FONT’s annual Award of Recognition has honored creative pioneers and revolutionary teachers who have made remarkable contributions to the field over their lives, often without receiving any recognition ever before.
2018 – Tom Harrell
2017 – Charles Tolliver
In the early ’70s, Charles Tolliver was one of the brightest young trumpeters in jazz. He studied at Howard University and then moved to New York in 1964, playing and recording with Jackie McLean. Tolliver was on quite a few excellent advanced hard bop records in the mid-’60s, played with Gerald Wilson’s Orchestra in Los Angeles (1966-1967), and was a member of Max Roach’s group at the same time (1967-1969) as the compatible Gary Bartz. In 1969, Tolliver formed a quartet called Music Inc. that often featured pianist Stanley Cowell and was on a few occasions expanded to a big band. Tolliver and Cowell founded the Strata East label in 1971, which released many fine records in the 1970s. Although it was an era when there was a serious shortage of talented young trumpeters (prior to the rise of Wynton Marsalis), Tolliver after the mid-’70s maintained a low profile. Charles Tolliver, whose fat tone was influenced by Freddie Hubbard while his ideas display bits of John Coltrane, has recorded as a leader for Impulse (two songs from a 1965 concert), Black Lion, Enja, and Strata East.
2016 – John McNeil
John McNeil was born in 1948 in northern California. Due to a lack of available musical instruction in his home town of Yreka, John largely taught himself to play trumpet and read music. By the time he graduated from high school in 1966, John had already begun playing professionally in the northern California region. John moved to New York in the mid-1970’s and began a freelance career. His reputation as an innovative trumpet voice began to grow as he played with the Thad Jones/Mel Lewis Orchestra, and led his own groups at clubs such as Boomer’s, the legendary Village jazz room. In the late 70’s, John joined the Horace Silver Quintet. Around the same time, he began recording for the SteepleChase label under his own name and toured internationally.
Although he has worked as a sideman with such luminaries as Gerry Mulligan, John has consistently led his own groups from about 1980 to the present. He has recorded numerous albums that have met with excellent reviews, and continues to record with similar acclaim. In the 1990’s, John became increasingly in demand as a writer, arranger, and record producer. He continues these activities in addition to his usual schedule of live performance.
2015 – Eddie Henderson
Eddie Henderson was one of the few trumpeters who was strongly influenced by Miles Davis’ work of his early fusion period. He grew up in San Francisco, studied trumpet at the San Francisco Conservatory of Music, but was trained to be a doctor when he permanently chose music. Henderson worked with John Handy, Tyrone Washington, and Joe Henderson, in addition to his own group. He gained some recognition for his work with the Herbie Hancock Sextet (1970-1973), although his own records (which utilized electronics) tended to be commercial. After Hancock broke up his group,Henderson worked with Art Blakey and Mike Nock, recorded with Charles Earland, and later, in the 1970s, led a rock-oriented group. In the ’90s, he returned to playing acoustic hard bop (touring with Billy Harper in 1991) while also working as a psychiatrist.
2014 – Raymond Mase
Raymond Mase enjoys a diverse career as soloist, chamber artist, orchestral player, and pedagogue. As a member of the American Brass Quintet since 1973, he has performed worldwide, premiered countless new works for brass, and is heard on over thirty-five of the Quintet’s recordings. He has contributed his own editions of 16th, 17th, and 19th-century brass music on many of the ABQ recordings and was instrumental in the group’s recordings on Civil War period brass instruments. As soloist, Mr. Mase has appeared with the American Composers Orchestra, Boston Pops, Moscow Soloists, Naumberg Orchestra, New York Virtuosi, Orpheus Chamber Orchestra, Summit Brass, and at the Bethlehem Bach and Aspen Music Festivals. He can be heard on well over 100 recordings and as soloist on the Albany, Deutsche Grammophon, Summit, Koch, Troy, Cambria, MHS and Furious Artisans labels. In addition to his responsibilities with the New York City Ballet Orchestra, Mr. Mase has performed and recorded with many New York based ensembles including the New York Philharmonic, the Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center, Speculum Musicae, Orpheus and Musica Sacra. He is trumpet instructor and Chair of the Brass Department at The Juilliard School and has been artist/faculty member of the Aspen Music Festival and School since 1973.
2012 – Laurie Frink
Laurie Frink (1951-2013) has toured throughout the world playing trumpet with the big bands of Benny Goodman, Gerry Mulligan, Mel Lewis, Bob Mintzer, Maria Schneider, Andrew Hill, Dave Liebman, and Kenny Wheeler. Her diverse career included numerous Broadway shows, radio and television jingles, movie soundtracks, and guest appearances with artists such as T.S. Monk and David Bowie. Her versatility as an artist has led to performances with the Manhattan Brass Quintet, the Saturday Brass Quintet, and the Gramercy Park Brass.
Considered the foremost authority and teacher of the Carmine Caruso method, she attracted professional brass players from around the world. In addition to her private studio, she has served on the faculties of the New School for Social Research, SUNY Purchase, SUNY Stony Brook, New York University, Westchester Conservatory, Harbor Junior High School for Performing Arts, Manhattan School of Music, and the Mile High Jazz Camp. She has been a featured artist at the International Trumpet Competition in Kiev, Ukraine, and the International Trumpet Guild Conference in Göteborg, Sweden.
2011 – Kenny Wheeler
Kenny Wheeler (1930-2014) was born in Toronto, Canada. Based in Britain since the 1950s, Wheeler became an active part of the jazz scene in the U.K., a well respected musician, both as a sideman, leading his own groups and a prolific, adventurous composer. Noted for his beautiful tone and range, he has recorded and performed with such artists as John Dankworth, Ronnie Scott, Dave Holland, and vocalist Norma Winstone. His touring with Anthony Braxton brought him greater recognition in North America in the 1970s, including stints as an educator at the Banff Centre for the Arts. Wheeler is widely acknowledged for his contributions to raising Canada’s profile in the jazz world.
2010 – Wilmer Wise
More than two decades before Wynton Marsalis was famously straddling the worlds of jazz and classical music in the 1980’s, trumpeter Wilmer Wise (1936-2015) was blazing a trail for musicians with the versatility to perform in settings ranging from jazz to Broadway to the highest levels of the classical music establishment. As an African-American musician of advanced abilities and an impressive classical pedigree coming onto the scene in the years leading up to the height of the Civil Rights Movement, Wise carved a unique path as the only black trumpet player in the ensembles he performed with in the early days of his career.
2009 – Bobby Bradford
One of the best trumpeters to emerge from the avant-garde, Bobby Bradford largely fulfilled the potential of Don Cherry (whose chops declined through the years due to the amount of time allocated to performing on flute and other instruments). Bradford grew up in Dallas, playing trumpet locally with such local players as Cedar Walton and David Newman. In 1953, he moved to Los Angeles where he met and played with Ornette Coleman and Eric Dolphy. Bradford spent time in the military and in school before becoming Don Cherry’s replacement with the Ornette Coleman Quartet in 1961-1963, a period when the group unfortunately rarely worked. After moving to Los Angeles, Bradford became a school teacher and also began a longtime association with clarinetist John Carter; his mellow trumpet blended in well with Carter’s dissonant flights. He recorded with Ornette Coleman in 1971, but otherwise is best known for his playing and recordings with Carter. Since the clarinetist’s death,Bradford frequently led a quintet (the Mo’tet) featuring Vinny Golia and occasionally Marty Ehrlich. In the ’90s, he also performed with John Stevens’ Freebop, the David Murray Octet, and Charlie Haden’s Liberation Music Orchestra.
2008 – Wadada Leo Smith
Trumpeter and multi-instrumentalist, composer and improviser has been active in creative contemporary music for over forty years. His systemic music language Ankhrasmation is significant in his development as an artist and educator.