National Endowment for the Arts Announces Jazz Masters

NYT Music

The National Endowment for the Arts has announced its 2022 class of Jazz Masters — and it represents a broad swath of the blues-based, boundary-pushing music that has been made in the last 50 years under the label of jazz.

The new Jazz Masters are the bassist Stanley Clarke, the drummer Billy Hart, the vocalist Cassandra Wilson and the saxophonist Donald Harrison Jr. They will be honored in April 2022, at a ceremony at the SFJAZZ Center in San Francisco, the N.E.A. said on Tuesday. The Jazz Masters award is the highest national honor given to living American jazz musicians, and comes with a $25,000 cash prize.

Clarke, 70, is best known as a founding member of the seminal jazz-rock fusion band Return to Forever, though he has also enjoyed a vibrant career as a solo artist. Hart, 80, can be heard on timeless recordings by Miles Davis, Herbie Hancock and others. In recent decades, his quartet has often been hailed as one of the leading bands in jazz.

Wilson’s husky, confiding vocal style and passion for scrambling genres made her one of the leading jazz vocalists of the 1990s. Both Wilson, now 65, and Clarke are multi-Grammy winners.

Harrison grew up in New Orleans, immersed in the city’s Black musical heritage, and after earning national recognition in the 1980s and 1990s he recommitted to cultivating his hometown scene through activism and education work. Harrison will be this year’s recipient of the A.B. Spellman Fellowship for Jazz Advocacy, which the N.E.A. more typically gives to non-musicians.

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