The NEA Jazz Masters fellowship, America's highest honor reserved for jazz musicians, is typically bestowed by the National Endowment for the Arts in grand fashion with a gala and all-star tribute concert. This year it was set to take place at San Francisco's SFJAZZ Center in April, but it had to be rescheduled due to the coronavirus pandemic. And so, like the artists being honored, the NEA opted to improvise, transforming the event into a virtual presentation with musicians beaming in from locales across the country.
Among them, of course, are the 2020 NEA Jazz Masters themselves, a truly inspiring and expansive group: bassist Reggie Workman, saxophonist Roscoe Mitchell, vocalist Bobby McFerrin and jazz advocate Dorthaan Kirk. They'll each deliver remarks, as will NEA chairperson Mary Anne Carter and SFJAZZ founder and executive artistic director Randall Kline.
And the event — hosted by 2017 NEA Jazz Master and former NPR JazzSet broadcaster Dee Dee Bridgewater — will feature musical contributions from an impressive range of musicians, including saxophonists Oliver Lake and James Carter, trumpeter Ambrose Akinmusire, and vocalists Lisa Fischer and Madison McFerrin. As she did for last year's concert, Grammy-winning drummer and composer Terri Lyne Carrington will serve as musical director. After the webcast, SFJAZZ will host a virtual "Meet the Jazz Masters" reception, featuring the inductees and Kline in a lively Q&A. Tune in at 8 p.m. ET.