Thursday, June 16, 2016

Jazz Bassist Dave Holland Earns Nation’s Highest Honor in Jazz: 2017 NEA Jazz Masters Award

NEC visiting artist-in-residence, renowned jazz bassist/composer and bandleader Dave Holland has earned the nation’s highest honor in jazz: a 2017 NEA Jazz Masters Award.  Holland is one of five individuals recognized for their lifetime achievements and exceptional contributions to the advancement of jazz. Each will receive a $25,000 award and be honored at a tribute concert on Monday, April 3, 2017, produced in collaboration with the Kennedy Center.  Other honorees include Dee Dee Bridgewater, Ira Gitler, Dick Hyman and Dr. Lonnie Smith.

Over the course of a nearly five-decade career, Dave Holland has never stopped evolving, reinventing his concept and approach with each new project while constantly honing his instantly identifiable voice. From the electric whirlwind of Miles Davis’ Bitches Brew-era band to the elegant flamenco of his collaboration with Spanish guitar legend Pepe Habichuela; accompanying the great vocalist Betty Carter in her last years to forging a new sound with the pioneering avant-garde quartet Circle alongside Chick Corea, Anthony Braxton, and Barry Altschul; standing alongside legends like Stan Getz, Hank Jones, Roy Haynes, and Sam Rivers to providing early opportunities to now-leading players like Chris Potter, Kevin and Robin Eubanks, or Steve Coleman; Dave Holland has been at the forefront of jazz in many of its forms since his earliest days. Outside the jazz world, he’s collaborated with Bonnie Raitt, flamenco master Pepe Habichuela, and bluegrass legend Vassar Clements. In 2013, the Wolverhampton, England native unveiled Prism, a visceral electric quartet featuring his longtime collaborator and Tonight Show bandleader Kevin Eubanks, along with keyboardist Craig Taborn and drummer Eric Harland. In addition, Holland continues to lead his Grammy-winning big band; his renowned quintet with saxophonist Chris Potter, trombonist Robin Eubanks, vibraphonist Steve Nelson, and drummer Nate Smith; and the Overtone quartet, with Potter, Harland, and pianist Jason Moran.

Awarded an honorary degree by NEC in spring 2004, that fall Holland began a series of residencies at the school in which he shares the many dimensions of his activities as soloist, composer, bandleader, and all-round musician.

Past NEA Jazz Masters with NEC affiliations include Gunther Schuller, Bob Brookmeyer, Ron Carter, George Russell and Cecil Taylor.

Each year since 1982, the National Endowment for the Arts has conferred the NEA Jazz Masters award. With this new class, the NEA has awarded 145 fellowships to great figures in jazz. More information about the NEA Jazz Masters and the agency’s collection of free jazz content is available here.

NEA Jazz Master Fellowships are bestowed on living individuals on the basis of nominations from the public including the jazz community. The NEA encourages nominations of a broad range of men and women who have been significant to the field of jazz, through vocals, instrumental performance, creative leadership, and education. The NEA is currently accepting nominations for the 2018 NEA Jazz Masters (deadline: December 31, 2016). Visit for more information and to submit a nomination.

The NEA also supports the Smithsonian Jazz Oral History Program, an effort to document the lives and careers of NEA Jazz Masters. In addition to transcriptions of the comprehensive interviews, the website also includes audio clips with interview excerpts. This project has transcribed the oral histories of more than 90 NEA Jazz Masters.

NEC's Jazz Studies Department was the first fully accredited jazz studies program at a music conservatory. The brainchild of Gunther Schuller, who moved quickly to incorporate jazz into the curriculum when he became President of the Conservatory in 1967, the Jazz Studies faculty has included six MacArthur "genius" grant recipients (three currently teaching) and four NEA Jazz Masters. The program has spawned numerous Grammy winning composers and performers and has an alumni list that reads like a who's who of jazz. As Mike West writes in JazzTimes: “NEC's jazz studies department is among the most acclaimed and successful in the world; so says the roster of visionary artists that have comprised both its faculty and alumni.”  The program currently has 95 students; 48 undergraduate and 47 graduate students from 13 countries.

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