Christian McBride performs at An Evening With Christian McBride at the GRAMMY Museum on February 13, 2020 in Los Angeles, California. Photo by Rebecca Sapp.

Big Wins at Inaugural Jazz Music Awards: Full List

Norman Brown’s “Back at Ya” won the fan-voted song of the year award

By Paul Grein for Billboard 


Christian McBride & Inside Straight were the top winners at the inaugural Jazz Music Awards, which were held on Saturday, Oct. 22, at the Cobb Energy Performing Arts Centre in Atlanta. McBride & Inside Straight received two of the eight competitive awards — best mainstream artist and best duo, group, or big band. McBride, 50, an eight-time Grammy winner, was on the road in Europe and unable to attend the event.

The show, dubbed Celebrating the Spirit of Jazz, was co-hosted by Dee Dee Bridgewater and actor Delroy Lindo. Terri Lyne Carrington was the show’s musical director and co-executive producer.

A mid-show medley of “songs of social justice” featured Dianne Reeves, Lizz Wright, Dee Dee Bridgewater, Jazzmeia Horn, and Ledisi. Reeves opened the segment with her 1994 composition, “Endangered Species,” which gained notice at last month’s Primetime Emmy Awards when Sheryl Lee Ralph sang it in her acceptance speech.

Vocalist Somi, one of two winners of the best vocal performance award (due to a tie), performed a Miriam Makeba tribute, “House of the Rising Sun.”

A presentation of a lifetime achievement award to influential jazz saxophonist and composer Wayne Shorter included a medley of his songs and Shorter’s heartfelt video message.

The show closed with an affecting performance by Lizz Wright and Tia Fuller of “Georgia on My Mind.”

The Jazz Music Awards at the Cobb Energy Performing Arts Centre in Atlanta, GA with the closing performance by vocalist Lizz Wright and saxophonist Tia Fuller. (Photo Credit: Julie Yarbrough)


Carrington’s All-Star Band played throughout the show. The group included pianist Orrin Evans, bassist James Genus, guitarist Mark Whitfield, tenor saxophonist Marcus Strickland, alto saxophonist Braxton Cook, trumpeter Milena Casado, keyboardist Ray Angry, drummer Nikki Glaspie, and DJ/percussionist Kassa Overall.

Presenters included Reeves, Horn, Jean and Marcus Baylor of The Baylor Project, Brandee Younger, Ben Tankard, Orrin Evans, Ragan Whiteside, Tia Fuller, and Bob Baldwin.

Many in attendance were sobered by the more than 100 jazz greats listed in the In Memoriam tribute. All died between the latter part of December 2019 and October 2022.

The Jazz Music Awards is a nonprofit division of Jazz 91.9 WCLK at Clark Atlanta University, owner and licensee of WCLK.

The second Annual Jazz Music Awards is scheduled for Saturday, Oct. 21, 2023.

Here’s a complete list of nominees in the eight competitive categories:

Best Mainstream Artist
Joey DeFrancesco, More Music
Kenny Garrett, Sounds From The Ancestors
WINNER: Christian McBride & Inside Straight, Live at the Village Vanguard
Brandee Younger, Somewhere Different

Best Contemporary Artist
Brian Bromberg, A Little Driving Music
Ben Tankard, SHINE!
Lindsey Webster, “I Didn’t Mean It”
WINNER: Ragan Whiteside, “Off the Cuff”

Best Duo, Group, or Big Band
The Baylor Project, Generations
Jazzmeia Horn and Her Noble Force, Dear Love
WINNER: Christian McBride & Inside Straight, Live at the Village Vanguard
Count Basie Orchestra, Live at Birdland
(under the direction of Scotty Barnhart)
Kevin Eubanks and Orrin Evans, EEE (Eubanks-Evans-Experience)

Best New Jazz Artist (Contemporary or Mainstream)
Simon Moullier, Countdown
Julieta Engenio, Jump
Kazemde George, I Insist
WINNER: Samara Joy, Samara Joy

Best Vocal Performance
The Baylor Project, Generations
CO-WINNER: Somi Kakoma, Dreaming Zenzile
CO-WINNER: Stacey Kent, Songs From Other Places
Shawnn Monteiro, You Are There

Best Mainstream Album
The Baylor Project, Generations
CO-WINNER: Orrin Evans, The Magic of Now
CO-WINNER: Kenny Garrett, Sounds From the Ancestors
Brandee Younger, Somewhere Different

Best Contemporary Album
WINNER: Bob Baldwin, The Stay at Home Series, Volume 1
Brian Culbertson, The Trilogy Red
Sonny Emory, Soul Ascension
Gabriel Mark Hasselbach, Tongue & Groove

Song of the Year (Fan Vote)
WINNER: Norman Brown, “Back at Ya”
Brian Culbertson, “Feel the Love”
Justin-Lee Schultz, “Gruv Kid”
James “PJ” Spraggins, “Up From Here”