American-born jazz drummer Jerry Granelli won big in a province he considers home at the Creative Nova Scotia Arts Awards gala in Halifax Saturday.
He took home the $18,000 Portia White Prize recognizing cultural and artistic excellence in Nova Scotia and named the 1313 Music Association as his $7,000 protege.
Born in San Francisco, the legendary jazz drummer, composer and teacher started drumming seriously by the age of four, was inspired by his father who drummed at Italian weddings, was part of the Californian free jazz and psychedelia scenes of the ’60s and has recorded over 20 albums.
He is an original and the only surviving member of the Vince Guaraldi Trio, which scored and performed the original recording of A Charlie Brown Christmas.
“I have won some great awards, but the Portia White means more to me than any other,” he said in an email interview from England, where he is teaching. “Partially because of her story and work, but also because it's about helping or giving service to the community beyond just performance. I am truly grateful.”
Granelli, who will tour Tales of a Charlie Brown Christmas in Canada this fall with two Halifax shows on Dec. 4, moved to Nova Scotia in 1988, inspired to do so by his Buddhist Shambhala teacher Chogyam Trungpa.
“He always said it was a good place where good things could happen because of the gentleness and wholehearted approach to life,” Granelli said. “Also there were great people in the music community who wanted me there to not only play but teach."
Nova Scotia has “given me a home, and in difficult personal times.”
Apart from teaching as well as performing with the Jerry Granelli Trio, he runs JazzEast's intensive Creative Music Workshop for emerging jazz artists and the 1313 Music Association at 1313 Hollis St., Halifax, as an improvisational music venue for concerts and workshops nurturing young musicians and teachers.
Granelli is working on a new CD with Bill Frisell and Robben Ford and will do six-night residency in New York at John Zorn's experimental music club, the Stone, to celebrate his 76th birthday.
The $25,000 Lieutenant Governor of Nova Scotia Masterworks Arts Award went to Canvas 5 x 5, choreographed by Ottawa dance artist Tedd Robinson and performed by dancers Jacinte Armstrong, Rhonda Baker, Susanne Chui and Ruth-Ellen Kroll-Jackson.
In the piece dancers used lengths of canvas and, according to a news release, "enacted the imagined origins of Celtic dance, accompanied by recorded Celtic music."
Produced by Mocean Dance, Canvas 5 x 5 was first presented by Live Art Dance in Halifax in 2012. The jury called it "the best dance to come out of this province" in a statement that called the dancers "athletic and precise" and the dance "profound in its integration of form and concept.”
The other Masterworks finalists, each receiving $3,000, were Concerto for Tabla and Orchestra by composer Dinuk Wijeratne, Lounge Chair No. 2 by woodworker Jonathan Otter, Mi’kwite’tmn (Do You Remember) by visual artist Ursula Johnson and What a Young Wife Ought to Know by playwright Hannah Moscovitch and director Christian Barry.
Now in its 11th year, the prize is the largest annual award to any work of art in Nova Scotia and has a nominations deadline of March 1.
Winner of the $5,000 Prix Grand Pre is Halifax-based artist Fabien Melanson whose films En Francais S.V.P and Premiers mots look at a modern-day Acadian family and obstacles faced by Acadians in maintaining their culture.
Other winners at the Creative Nova Scotia Awards Gala, held at the Halifax Central Library, with art and performance led by artistic director Ken Schwartz, are the five $5,000 Established Artist Recognition award-winners: textile-based visual artist and arts advocate Bonnie Baker, of Annapolis Royal; Acadian visual and multimedia artist Francois Gaudet, of Clare, Digby County; Halifax actor-physical comedian, Gemini Award-winning writer and director Christian Murray; Halifax dancer, choreographer, mentor and artistic director Jacinte Armstrong who has led both Verve Mwendo and SiNS and, more recently, been artistic director of Kinetic Studio, and Mark Hopkins, of Wolfville, vice-president of the Acadia New Music Society, co-director of the Shattering the Silence new music festival and resident conductor of the Wired ensemble.
Lunenburg won the $10,000 Community Arts and Culture Recognition Award. The town has over 23 galleries and artist studios, a community of many writers including Governor General's Award-winner Marq de Villiers and is home to the Lunenburg Folk Harbour Festival, the Lunenburg Folk Art Festival, the Boxwood Festival, Musique Royale and the Lunenburg Doc Festival as well as the Lunenburg School of Art and the Lunenburg Academy of Music Performance.
Nova Scotians can hear the Jerry Granelli Trio in the upcoming Halifax Jazz Festival presentation of Tales of a Charlie Brown Christmas on Dec. 4, 2 and 8 p.m., Spatz Theatre, with the Sacred Heart Children's Choir.
Granelli is also a special guest in a concert by Alan Syliboy and the Thundermakers, presented by the St. F.X. Art Gallery, Nov. 15, 7 p.m., at Immaculata Hall, Antigonish.