The New Mexico Jazz Festival is a collaborative project among not-for-profits Outpost Performance Space, Lensic Performing Arts Center, and the Santa Fe Jazz Foundation that takes place during the last two weeks of July annually in Albuquerque and Santa Fe.
In its seventh year, the 2012 festival hosted two NEA Jazz Masters on consecutive nights at the Lensic Performing Arts Center in Santa Fe—on July 27, NEA Jazz Master Sheila Jordan, in duet with bassist Cameron Brown, shared a bill with one of today’s top jazz vocalists, Dianne Reeves and her quintet; and on July 28, NEA Jazz Master Jon Hendricks and his LHR Redux Band, featuring his daughter Aria, was double billed with acclaimed jazz vocalist Kurt Elling and his quintet.
The combination of older and younger generations of jazz vocalists splitting the concert was inspired, and helped to bring a new audience to the NEA Jazz Masters. A.B. Spellman, for whom the NEA Jazz Masters Award for Jazz Advocacy is named, introduced the performances, and on the 28th led a discussion with Jordan and Hendricks about their lives in jazz that was free and open to the public.
Jordan demonstrated that she could still scat with the best of them even in her 80s, performing with bass accompaniment, a tough outing for any singer. Hendricks performed songs from his historic group Lambert, Hendricks, and Ross with his daughter Aria and singer Kevin Burks, keeping up with the youngsters despite his 90 years. At the end of the set, Hendricks invited Elling to join him on a Horace Silver tune, and then invited Jordan up in a vocal jam session that was surely a highlight of the festival.
As part of the festival, the Outpost Performance Space in Albuquerque featured a photo exhibit of NEA Jazz Masters who had performed at Outpost since 2005. The photos by Jim Gale gave a perspective of the wide variety of artists honored by the award.