sideman.

* Gunther Schuller is a leader in both the classical and jazz traditions, contributing significant musical compositions and writings to expand jazz’s horizons.

Each year since 1982, the Arts Endowment has conferred the NEA Jazz Masters Award on a handful of living legends who have made major contributions to jazz. With this new class, the award has been given to 100 great figures in American music. Other NEA Jazz Masters include Count Basie, Art Blakey, Dave Brubeck, Betty Carter, Ornette Coleman, Miles Davis, Roy Eldridge, Ella Fitzgerald, Dizzy Gillespie, Lionel Hampton, Herbie Hancock, Elvin Jones, Abbey Lincoln, Max Roach, Sonny Rollins, Cecil Taylor, Sarah Vaughan, Nancy Wilson and Teddy Wilson.

NEA Jazz Masters are selected from nominations submitted by the public. Newly named NEA Jazz Masters are honored at an awards ceremony and concert and are provided with a one-time fellowship of $25,000. Only living musicians or jazz advocates may be honored as NEA Jazz Masters.

To help these musicians make further connections with the American people, the Arts Endowment significantly expanded the program in 2004 and in 2005, establishing the NEA Jazz Masters Initiative. The initiative encompasses the award program itself: NEA Jazz Moments, a steady stream of performance and interview segments that air on 12 channels of XM Satellite Radio; NEA Jazz in the Schools, a web-based curriculum developed in partnership with Jazz at Lincoln Center and generously supported in its creation by the Verizon Foundation. The Arts Endowment also collaborated with the Verve Music Group on CD and digital compilations and produced illustrated publications with profiles of all the NEA Jazz Masters.

For more information on NEA Jazz Masters, visit

Photo of Andrew Hill by Jimmy Katz

Originally Published