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National Endowment for the Arts 2022 Jazz Masters honored at SFJAZZ Center

 Stanley Clarke (photo by Toshi Sakurai), Donald Harrison, Jr. (photo courtesy of Donald Harrison), Billy Hart (photo by Desmond White), and Cassandra Wilson (photo by Mark Seliger)
courtesy of NEA Jazz Masters
Stanley Clarke (photo by Toshi Sakurai), Donald Harrison, Jr. (photo courtesy of Donald Harrison), Billy Hart (photo by Desmond White), and Cassandra Wilson (photo by Mark Seliger)

On March 31 at SFJAZZ Center, the National Endowment for the Arts presents its 40th edition of the highest honor for jazz musicians in the United States, the NEA Jazz Masters celebration.

For 40 years, the National Endowment for the Arts has honored individuals for their lifetime contributions to jazz.

The 2022 recipients will be honored in a free concert on Thursday, March 31, 2022, at the SFJAZZ Center in San Francisco. The concert will also be live-streamed.

Celebrate the 2022 NEA Jazz Masters

This is the third year that the NEA and SFJAZZ have collaborated on the tribute concert, which in 2020 and 2021 took place virtually due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Ann Eilers, acting chairman for the National Endowment of the Arts, said, “Jazz continues to play a significant role in American culture thanks to the dedication and artistry of individuals such as these and we look forward to working with SFJAZZ on a concert that will share their music and stories with a wide audience.”

The 2022 NEA Jazz Masters honorees are:

Stanley Clarke (Topanga, CA)—Bassist, composer, arranger, producer
Clarke’s bass-playing, showing exceptional skill on both acoustic and electric bass, has made him one of the most influential players in modern jazz history. In addition to his solo career, Clarke, as a founding member of the legendary jazz-rock fusion band Return to Forever, has helped redefine the sound of jazz over the last 50 years. Return to Forever—Clarke with fellow seminal members Chick Corea, Lenny White, and Al Di Meola—would become one of the most popular jazz bands of its day, pulling fans from the rock world to achieve commercial success. As part of his strong belief in giving back, he also established the Stanley Clarke Foundation, a charitable organization which awards scholarships to talented young musicians each year.

Donald Harrison, Jr. (New Orleans, LA)—Cultural Activist, saxophonist, composer, educator
As a saxophonist, Harrison—recipient of the 2022 A.B. Spellman NEA Jazz Masters Fellowship for Jazz Advocacy—is known for his hard-swinging improvisational style and the creation of "Nouveau Swing," a blend of jazz with R&B, hip-hop, rock, and soul. And his dedication to preserving the music and culture of New Orleans has been crucial to assuring its important legacy survive. Following the devastation of Hurricane Katrina in 2005, Harrison increased his activism, creating employment opportunities in his own bands for young musicians who had remained in the city when many others had left. He also mentored now world-renowned jazz artists from New Orleans and beyond, including Jon Batiste, Christian Scott aTunde Adjuah, Trombone Shorty, and Esperanza Spaulding.

Billy Hart (Montclair, NJ)— Drummer, educator
Hart is one of the most sought-after jazz drummers of his generation, able to perform in diverse contexts ranging from straight-ahead to avant-garde to pop. Throughout his career, he has recorded 12 albums in his own name and performed as a sideman on more than 600 recordings. Hart also teaches widely—nationally and internationally—and has authored the book Jazz Drumming. In addition to leading his current quartet, Hart—along with fellow 2022 NEA Jazz Masters honoree
Donald Harrison, Jr.—is a member of the current jazz “supergroup” the Cookers.

Cassandra Wilson (Jackson, MS)—Vocalist, composer, guitarist
Wilson has used her distinctive voice and fascinating arrangements of standards in not just jazz, but blues, country, and folk as well, to create a body of work that has expanded the definition of jazz. She has recorded more than 20 releases as a leader and has been featured on recordings by musicians such as Terence Blanchard, Bill Frisell, Charlie Haden, Angelique Kidjo, and Luther Vandross, and earned critical acclaim for her performance on Wynton Marsalis' Pulitzer Prize-winning Blood on the Fields album.

Visit for more information and selected discographies on the 2022 NEA Jazz Masters.

“SFJAZZ is very excited to welcome the 2022 NEA Jazz Masters to San Francisco and the SFJAZZ Center and to celebrate the 40th anniversary of the NEA Jazz Masters program,” said SFJAZZ Founder and Executive Artistic Director Randall Kline.

A Conversation with the 2022 NEA Jazz Masters

Information on viewing the 2022 NEA Jazz Master Tribute Concert in-person or online is here.

Originally from Detroit, Robin Lloyd has been presenting jazz, blues and Latin jazz on public radio for nearly 40 years. She's a member of the Jazz Education Network and the Jazz Journalists Association.