DC Jazz Fest Hails Billy Hart and Amy Austin
The DC Jazz Festival, which runs from June 10 to 16, announced the recipients of its two major awards last week.
The 2015 Lifetime Achievement Award will be going to world-renowned drummer and educator Billy Hart and the 2015 John Conyers Jr. Jazz Advocacy Award was awarded to former publisher of the City Paper Amy Austin.
The Lifetime Achievement Award—previous awardees have included Kenny Barron, Sadao Watanabe, Roy Haynes, Ron Carter, Jimmy Heath, Eddie Palmieri, James Moody, Ellis Marsalis, George Wein, Buck Hill, Clark Terry, Hank Jones, Billy Taylor and Dave Brubeck—will be given to Hart at the June 14 Sixth & I Synagogue concert by the all-star and rising acoustic jazz ensemble the Cookers.
Hart is one of the most recorded drummers in the jazz world and has performed with most of the important jazz musicians in history. Hart, 73, was raised in D.C. and grew up playing alongside such R&B legends as Otis Redding, and Sam and Dave and then with local legend saxophonist Buck Hill. He also played with guitarist Wes Montgomery and NEA Jazz Master Jimmy Smith, and later recorded with McCoy Tyner, Wayne Shorter, Weather Report’s Joe Sawinul and others.
Hart teaches at the Oberlin Conservatory of Music in Ohio and is adjunct faculty at the New England Conservatory of Music and at the New England Conservatory of Music.
Austin was feted at a special opening reception for the DC Jazz Festival at the Residence of Japanese Ambassador Kenichiro Sasae June 4. The John Conyers Jr. Jazz Advocacy Award is presented each year to an individual or organization which has actively supported jazz and the DCJF. The award is named for Rep. John Conyers Jr. (D-Mich.), who introduced the unanimously passed bill HR-57 in 1987, a bill that declared jazz “a rare and valuable American treasure to which we should devote our attention, support and resources to make certain it is preserved, understood and promulgated.”
Austin — who was introduced by At-large Council member Elissa Silverman, who was once a reporter and “Loose Lips” columnist for Washington's City Paper — said, “I am honored to be recognized by DC Jazz Festival with the Jazz Advocacy Award in the city of D.C., one with many passions. Jazz and particular the DC Jazz Festival serves as a uniting force across populations and diplomatic boundaries. I’m thrilled to celebrate jazz as a forever growing force of D.C.'s urban heritage."
Attendees at the reception—which included DC Jazz Festival founder Charles Fishman, executive director Sunny Sumter, current artistic director Willard Jenkins, television news anchor Maureen Bunyan and other dignitaries—were treated to a spectacular concert by gifted young jazz composer Miho Hazama, who conducted a 13-member jazz ensemble which played works composed by Hazama, including music from her album “Journey to Journey,” which contained the essence of both the formalities, and rigorous aspects of jazz and its free-wheeling improvisations.