Where are the high honors for America's Latin Jazz artists?

Jul 4, 2013

Looking over the list of the recently announced 2014 National Endowment for the Arts Jazz Masters prompted me to search through the history of the awards for any Latin Jazz artists who have been so honored.

Of 128 Jazz Masters named since the award's inception in 1982, only 8 are associated in any way with Latin Jazz:  Eddie Palmieri, Kenny Barron, Candido Camero, Ray Barretto, Paquito D' Rivera, Chick Corea, Horace Silver and Dizzy Gillespie.

The list is even smaller for Latin Jazz recipients of the National Medal of Arts, which does occasionally award to jazz musicians:  Paquito D' Rivera, Tito Puente, Celia Cruz and of course Dizzy Gillespie were honored out of hundreds who have received the medal since 1985.

Let's be clear:  I'm talking only about the BIG national arts honors, not reader's polls, critic's polls, Grammy or Latin Grammy awards, or even the Jazz Journalist Association's yearly awards for music (which, by the way, has an excellent track record for honoring Latin Jazz musicians and recordings).

National recognition for the art form of Latin Jazz, its artists and its contribution to the American musical landscape is what I'm after.

How do we make that happen?  Let me know your thoughts in the comment section.

In the meantime, have a happy Independence Day, and mind the explosives...

Enjoy this version of  "America the Beautiful" from Tito Puente, Celia Cruz, Carlos Santana, Poncho Sanchez and Ruben Blades.

Listen for the nation's best in Latin Jazz on Jazz Caliente, Thursdays at 2pm on KPLU's Mid Day Jazz!