The 2017 NEA Jazz Masters Tribute Concert

Apr 3, 2017
Originally published on April 3, 2017 10:43 pm

The livestream has concluded.

The NEA Jazz Masters Award is often described as the nation's highest honor for a living jazz musician. From the first its program has celebrated a broad aesthetic range — its inaugural class of honorees, in 1982, consisted of bebop icon Dizzy Gillespie, his trumpet precursor Roy Eldridge and the interstellar visionary Sun Ra. As those initial inductees show, the roll call of NEA Jazz Masters have represented striking diversity within the uppermost echelon of achievement in this music.

And every year, the NEA Jazz Masters Concert and Ceremony gathers this stylistically far-flung constituency — current and past masters, younger artists, fans of every disposition — to an event that, for all its glittery pomp, often resembles an extended family reunion. The atmosphere onstage tends toward gracious warmth, wry humor and broad inclusion, and there are usually a handful of sterling musical exchanges to savor. That's no less true of the live concert stream, which I've gratefully watched on those occasions when I couldn't be in the room.

This year's class is as accomplished as they come, with Dee Dee Bridgewater on vocals, Dr. Lonnie Smith on organ, Dave Holland on bass, Dick Hyman on piano and Ira Gitler representing the ranks of jazz journalists. As always, their legacies will be celebrated in multiple forms, through spoken as well as video tributes, and in performance. I'll be on hand to cover the event, and my recap will appear on Tuesday morning. But this page is where you can watch it unfold in real time.

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