Vocalist Dee Dee Bridgewater among five NEA Jazz Masters
NEW YORK >> Singer Dee Dee Bridgewater says she's proud to be among the few women to be awarded the nation's highest jazz honor.
The National Endowment for the Arts announced Monday night during a DC JazzFest concert at the Kennedy Center in Washington that Bridgewater and four others were being recognized for their lifetime achievements as the 2017 NEA Jazz Masters.
The other honorees include the British-born bassist and composer Dave Holland; pianist Dick Hyman, the soundtrack composer-arranger for more than a dozen Woody Allen films; Hammond B3 jazz organist Dr. Lonnie Smith, known for his classic soul jazz albums; and jazz historian and writer Ira Gitler, who was recognized for his jazz advocacy.
During her career, Bridgewater garnered a Tony Award for her portrayal of Glinda the Good Witch in the original production of the Broadway musical "The Wiz" and three Grammy awards for albums paying tribute to legendary jazz singers Ella Fitzgerald and Billie Holiday. She also hosted the NPR syndicated radio show "JazzSet" from 2001 to 2014.
Bridgewater is one of only 19 women among the 145 recipients of the NEA Jazz Masters award since the program was inaugurated in 1982.
"I never dreamed I would one day be named an NEA Jazz Master, as so few women hold this distinction," Bridgewater said in a statement provided by the NEA. "I've fought long and hard to preserve my musical integrity, to garner respect in this male-dominated jazz world."
Holland relocated to New York in 1968 after Miles Davis heard the bassist at a London club and invited him to join his band that made such breakthrough albums as "In a Silent Way" and "Bitches Brew." A stylistically versatile bassist, Holland is also an accomplished composer whose output includes everything from solo to big band pieces.
"Being a musician has opened up new worlds for me and given me experiences that I couldn't have imagined," Holland told the NEA. "In 1968, the music led me to America and since then my experiences have shaped who I am and what I do."
Each Jazz Master will receive a $25,000 award and will be honored at a tribute concert on April 3 at the Kennedy Center.
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