*The inaugural Jazz Music Awards: Celebrating the Spirit of Jazz has announced its awards ceremony, scheduled on Saturday, October 22, 2022, at the Cobb Energy Performing Arts Centre in metro Atlanta, GA. For five decades the premier venue is the home to Broadway shows, ballets, concerts, operas, and more.
Presented by Jazz 91.9 WCLK, a public radio station licensed to Clark Atlanta University and known as “Atlanta’s Jazz Station,” the Jazz Music Awards (JMA) will be a dynamic presentation that recognizes the iconic spirit of jazz by shining a spotlight on Mainstream and Contemporary Jazz musicians who continue to make a mark on the music and the industry. The hosts, performers, presenters, and special honorees will be announced at a later date.
The Jazz Music Awards will recognize a broad spectrum of creators within the national and international jazz world, from mainstream and contemporary musicians, vocalists, and big bands, to composers, individual songs, and full-length albums. The eligibility period for the 2022 awards ceremony starts from April 1, 2021, through March 31, 2022. The online submissions will begin on New Year’s Day, Saturday, January 1, 2022, through Thursday, March 31, 2022. The award categories are as follows: Best Mainstream Artist, Best Contemporary Artist, Best Duo, Group or Big Band, Best New Jazz Artist (Contemporary or Mainstream), Best Jazz Vocalist, Best International Artist (Contemporary or Mainstream), Best Mainstream Album, Best Contemporary Album, Jazz Innovator of the Year, Composer of the Year, Educator of the Year, Jazz Legacy Award, and Song of the Year (Fan Vote).
“For the 47 years that WCLK has been on the air, we have played and specialized in all genres of jazz,” says Wendy Williams, General Manager of WCLK, who has been at the helm for 27 years. We play mainstream, contemporary, fusion, straight-ahead, and modern jazz. We have run the gamut. That’s been the history of the station and quite frankly, the secret to our success. We are still standing. And for more than fifteen years, we have complemented our on-air with the presentation of live jazz concerts, that have helped to support the operations of our nonprofit NPR-member public radio station. We have always enjoyed the sellout crowds and the joy the listeners feel when they see us at concerts.”
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Williams and David Linton, the station’s program director and the former record label executive, reached out to Rushion McDonald, the founder of 3815 Media, who will head the production for the upcoming star-studded celebration. A two-time Emmy Award-winning executive producer and a three-time NAACP Image Award winner, McDonald is the host of the popular “Money Making Conversations” podcast. 3815 Media will produce the Jazz Music Awards and its red-carpet event with plans to launch a live award telecast globally.
McDonald is the architect behind producing multi-media platforms for major clients, including the career of Steve Harvey and the widely successful Hoodie Awards, later renamed the Neighborhood Awards. His expansive work as a writer and producer also includes collaborations with other celebrity talents such as Kevin Hart, Taraji P. Henson, Gabrielle Union, Mo’Nique, Tia and Tamara Mowry, Stephen A. Smith, Jamie Foxx, and others from New York City to Hollywood. He has also created national media campaigns for State Farm, Ford, JC Penny, General Mills, iHeart Radio, Radio One, NBC, BET, and ABC networks, just to name a few. For more information about Rushion McDonald, go to rushionmcdonald.com.
Linton says “This is an exciting time in the 47-year history of Jazz 91.9 WCLK. I’ve worked with this station as a label executive and I know how instrumental it has been in the careers of so many artists, especially, jazz artists and it remains so today. When Wendy spoke to me about returning to the station as its program director in 2018, I was thrilled. Now to have an opportunity to help write another chapter in WCLK’s storied history is an honor. The time is right for the Jazz Music Awards and WCLK is well-positioned to deliver this long-overdue awards show. This is going to be a historic and momentous event for all who love jazz.”
The Jazz Music Awards committee secured three-time Grammy Award-winning recording artist and NEA Jazz Master, Terri Lyne Carrington, who will lead the musical direction and serve as a consultant to the first-ever awards ceremony. With technical wizardry and profound creativity, Carrington has become one of the giants of today’s jazz music. The multi-talented drummer, composer, producer, and educator, Carrington began her professional career at ten years old and received a full scholarship to Berklee College of Music at the age of eleven. Her artistry and commitment to education earned her honorary doctorates from Manhattan School of Music and Berklee College of Music, where she currently serves as founder and artistic director of the Berklee Institute of Jazz and Gender Justice.
To date, she has released eight career albums. She is the first female artist to ever win the Grammy Award for Best Jazz Instrumental Album, which she received for her 2013 project, Money Jungle: Provocative in Blue. Since she started her career, she has worked as an in-demand musician in New York City and later moved to Los Angeles, where she gained recognition on late-night TV as the house drummer for both “The Arsenio Hall Show” and Quincy Jones’ “VIBE TV” show, hosted by Sinbad. To date, Carrington has performed on more than one hundred recordings and has been a role model and advocate for young women and men internationally through her teaching and touring careers. She has worked extensively with jazz giants and legends including Herbie Hancock, Wayne Shorter, Al Jarreau, Stan Getz, Woody Shaw, Clark Terry, Cassandra Wilson, Dianne Reeves, James Moody, Joe Sample, Esperanza Spalding, and more. For more information about Terri Lyne Carrington, go to terrilynecarrington.com.
“There is so much excitement and anticipation building around the Jazz Music Awards,” says Williams. “I have always known that Terri Lyne is an amazing talent and very accomplished drummer, composer, and educator. The more I peel back the layers, I am fascinated that she has covered so much territory in her career. She is also a highly sought-after music director for large-scale prestigious jazz and musical productions around the world. And we all know she has performed with and directed some of the best and that’s why she is perfect for our inaugural award show.”
As a presenter of live jazz performances over the years, selling out some of Atlanta’s largest music venues, and mounting annual benefit shows, WCLK began to present performers with its Jazz Legacy Award. Over the last few years, Williams noticed, looking across the musical landscape, that there was a dearth of major broadcast awards ceremonies honoring the creativity and work of one of America’s first indigenous musical art forms: Jazz. Just as Williams, program director Linton, and her staff began to think about mounting a larger jazz celebration, COVID-19 put all performances on pause. “These musicians have been sidelined for a year and a half, and the audience has been missing out,” she says. “I felt we should come back in a big way.”
In addition, says Williams, the event will include an educational component on the campus of Clark Atlanta University, as well as a black-tie, pre-awards show gala at the Cobb Centre on Friday, October 21, 2022, the day before the awards presentation. The Friday program will include interactive sessions from world-renowned experts in the field of jazz, and classes will also feature small group workshops facilitated by leading creators in the music and performing arts industries for high school and college students as well as the public.
“Participants will be able to learn and glean something that’s taking place in the jazz music industry from some of the best,” says Williams. “So, we want to make it an empowering and spectacular weekend that uplifts and promotes this music. “As soon as COVID lifted, you saw the performers out on the road again and the jazz festivals were back. Now, this is a collective way to have them all on a stage being loved upon, being celebrated the same way we see at other music awards shows. We have to do this.”