The ASCAP Foundation recently announced the winners of its 51st annual Deems Taylor/Virgil Thomson Awards for outstanding print, broadcast, liner notes, and new-media coverage of music. Although most of this year’s honored work is not jazz-related, there is one major exception: the winner of the Timothy White Award for Outstanding Music Biography in the pop field, Maxine Gordon’s Sophisticated Giant: The Life and Legacy of Dexter Gordon, published in 2018 by the University of California Press.
Gordon, the widow of the tenor saxophonist and modern-jazz innovator sometimes known as “Long Tall Dexter,” took a slightly unusual approach to writing Sophisticated Giant. As Miles Willis noted in his JazzTimes review of the book, she incorporated some of her late husband’s poetry and letters into the narrative, in addition to her own research, interviews, and reminiscences.
One of the other Taylor/Thomson award winners is JazzTimes contributor David Fricke, who received the Virgil Thomson Award for Outstanding Music Criticism in the pop music field, in recognition of his liner notes for the 50th-anniversary box set edition of the Band’s classic 1968 album Music from Big Pink.
Established in 1967 to honor the memory of composer, critic, and commentator Deems Taylor, who died in 1966 after a distinguished career that included six years as President of ASCAP (American Society of Composers, Authors and Publishers), the ASCAP Foundation Deems Taylor/Virgil Thomson Awards are made possible by the support of the Virgil Thomson Foundation. Besides being one of America’s leading 20th-century composers and music critics, Thomson (1896–1989) was also a member of the ASCAP Board of Directors.