June 17, 2024

NEA Jazz Masters Awards Concert 2005
by Gene Thompson

It’s amazing how in life, just when you thought you’ve done it all, seen it all, know it all and experienced it all, in all actuality (and in the words of my father) you really don’t know jack! Okay, maybe I substituted the word he really said, but I think you get my point. That’s how I felt while attending the IAJE in Long Beach California January 5-8, 2005. During four of the most interesting days of my life the music, the people, the artists, the educators and the overall experience was surreal. It was Saturday night January 8, 2005 while attending the 2005 NEA Jazz Masters Awards Concert at the Long Beach Performing Arts Center, that it all came together for me.

The show hosted by Jazz Legend Ramsey Lewis honored legends who have made exceptional contributions to the advancement of Jazz as NEA Jazz Masters, based on nominations submitted by the public. Although he couldn’t attend, even President George W. Bush commended our greatest living jazz artists for efforts that have influenced the development of music and advanced appreciation of the performing arts.

Also taking part in this historic event was the great Nancy Wilson who kicked things off with the first award of the evening, presented to famous Keyboardist Jimmy Smith. I didn’t know much about Jimmy Smith prior to this event, but a brief video presentation that captured his accomplishments during the 1950’s and 60’s made me feel as if I was right there enjoying his work.

The night was filled many video presentations of the awardees and with entertainment. The Geri Allen Trio performed as well as a cameo performance from legendary jazz drummer Chico Hamilton. The evening also featured performances by 1990 NEA Jazz Master Gerald Wilson and his Orchestra along with the inimitable Dee Dee Bridgewater.

I thoroughly enjoyed this event. It was truly an historic moment for me as well as those in attendance as the standing room only crowd watched as some of the greatest ever to make the music receive their honors as 2005 NEA Jazz Masters.

Here’s a list of the 2005 NEA Jazz Masters:

  • Kenny Burrell – Guitarist
  • Paquito D’ Rivera – Clarinetist – Saxophonist
  • Slide Hamilton – Arranger – Composer/Trombonist
  • Shirley Horn – Vocalist
  • Jimmy Smith – Keyboardist
  • Artie Shaw – Big Band Leader
  • George Wein – Jazz Advocate

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