April 2008

The 7th Annual National Jazz Awards
April 8, 2008 Palais Royale Toronto
Looking To The Future, Remembering The Past and Celebrating The Present
Report and photos by Roger Humbert
Founded seven years ago by Bill King, the National Jazz Awards (NJA) is an annual celebration of the people who keep this music vibrant across the Canadian landscape. Winners in each category are selected by popular vote from a list of nominees. For several weeks prior to the awards night, jazz lovers are invited to log on to the NJA web site and make their voices count.
In the weeks leading up to the awards night, Mr. King and his NJA team undertook an aggressive campaign to address a nagging issue: the perception by some that the Awards are “Toronto-centric”. A clear and simple message was repeatedly broadcast “if you want to see musicians from your part of the country win some of these awards — vote for them! and encourage others to do the same.”

The message was apparently heard. The total number of votes was more than twice that of last year with many of this year’s awards going to Western Canadians. Hopefully we’ll not hear rumblings that the NJA has become too “Western-centric” — (just vote).

This year the NJA team chose to train a special spotlight on the younger generation of jazz musicians. Vocalist Kellylee Evans and pianist Michael Kaeshammer co-hosted the ceremonies with much spirit and ebullience. In the musical segments, the audience was given a chance to hear some of the country’s top fresh talent. As well as performances by Kellylee Evans and Michael Kaeshammer, we heard Brandi Disterheft, Mike Ruby, Nikki Yanofski, Jodi Proznick, Alex Bellegarde, Elizabeth Shepherd, Kervin Barreto, Tilden Webb and many others. The future of Canadian jazz is in very good hands (and voices).

Kellylee Evans

As well as looking at the future we were invited to reflect on the past and pay homage to three musical icons who recently passed away: Oscar Peterson, Doug Riley and Jeff Healey. A screening of short film clips cast a spell over the audience — the memory of these great musicians lives on.

But of course, while looking at the future and remembering the past, the awards presentation was anchored in and celebrated the present. Over the course of the evening, winners were called to the podium and presented with their awards (see complete list at the bottom of this page). While we saw some repeat winners, this year many were called to the podium for the first time. Of note, two musicians were triple award winners: Hilario Duran (Big Band, Socan Composer, Latin Jazz Artist) and Jodi Proznick (Bassist, Acoustic Band, Recording).

All in all it was a very successful evening. Organizing a major awards evening such as this one must be a daunting task. Alternating awards presentations with live music segments ensured that the proceedings were kept lively. The house band with Richard Underhill as its Musical Director kept a smooth continuity. I can’t think of a venue better suited than the Palais Royale for holding this awards presentation (at least in Toronto). It is large enough to accommodate several hundred people and not restrict them to their seats (as formal theatre seating would). Add to that its lakefront location and illustrious history and it’s perfect.

It is unfortunate that a large portion of the audience couldn’t seem to see the evening through. Musicians who were called on to perform or to receive their award after 10:30 p.m. did so in front of a sea of vacated tables… this on a night especially set aside to honour them!? Makes you wonder. I know that this was a weeknight but … Doesn’t true passion for jazz burn brighter with a dash of midnight oil?

Michael Kaeshammer

Evan Arntzen

Kervin Barreto
2008 National Jazz Awards Winners
Katie Malloch
Geoff Chapman
Vancouver International Jazz Festival
Don Vickery
Terry Clarke
Jodi Proznick
Reg Schwager
Jazz Pioneer Award
Doug Riley
Artist of Distinction
Jeff Healey
Oscar Peterson
Brad Turner
Phil Dwyer
Hugh Fraser
Big Band
Hilario Duran’s Latin Jazz Big Band
Electric Band
Barry Romberg Random Access
Acoustic Band
Jodi Proznick Quartet
Phil Nimmons
Jesse Zubot
Nancy Walker
CBC Galaxie Rising Star
Chris Andrew
Socan Composer
Hilario Duran
Ken Page Lifetime Achievement
Geoff Chapman
Female Vocalist
Emile-Claire Barlow
Male Vocalist
Joe Coughlin
International Musician
Wynton Marsalis
Latin Jazz Artist
Hilario Duran
Don Thompson
Phil Dwyer
Record Label
Cellar Live
Brad Turner
Jodi Proznick Quartet Foundations

Hilario Duran

Jodi Proznick
We welcome your comments and feedback
Roger Humbert
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The Live Music Report
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