At the end of last month, the National Endowment for the Arts announced the list of 2013 NEA Jazz Masters. Since 1982, this highest jazz honor has been bestowed on some of the greatest living musicians in jazz - among them, Dizzy Gillespie, Miles Davis, Ella Fitzgerald, Sarah Vaughan, Dave Brubeck, Wayne Shorter, Tony Bennett and Jack DeJohnette. NEA Jazz Masters receive a one-time fellowship award of $25,000, are honored at an awards ceremony, and may participate in a variety NEA-sponsored promotional, performance, and educational activities.
Over the years, many different instruments that were not part of the early ensembles have come to have a home in jazz. And their inclusion has added new textures and new approaches to the music. One of the more successful migrants into jazz has been the organ. From its roots in the church and early movie theaters (where an organist would provide accompaniment to silent films and entertainment in between them), the organ found a place in jazz thanks to early pioneers like Fats Waller (who had an early job in one of those movie theaters), Count Basie, Milt Buckner, and Wild Bill Davis.