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SEPTEMBER 13, 2005 – At a press conference held today in New York City , National Endowment for the Arts Chairman Dana Gioia announced that seven living legends of American music will join the ranks of the National Endowment for the Arts Jazz Masters.

Initiated in 1982, the NEA Jazz Master title is the nation's highest honor in this distinctively American art form. In addition to the coveted designation, each member of the Class of 2006 will receive a fellowship award of $25,000 and be invited to participate in outreach efforts, including broadcasts and NEA Jazz Masters On Tour.

The NEA Jazz Master Award is part of the NEA Jazz Masters Initiative and is sponsored by Verizon. Through its support of this initiative, Verizon continues its tradition of supporting quality musical entertainment and education across the country.

The seven new NEA Jazz Masters are Ray Barretto (percussionist), Tony Bennett (vocalist), Bob Brookmeyer (arranger-composer), Chick Corea (keyboardist), Buddy DeFranco (solo instrumentalist, clarinet), Freddy Hubbard (solo instrumentalist, trumpet), and John Levy (A.B. Spellman NEA Jazz Masters Award for Jazz Advocacy, for his career as a manager).

“Jazz began, developed and flourished in the United States ,” said Chairman Gioia. “It is a vital part of our nation's history and cultural heritage. I am immensely proud that the NEA Jazz Masters Award honors these artists who have helped expand the possibility of American music. This class of NEA Jazz Masters demonstrates an exciting breadth of styles that speaks to the richness of the jazz tradition.”

The 2006 NEA Jazz Masters include two musicians with deep roots in Latin music: the brilliant percussionist Ray Barretto, the most widely recorded conguero in jazz history, and keyboardist Chick Corea, who has dazzled audiences in every idiom from acoustic avant-garde to samba-tinged fusion. Clarinet virtuoso Buddy DeFranco triumphantly spans the swing and bebop eras; blazing trumpeter Freddy Hubbard is one of the defining voices of hard bop; arranger-composer Bob Brookmeyer is the master orchestrator of modern jazz ensembles, small and large; and Tony Bennett, vocalist extraordinaire, infuses a love of jazz into his every phrase.

In addition, the A.B. Spellman NEA Jazz Masters Award for Jazz Advocacy, named in honor of the noted jazz critic, historian, and poet who served for many years as a Deputy Chairman of the Arts Endowment, is given this year to John Levy. A talented bassist, Levy in 1951 became the first African-American to work as a personal manager in the music industry—a career that he has now pursued successfully for half a century.

Chairman Gioia announced the 2006 NEA Jazz Masters at an event hosted by Jazz at Lincoln Center at its Frederick P. Rose Hall. Jazz at Lincoln Center is the Endowment's partner in a new curriculum initiative, NEA Jazz in the Schools, which the two organizations unveiled at the same press conference. NEA Jazz in the Schools is supported by the Verizon Foundation.

The seven new NEA Jazz Masters will receive their awards in January 2006 at a gala concert in New York City , presented under the auspices of the annual convention of the International Association for Jazz Education.

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