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NEA Jazz Masters Announced; Tribute Concert Coming to San Francisco

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Saxophonist Roscoe Mitchell listens to a solo on stage during the "Jack DeJohnette's Made In Chicago" performance at the Newport Jazz Festival in Newport, Rhode Island, on Aug. 1, 2015.  (Eva Hambach/AFP/Getty Images)

The National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) on Tuesday announced the honorees of its 2020 Jazz Masters Fellowship, a grant of up to $25,000 reserved for the genre’s boundary-pushers, innovators and advocates. Two of the four selected musicians have deep ties to the Bay Area.

Saxophonist Roscoe Mitchell, who was key to the formation of Chicago’s avant-garde jazz scene in the ’60s with the Art Ensemble of Chicago, served as one of Mills College’s most renowned faculty members in Oakland until his recent retirement. And Bobby McFerrin, best known for the novelty pop hit “Don’t Worry, Be Happy,” is a 10-time Grammy-winning jazz vocalist who started his career in San Francisco and even once guest-conducted the San Francisco Symphony.

The Jazz Masters Fellows are nominated by the public and selected by a panel of industry professionals. Previous recipients have included Ella Fitzgerald, Sonny Rollins and Miles Davis, and the NEA documents honorees’ careers online through podcasts, videos and other multimedia. The other 2020 honorees are bassist Reggie Workman, best known for his work with John Coltrane and Thelonious Monk, and Dorthaan Kirk from Newark Public Radio.

“The 2020 NEA Jazz Masters have made an incredible impact on jazz, whether it’s through their artistic work to expand the musical boundaries of the genre, their educational contributions, or their efforts to reach new audiences for jazz,” said Acting Chairman of the Arts Endowment Mary Anne Carter in a statement.

In addition, the NEA celebrates this year’s honorees with a free tribute concert at SFJAZZ on April 2, 2020—the first time the Jazz Masters Fellowship concert has taken place in the Bay Area since 2005. Tickets will become available in February 2020, and there will also be a live stream of the concert.


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