“I checked neither raincoat nor briefcase on my way into Jazz at Lincoln Center’s Rose Hall for the annual National Endowment for the Arts Jazz Masters Award Ceremony and Concert. But I did check my cynicism—I always do for this thing.
However you feel about the idea of an institutionalized Jazz Masters award, whatever you think of any given year’s selections, it’s hard not to let criticisms, preconceptions and negativity of any sort fall away once you arrive at the event.
And so they do.
The Jazz Masters event is a chance to bump into, say, pianist Eddie Palmieri (Jazz Master, 2013), who then bumps into saxophonist Lou Donaldson (in that same 2013 Jazz Master class), on the way in. To find, in the space of two rows, pianists Randy Weston and Muhal Richard Abrams and drummer Roy Haynes, and to watch them respond to what’s said and played, and to one another. To watch real musicians receive real honors from other real musicians, usually longtime friends and acquaintances, and, in the process, spill out the wisdom and humor and affection that surrounds the relationships that so often make for great music. And then for some of that music to get played, generally by elders, mostly still possessing the powers that earned such honors in the first place. Plus, the musicians honored get a $25,000 stipend.“