The highest federally supported award for jazz artistry goes to four individuals this year. In a live performance from Jazz at Lincoln Center in New York, Anthony Braxton, Richard Davis, Jamey Aebersold and Keith Jarrett are honored.
Faced with a rapid tempo one night, Kenny Clarke devised a new way to play the beat on the ride cymbal. His "spang-a-lang," and the rhythmic ideas it generated, wound up transforming the way we feel swing ever after.
Whether famous or obscure, dozens of artists, producers, documentarians and others who contributed to the music's growth left us last year. Here's a thorough list — and 12 who didn't make all the headlines.
The late documentary filmmaker Jean Bach stands next to an enlarged 1958 photograph of many jazz musicians titled "A Great Day in Harlem." Her documentary about the photo shoot was nominated for an Academy Award in 1995.
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itoggle captionThomas Monaster/New York Daily News Archive/Getty Images
A linchpin of "cool" jazz in the 1950s and '60s, he assembled bands that came to be described as chamber jazz, full of unusual textures and future star talent. Hamilton, who continued performing into his ninth decade, was 92.
He had gigs before and enjoyed prominent freelance work afterward. But the mellow saxophone and flute player's career was kickstarted by spending more than a decade in the front row of Count Basie's "New Testament" band.
The late South African vocalist Sathima Bea Benjamin is remembered as her country's greatest jazz singer, who brought deliberation and questions of identity to her music. But she only launched her own career, from the shadow of her famous husband Abdullah Ibrahim, after several false starts.
The late author and cultural theorist's career was dedicated to proving that American culture wasn't black and white, but both at once. In doing so, he called upon jazz as his chief example, devising many of the ways the music is now commonly perceived.
The bluesy, commanding improviser rose to eminence in the '50s and '60s with bands like Art Blakey's Jazz Messengers, where he played a starring role and established himself as a deft small-group composer. Walton continued to perform and record his entire life.
Few had the late Fort Apache Band drummer's intuition for both jazz and Afro-Cuban musical languages. Bandleader Jerry González remembers his colleague, who toured with Mongo Santamaria, Art Blakey, Tito Puente and Max Roach, and earned a Grammy nomination for one of his own albums.
In 1963, a jazz-obsessed, college-educated black Beat poet in New York wrote a "theoretical endeavor" linking the sociopolitical and the sonic. A half-century later, Amiri Baraka's book remains the first of its kind — and among the most important — in African-American studies.