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Stream the 2022 NEA Jazz Masters Tribute Concert From SFJAZZ

"This planet at times appears like it's not as spiritual as it should be, or it's way too lawless," Stanley Clarke, the eminent bassist, composer and bandleader, reflected in a recent conversation hosted by the National Endowment for the Arts. "But there's pockets of beauty around, and the truth. One of those small pockets is us."

Clarke, 70, was referring to his peers in the 2022 class of NEA Jazz Masters: drummer Billy Hart, 81; vocalist Cassandra Wilson, 66; and saxophonist and cultural activist Donald Harrison, Jr., 61, recipient of the A.B. Spellman Fellowship for Jazz Advocacy. Each of these artists has made music across a range of style and format, expanding the parameters for improvised music over the last 40 years. And as Clarke implied, they have held down a marker for beauty and truth.

The NEA Jazz Masters fellowships, often described as this nation's highest honor for jazz artists, have been an annual tradition since 1982. Over the last couple of years, the ceremony and concert has been a virtual affair, in deference to pandemic realities. So an undercurrent of hopeful renewal should suffuse this year's 40th anniversary event, to be held before an audience at the SFJAZZ Center and transmitted over radio broadcast and livestream.

Hosted by Dianne Reeves, a close contemporary of Wilson's who became an NEA Jazz Master in 2018, the concert will feature performances by three of this year's honorees: Clarke, Harrison and Hart. Among the others contributing musically are the SFJAZZ Collective, tenor saxophonist Mark Turner, vocalist Gretchen Parlato, and pianists Jon Cowherd and Ethan Iverson.

Jazz Night in America will celebrate each of the 2022 NEA Jazz Masters in the coming weeks, starting with an episode devoted to Wilson on April 7. For more information about the NEA Jazz Masters fellowship, visit the National Endowment for the Arts online.

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