The NEA Jazz Masters Fellowship, established in 1982 by the National Endowment for the Arts, has always recognized jazz artists of sterling achievement from coast to coast. But this year, its focus falls on a single area code — 313, which encompasses all of Metro Detroit. That’s because the three exceptional musicians honored as 2023 NEA Jazz Masters — drummer Louis Hayes, saxophonist Kenny Garrett and violinist Regina Carter — are all proud products of the Motor City. Each will perform at a tribute concert this Saturday at 7:30 p.m., at the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts in Washington, D.C.
The concert, hosted by Mark Ruffin of SiriusXM’s Real Jazz channel, will be available as a live webcast and radio broadcast on more than a dozen stations. Along with the honorees, the program will feature saxophonists Camille Thurman, Abraham Burton and Sarah Hanahan; pianists David Hazeltine, Keith Brown and Helen Sung; and drummers Alvester Garnett, Ronald Bruner and Adam Cruz, among others.
One bittersweet note will be the recognition of Sue Mingus, who died last September at 92. She is the recipient of the 2023 A.B. Spellman NEA Jazz Masters Fellowship for Jazz Advocacy, for her tireless work in memory of her husband, bassist and composer Charles Mingus. Sue Mingus kept his music and legacy alive through several acclaimed tribute bands, as well as a Mingus High School Festival and Competition and the creation of the Charles Mingus Collection at the Library of Congress.
Sue Mingus’ son, Roberto Ungaro, will speak on her behalf at the concert, joining each of the inductees as well as Dr. Maria Rosario Jackson, the current NEA Chair, and Deborah F. Rutter, President of the Kennedy Center.