This spring, the National Endowment for the Arts will celebrate two of BMI’s legendary jazz musicians, Stanley Clarke and Billy Hart, as Jazz Masters, which is the highest honor bestowed in the world of jazz music.
As an extraordinary bass-player, Clarke has become one of the most influential players in modern jazz history. In addition to his impressive solo career, Clarke is a founding member of the legendary jazz-rock fusion band Return to Forever, which helped redefine the sound of jazz over the last 50 years. Band members who joined Clark in Return to Forever include stalwarts Chick Corea, Lenny White, and Al Di Meola. Clarke also continued to bend the jazz genre with rock legends Ron Wood and Keith Richards of the Rolling Stones, as well as violinist Jean-Luc Ponty. As a soloist, Clarke released three acclaimed albums— Stanley Clarke, Journey to Love, and School Days —and in the 1980’s landed the top 20 pop hit, “Sweet Baby,” along with George Duke. He’s also lent his talents to film and TV scoring with more than 75 credits to his name, including the films What’s Love Got To Do with It?, Boyz‘n the Hood, Romeo Must Die, Poetic Justice, and The Transporter. For these achievements, he’s been recognized with the Miles Davis Award, several Downbeat Reader’s and Critic’s Poll awards, Bass Player Magazine’s Lifetime Achievement Award, membership in Guitar Player Magazine’s “Gallery of Greats,” three GRAMMYs and one Latin GRAMMY. In 2016, his works became a part of the permanent collection at the Smithsonian’s National Museum of African American History and Culture (NMAAHC) in Washington, DC.
As one of the most sought-after jazz drummers of his generation, Billy Hart has recorded an incredible 12 albums in his own name and performed as a sideman on more than 600 recordings. His collaborations include working with the likes of Shirley Horn, Miles Davis, Herbie Hancock, Stan Getz, Joanne Brackeen, Jimmy Smith, Wes Montgomery, Pharoah Sanders, Wayne Shorter, McCoy Tyner, Eddie Harris and Stan Getz, to name just a few. In 2016, Hart was featured with the German WDR Big Band on the release The Broader Picture and was honored at the Healdsburg Jazz Festival in California with fascinating retrospective programming spanning 40 years in his honor. Sharing his legendary skills, he’s also expertly mentored aspiring musicians at the Oberlin Conservatory of Music, the New England Conservatory of Music, and at Western Michigan University.
The historic ceremony, which marks the 40th anniversary of the NEA’s Jazz Masters program, will pay tribute to the new inductees with a free and open to the public concert on Thursday, March 31, 2022, at 7:30PM PT/10:30PM ET, with a livestream at arts.gov, sfjazz.org and on Facebook. An archive of the webcast will also be available following the event at arts.gov. Up to two tickets per household may be reserved for the free concert online, at the SFJAZZ Center Box Office or by phone at 415-788-7353. Please visit the NEA website for additional information.
From its inception, BMI has supported many of the most important composers in jazz. Including this year’s honorees, BMI is extremely proud that 97 of the NEA Jazz Masters are BMI affiliates, including such giants as Miles Davis, Betty Carter, Ron Carter, Percy Heath, Sonny Rollins, Ornette Coleman, Anita O’Day and Terri Lyne Carrington, among others.
In addition, since 1988, the BMI Jazz Composers Workshop, founded by acclaimed composer/trombonist Bob Brookmeyer, composer/educator Manny Albam and author and jazz authority Burt Korall, has mentored emerging jazz composers with an emphasis on “big band” (“jazz orchestra”/”large jazz ensemble”) composition. The purpose of the workshop is twofold: to foster the musical growth of the individual composers and to create a body of work that helps to extend the language of composition for the jazz orchestra. The workshop enables composers to come together, share ideas and learn from one another, with no fee for participation. Workshop members have the opportunity to hear their work played in monthly reading sessions with the BMI/New York Jazz Orchestra, a 17-piece jazz ensemble. The BMI/NYJO performs at the BMI Summer Showcase Concert, which features works developed in the workshop. Also included in the summer concert program are the pieces that have been designated as finalists in the BMI/Charlie Parker composition competition. The winning composer receives the Manny Albam Commission to compose a new work for the following year’s concert. Previous winners have included Rufus Reid, Jamie Begian, Noriko Ueda, Darcy J. Argue, Sherisse Rogers, Asuka Kakitani, Jeff Fairbanks, and Sara Jacovino.