Saturday, June 30, 2007

Ornette Coleman, Andrew Hill take top honors at 2007 Jazz Awards in New York

Ornette Coleman, who earlier this year became only the second jazz musician to win the Pulitzer Prize for music, swept the top honors at the Jazz Awards 2007 on Thursday, winning in four categories, including musician of the year.

Coleman's ``Sound Grammar,'' the first purely improvised live recording to win the Pulitzer, was chosen album of the year in balloting among more than 400 members of the Jazz Journalists Association.

The 77-year-old Coleman's unorthodox ``Sound Grammar'' quartet with two bassists (one plucking the strings, the other using his bow), his son Denardo on drums, and Coleman playing alto saxophone, trumpet and violin was chosen the year's best small ensemble.

Coleman, whose CD was his first new recording in 10 years, won individual awards as alto saxophonist and musician of the year.

But the most touching moments at the ceremony held at the Jazz Standard club came when Andrew Hill, who died at age 75 in April after a long battle with lung cancer, posthumously won three awards as composer and pianist of the year and for lifetime achievement in jazz.

``Saturday is Andrew's birthday. You know that he was so happy and honored to be participating with all of you in this great art,'' said his widow, Joanne Robinson, in accepting the awards on her husband's behalf.

``Andrew is was so very special and we were all so rewarded to have him in our lives,'' she said.

After the musicians' awards were announced, Hill was honored with glasses raised in a special champagne toast before pianist Frank Kimbrough paid a musical tribute by playing two of Hill's rhythmically and harmonically complex compositions, ``Clayton Gone'' and ``Tinkering.''

An international accent was provided by Anat Cohen, who is part of a wave of Israeli musicians, including her brothers trumpeter Avishai and saxophonist Yuval, enjoying success on the New York jazz scene. She was chosen up-and-coming artist of the year and was a surprise winner in the clarinetist category.

In her acceptance remarks, Cohen paid tribute to a fellow nominee, the traditional jazz clarinetist Kenny Davern, who died in December.

``We lost Kenny this year and I met him a few years ago and he's been very supportive and a great inspiration, and I miss him dearly,'' Cohen said.

The Grammy-nominated Italian singer Roberta Gambarini was an upset winner as female singer of the year in a field that included such familiar names as Cassandra Wilson, Diana Krall, Dianne Reeves and Nancy Wilson. Kurt Elling won again as male singer of the year.

Trumpeter Charles Tolliver's resurrected big band, which released the CD ``With Love'' last year, was named the best large ensemble

Other winners included Sonny Rollins (tenor sax), Maria Schneider (arranger), Dave Douglas (trumpet), Wycliffe Gordon (trombone), Dave Liebman (soprano saxophone), Gary Smulyan (baritone saxophone), Frank Wess (flute), Joey DeFrancesco (organ), Pat Metheny (guitar), Dave Holland (acoustic bass), Steve Swallow (electric bass) and Roy Haynes (drums).

In the jazz journalism categories, the lifetime achievement award went to Francis Davis, a frequent contributor to the Atlantic Monthly and Village Voice.

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