Art Works Blog

Can't Help Falling in Love with Jazz, Take 2

April 19, 2010
Washington, DC

Katja von Schuttenbach and Wynton Marsalis at the NEA Jazz Masters luncheon, October 2009. Photo by Tom Pich

Katja von Schuttenbach is the NEA's Jazz specialist, working on projects including the annual NEA Jazz Masters selection and celebration (and reminding us that April is Jazz Appreciation Month).  Given her seemingly inexhaustive knowledge on the subject, I was surprised to learn that Katja was actually a late bloomer in coming to jazz. But I'll let her tell the story:

I fell in love with jazz unexpectedly in early 2001 in a small, ocean-side, non-profit jazz club called The Bach Dancing & Dynamite Society in Half Moon Bay, which is just south of San Francisco.  Charles Redlick, a friend of mine, already in his high 80s then, had invited me to join him and his wife to see bassist Ray Brown there.  Not wanting to disappoint this life-long jazz enthusiast---who had grown up in Chicago in the wake of the  group of extraordinary jazz musicians known as the Austin High Gang---I relented.  I didn?t know then that Ray Brown was one of the most famous bassists in the history of jazz, that he had been an NEA Jazz Master since 1995, and that this would be my one opportunity to see him perform. (Brown passed on in 2002.) Something happened to me that evening, and the impact was profound and lasting.  In 2005, I embarked upon a new career path and moved east to pursue graduate studies in Jazz History & Research at Rutgers University in New Jersey. A year later I signed on at the Arts Endowment to work in the field of jazz here.

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