Jazz Masters LIve

Flynn Center for the Performing Arts, Burlington, Vermont

NEA Jazz Master Jim Hall. Photo by J. Michael Worthington

NEA Jazz Master Jim Hall. Photo by J. Michael Worthington

A hallmark of the NEA Jazz Masters Live program is creating opportunities for multiple NEA Jazz Masters to appear in a presentation. Many of the NEA Jazz Masters' histories are entwined and bringing them together creates unique and unforgettable experiences for the audiences, such as at the Flynn Center for the Performing Arts' 2010 Burlington Discover Jazz Festival, where legendary musicians and NEA Jazz Masters Jim Hall and Sonny Rollins performed together through the support of an NEA Jazz Masters Live grant. 

Jim Hall performed on Sonny Rollins' famous recording The Bridge (1962) but it has been years since the two performed together. On June 12, 2010, as Rollins concluded his concert, Hall took the stage and the two performed together. Arnie Malina, Flynn Center for the Performing Arts's chief programming officer and artistic director, described as this moment as a "historic opportunity" for the audience, who were "very excited and very moved."

Each musician also impressed audiences with their individual performances. Malina said he was "astounded at how much energy Rollins had. He performed with all-out bravura." Jim Hall collaborated with local jazz and classical musicians, who formed a brass ensemble and after two days of open rehearsals, performed with him. "It's like a community project," said Malina. "The players that we have are excellent, and it's an opportunity for local professional players to interact with major artists and it gives them further opportunities."

NEA Jazz Master Sonny Rollins. Photo by J. Michael Worthington

NEA Jazz Master Sonny Rollins. Photo by J. Michael Worthington

In addition to the opportunities for festival-goers to see these legends perform, the festival also held Meet the Artist sessions with Hall and Rollins. These events provide a chance for the "artists to mingle with the community" and for the public to "tell the artists how much they have meant to their lives," said Malina. Hosted by jazz journalist Bob Blumenthal, more than 100 people attended each session to hear stories directly from the artists, ask questions, and bring albums for the musicians to sign.

More than 35,000 people attended the 2010 Burlington Discover Jazz Festival and preparations are being made for this coming June's 2011 festival, where an NEA Jazz Masters Live grant will support presentations by keyboardist and composer Herbie Hancock and jazz historian, archivist, author, editor, and educator Dan Morgenstern. "The festival honors tradition, innovation, the past, future, and present," said Malina. "[Presenting] great masters is something we're compelled and honored to do."