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2019 NEA Jazz Masters Honored in Washington

Abdullah Ibrahim, Maria Schneider, Stanley Crouch, and the late Bob Dorough were spotlighted at the Kennedy Center

The 2019 NEA Jazz Masters
Nia Crouch (wife of 2019 NEA Jazz Master Stanley Crouch), 2019 NEA Jazz Master Maria Schneider, 2019 NEA Jazz Master Abdullah Ibrahim with Dr. Marina Umari, Aralee and Sally Dorough (daughter and wife of 2019 NEA Jazz Master Bob Dorough), and Acting Chairman of the National Endowment for the Arts Mary Anne Carter at the 2019 NEA Jazz Masters Awards Dinner, sponsored by BMI (photo: Shannon Finney/courtesy of the NEA)

The son of a silent film accompanist, raised in apartheid South Africa; a kid from Arkansas longing to join the hip world of bebop; a young Midwestern woman who dreamed and dared to compose; an avant-garde drummer and poet with a wicked pen and intellect. These four individuals were honored Monday night at the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts in Washington, D.C., as the 2019 class of NEA Jazz Masters. But the remarks offered by pianist Abdullah Ibrahim, composer Maria Schneider, and family friends of vocalist/composer Bob Dorough and critic Stanley Crouch spoke less of their own accomplishments than of all those around them: the teachers, relatives, mentors, and collaborators who helped them, through jazz, realize themselves.

“Jazz music opens you to you,” reflected Ibrahim, a pioneer of bebop in South Africa and the first to be honored during the nearly two-hour ceremony. After thanking the National Endowment for the Arts, he dedicated his award to his grandmother, who sent him to piano lessons with the local schoolteacher in Cape Town, and to his mother, who introduced him to improvised music through her work as a pianist accompanying silent movies in the city’s theaters.

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