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NEA Announces 2006 Jazz Masters

National Endowment for the Arts Chairman Dana Gioia announced Tuesday the seven living legends of American music that will join the ranks of the National Endowment for the Arts’ Jazz Masters. Recipients honored are awarded $25,000 fellowships and will be invited to participate in outreach efforts, including broadcasts and NEA Jazz Masters On Tour.

The 2006 NEA Jazz Masters inductees are percussionist Ray Barretto, singer Tony Bennett, arranger/composer Bob Brookmeyer, keyboardist Chick Corea, clarinetist Buddy DeFranco, trumpeter Freddie Hubbard (pictured) and John Levy, an A.B. Spellman NEA Jazz Masters Award for Advocacy recipient for his work as a manager.

Ray Barretto was born in Brooklyn, N.Y. in 1929 and attributes his decision to become a professional musician to Dizzy Gillespie’s “Manteca.” Barretto, a self-taught musician who took up the drums in Harlem after he returned from military service, soon replaced Mongo Santamaria as Tito Puente’s drummer. From there, Barretto become one of the most sought-after percussionists in New York.

Singer Tony Bennett, best known for his 1962 signature song, “I Left My Heart in San Francisco,” was born in 1926 in Queens, N.Y. Bennett performed in military bands throughout his service in the Army during World War II but his big break came when Bob Hope saw him working in a Greenwich Village club with Pearl Bailey and invited Bennett to join his show at the Paramount. Mr. Bennett has managed to put out albums and singles that are still among the most popular in the country and still performs with his jazz quartet to sold-out audiences around the world.

Arranger-composer Bob Brookmeyer was born in Kansas City, Mo. in 1929, where he studied composition at the Kansas City Conservatory of Music. Brookmeyer has served as the musical director of the Schlewsig-Holstein Musik Festival Big Band/New Art Orchestra, as the Stanley Knowles Distinguished Visiting Professor at Brandon University in Manitoba and as director of the New England Conservatory Jazz Composers’ Workshop Orchestra.

Keyboardist Chick Corea, the recipient of 12 Grammy awards, was born in Chelsea, Mass. in 1941 and made his recording debut in 1966 as a leader with Tones For Joan’s Bones. Corea joined Miles Davis’s group and ended up replacing Herbie Hancock. In 1992, Corea established his own record label, Stretch Records.

Solo clarinetist Buddy DeFranco was born in Camden, N.J. in 1923 and began playing the clarinet at the age of nine. Throughout his storied career, DeFranco joined the Count Basie Septet in 1950, toured Europe with Billie Holliday in 1954, led a quartet for three years with Art Blakey, Kenny Drew and Eugene Wright and then joined forced with Tommy Gumina in a quartet that explored polytonal music. To date, DeFranco has recorded more than 160 albums and the University of Montana-Missoula now hosts the Buddy DeFranco jazz festival each April.

Solo trumpeter Freddie Hubbard was born in 1938 in Indianapolis, Ind., where he studied at the Jordan Conservatory with the principal trumpeter of the Indianapolis Symphony Orchestra. Hubbard recorded his first solo album, Open Sesame, just weeks after his 22nd birthday, which launched his career.

John Levy, born in New Orleans, La. in 1912, is renowned as a leading representative of jazz musicians and as the first African-American to work in the industry as a personal manager. During the late 1940’s, Levy worked with jazz notables like Ben Webster, Buddy Rich, Errol Garner, Milt Jackson, Billy Taylor and Billie Holiday, and he is still active today.

Originally Published