Newcomer Norah Jones was this year's biggest surprise in jazz holding the Number One position on Billboard's contemporary jazz chart for most of 2002 with her debut vocal album Come Away With Me. Jones discovered jazz in high school, and was just two years away from earning her college degree when she was signed to a recording contract.
Norah Jones was more interested in studying jazz piano than singing, but after moving from Texas to New York, she began writing and performing her own songs in coffeehouses and jazz clubs. The 23-year-old daughter of sitar master Ravi Shankar worked with jazz guitarist Charlie Hunter and the Dirty Dozen Brass Band before forming her own group for her album Come Away With Me."
The year's other top jazz album was The Look Of Love by Canadian singer Diana Krall. Diana Krall's album The Look Of Love was Number One for 52 consecutive weeks, only to be replaced by her follow-up Live In Paris.
Jazz album sales for 2002 held steady with Top 10 releases by saxophonists Kenny G and Boney James, as well as vocalists Cassandra Wilson, Harry Connick, Jr., Natalie Cole and Steve Tyrell. An album of duets by Tony Bennett and k.d. lang called A Wonderful World was also one of the year's best sellers.
Jazz got a boost when the Smithsonian Institution officially designated the month of April as Jazz Appreciation Month. With support from government agencies and non-profit organizations and foundations, the Smithsonian hosted special exhibitions, workshops, seminars and performances emphasizing the importance of jazz's past, present and future. Jazz history, upcoming events and information on the annual celebration can be found at www.smithsonianjazz.org. Duke Ellington, Ella Fitzgerald, Billie Holiday, Bessie Smith, Charles Mingus, Gerry Mulligan and Lionel Hampton are among the many jazz greats whose birthdays are celebrated in April.
Legendary vibraphonist and bandleader Lionel Hampton died in 2002 at the age of 94. Hampton broke new ground with Benny Goodman and later with his own bands and orchestras. In February, "Hamp" took the stage one last time at a festival held each year in his honor, The Lionel Hampton Jazz Festival.
The jazz world also mourned the loss of bass players Ray Brown and Arvell Shaw, singers Rosemary Clooney, Peggy Lee and Roy Kral, trumpeter Conte Candoli, saxophonists Bob Berg and Nick Brignola, and bebop pianist Russ Freeman.
One of 2002's most talked-about jazz concerts featured vocalists Kurt Elling, Jon Hendricks, Kevin Mahogany and Mark Murphy, who teamed up for a one of a kind vocal "summit" at a nightclub in Chicago. Calling themselves the Four Brothers, the quartet earned standing ovations for its renditions of the jazz classics All Blues, Four Brothers, and Swinging 'Til The Girls Come Home.
And it was quite a year for bassist, composer and bandleader Dave Holland. At age 56, Holland swept Down Beat magazine's Critic's Poll and Down Beat's Reader's Poll, winning the honors for Best Musician, Best Album, Best Ensemble and Best Bass Player of the Year.
Part of VOA's Yearend Series