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Arts group names seven new jazz masters

October 10, 2006|From the Associated Press

WASHINGTON — Big-band leader Toshiko Akiyoshi, pianist Ramsey Lewis and vocalist Jimmy Scott were among those selected by the National Endowment for the Arts as the newest jazz masters, the nation's highest jazz honor.

"The jazz world has come to regard the NEA Jazz Masters Award as its equivalent of the Pulitzer Prize," said NEA Chairman Dana Gioia, who revealed the names of the seven jazz masters for 2007 at a weekend concert of the Duke Ellington Festival.

Akiyoshi, a bebop pianist who emigrated from Japan in 1956 and founded the Toshiko Akiyoshi Jazz Orchestra, was cited for her efforts in helping "remake the big-band tradition for contemporary audiences, with a vibrant new sound and new international influences."

The NEA recognized Lewis as a pianist who "spans the influence of gospel music, classical music and mainstream jazz," while Scott, known for his high-pitched vocals and often singled out by Billie Holiday as her favorite singer, was cited for bringing "his deeply affecting voice and style to everything from ballads to rhythm and blues."

The other new jazz masters are hard-bop trombonist Curtis Fuller; tenor saxophonist Frank Wess, who is also one of the most influential flutists in jazz history; alto saxophonist Phil Woods, who was honored in the composer-arranger category; and jazz writer and educator Dan Morgenstern, director of the Institute of Jazz Studies at Rutgers University, who was selected in the jazz advocacy category.

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