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Photos: NEA Jazz Masters Concert

Gary Burton, Archie Shepp, Pharoah Sanders and Wendy Oxenhorn honored

2016 NEA Jazz Masters Gary Burton, Wendy Oxenhorn, Pharoah Sanders and Archie Shepp (from left), with Catherine Russell and saxophonist Jimmy Heath, at the Kennedy Center in April.
An all-star band pays tribute to 2016 NEA Jazz Master Archie Shepp at the Kennedy Center in April
Chick Corea (l.) and Stefon Harris pay homage to 2016 NEA Jazz Master Gary Burton in April
Jimmy Heath, Linda Oh, Lakecia Benjamin and Karriem Riggins (from left) honor 2016 NEA Jazz Master jazz advocate awardee Wendy Oxenhorn at the Kennedy Center in April
Randy Weston (l.) and Billy Harper honor 2016 NEA Jazz Master Pharoah Sanders at the Kennedy Center in April

A free concert celebrating the 2016 class of NEA Jazz Masters was held on Monday evening, in the concert hall at the Kennedy Center in Washington, D.C. Hosted by pianist-composer Jason Moran, the Kennedy Center’s artistic advisor for jazz, with remarks from NEA Chairman Jane Chu, the event honored saxophonists Pharoah Sanders and Archie Shepp; vibraphonist Gary Burton; and Wendy Oxenhorn, the longtime executive director of the Jazz Foundation of America and this year’s recipient of the A.B. Spellman Award for Jazz Advocacy.

In a straightforward, roughly 100-minute program, each awardee was introduced with remarks from a presenter and a well-produced documentary-style short. (Unlike last year’s program at Jazz at Lincoln Center in New York, the awardees did not perform.) A tribute performance followed, with the awardee’s acceptance speech closing each segment. Paying homage to Shepp with a medley of his “Hambone” and “Blues for Brother George Jackson” was an ensemble featuring Moran, saxophonists David Murray and Rudresh Mahanthappa, trombonist Roswell Rudd, trumpeter Ambrose Akinmusire, bassist Linda Oh, drummer Karriem Riggins and percussionist Pedrito Martinez. Burton was acknowledged via a special duo performance of his collaborator Chick Corea’s “Crystal Silence” by Corea and vibraphonist Stefon Harris. Another duet, featuring pianist Randy Weston and saxophonist Billy Harper playing the former’s “The Healers,” marked Sanders’ tribute, and Oxenhorn received her nod with a burning take on Jimmy Heath’s “Gingerbread Boy,” performed by Heath, saxophonist Lakecia Benjamin, pianist Justin Kauflin and the rhythm section of Oh, Riggins and Martinez. Singer Catherine Russell provided the finale with her rendition of Dr. Billy Taylor’s “I Wish I Knew How It Would Feel to Be Free.”

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