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2001 - The Year in Jazz

2001 marked the 75th anniversary of the birth of two legendary jazzmen, trumpeter Miles Davis and saxophonist John Coltrane. Celebrations took place around the world, including an all-star tour highlighting the music of these modern jazz giants.

One of the most anticipated jazz albums of the year was Miles Davis and John Coltrane, The Complete Columbia Recordings. Released in time for the 75th birthday salute, the five-CD box set inspired jazz critic Whitney Balliet to write, "Davis and Coltrane aren't playing what they think jazz should be, they are playing music."

In honor of the anniversary, saxophonist Michael Brecker and trumpeter Roy Hargrove took their tribute to more than 25 cities across the U.S. Titled Directions In Music, the tour included pianist Herbie Hancock, bassist John Pattitucci and drummer Brian Blade.

2001 was greeted with the television premier of Ken Burns' 10-part documentary, Jazz. The series featured rare concert footage and recordings, interviews and photos while telling the story of this original American art form. Most agreed that Burns covered it all, from jazz's humble beginning in New Orleans to modern day trailblazers like Wynton Marsalis. In addition to the book and video, Jazz also came with a collection of CDs featuring the era's most famous jazz musicians and composers.

The success of Ken Burns' Jazz gave a boost to jazz album sales in 2001. The best-selling contemporary jazz artists of the year include keyboardist Brian Culbertson; saxophonists Boney James and Richard Elliot; pianist Keiko Matsui; trumpeter Rick Braun; singers Diana Krall and Jane Monheit; and the French jazz fusion group Saint Germain.

2001 had its share of jazz funk as audiences hit the dance floor to a new blend of jazz, soul, rock and blues. Blue Note Records capitalized on the growing market of jazz funk fans with a release titled One Nation Under A Groove, featuring Saint Germain, Charlie Hunter, Karl Denson, John Scofield, and Medeski, Martin and Wood.

The jazz world lost some of its best players in 2001, including saxophonists Joe Henderson, Buddy Tate and Manny Alban, big bandleaders Les Brown and Chico O'Farrill, jazz producers Norman Granz and Milt Gabler, drummer Billy Higgins, trombonist J.J. Johnson, Brazilian guitarist Luis Bonfa, pianists John Lewis and Tommy Flanagan, singers Etta Jones, Al Hibbler and Susannah McCorkle, and bluesman John Lee Hooker.

2001 will forever be remembered as the year terrorists attacked the United States. In an effort to aid victims directly affected by the attack, jazz musicians in New York City and elsewhere formed the Jazz Cares Relief Fund. Through the Fund's website at, musicians are donating a portion of the proceeds from sales of their CDs to the September 11 Relief Fund. Those donating include Randy Brecker, Joe Lovano, Rene Rosnes, Steve Turre and the jazz vocal quartet New York Voices.

Part of VOA's Year End Series for 2001