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JAZZ REVIEW

Paying tribute with awards and music

August 26, 2003|Don Heckman | Special to The Times

A new Southland jazz support organization made its debut Sunday afternoon with a performance and awards event at the UCLA Faculty Club. The Friends of Jazz at UCLA moved quickly to establish its visibility via presentations to a group of major jazz artists, virtually all of whom were present.

Singer Tony Bennett received the Friends of Jazz at UCLA Humanitarian Award. Trumpeter Clark Terry, drummer Louis Bellson, bandleader-composer Gerald Wilson and the late instrumentalist and composer Benny Carter received UCLA Duke Ellington Master of Jazz Awards. The list of presenters included drummer Frankie Capp, singer Dianne Reeves, musician and mogul Quincy Jones and pianist-composer Horace Silver.

The university's Claudia Mitchell-Kernan was honored for her "contributions to scholarship and education in the field of jazz."

Before the awards ceremony, which was hosted by Tommy Hawkins, the overflow crowd was entertained by guitarist Kenny Burrell, head of the university's jazz studies program, leading a seven-piece ensemble featuring members of the UCLA jazz faculty. The lengthy program was dedicated to selections associated with both the awardees and the presenters, with fine solo contributions from the instrumentalists and a pair of sterling vocals from Barbara Morrison and Michele Weir. Oddly, Bennett and Reeves were represented by recordings rather than live performances.

The various tributes, musical and spoken, went on at such length, however, that a scheduled jam session was eliminated from the program, leaving some young UCLA jazz players with unopened instrument cases. That's a lesson that jazz support organizations would do well to keep in mind: Celebrating the past is fine, as long as it doesn't take precedence over acknowledging the present or opening the door to the future.

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