The Rolling Stones were the surprise guests of honor at the U.K.’s Jazz FM Awards, where the veteran rockers walked away with two prizes, including album of the year for comeback set Blue & Lonesome.
“We started off a very long time ago in London trying to play clubs, and those clubs were jazz clubs,” recalled Mick Jagger, collecting the publicly voted prize at London’s Shoreditch Town Hall alongside band mates Ronnie Wood and Charlie Watts earlier Tuesday evening (April 25).
“We used to try and play these jazz clubs and they used to kick us out for playing blues. So this sort of feels full-circle,” the 73-year-old singer went on to say before thanking listeners of Jazz FM for voting.
After collecting the prize, Blue & Lonesome co-producer and Blue Note Records president Don Was paid tribute to the veteran four-piece via a video message, in which he called them “the most hard-working and talented musicians to ever step in front of a microphone.”
“When they kick into gear, the whole becomes far greater than the already gigantic sum of the parts. The whole room catches fire, and that’s exactly what happened during the making of Blue & Lonesome,” Was rhapsodized about the covers collection, which was recorded over three days in London and topped the U.K. albums chart when it was released last fall. In the U.S., it debuted at No. 4 -- the group’s 37th top 10 entry on the Billboard 200 chart.
The Stones also collected the award for blues artists of the year, with Jagger thanking the band's label Universal -- and U.K. chairman and CEO David Joseph, in particular -- for supporting the project from start.
"We were making another record, and we made this [one] sort of in between," recalled Jagger, who admitted having some initial reservations about releasing Blue & Lonesome until his label convinced him otherwise. "I said, 'It's a bit of a minority niche thing,'" the vocalist recalled. "They [Universal] were the ones that said, 'This sounds really great. We want to put it out... Everyone's going to love it.' So I want to thank them for pushing it and helping us and everyone for listening to it."
Lifelong jazz fan Charlie Watts was also presented with a Jazz FM Gold Award in recognition of his contribution to jazz and blues from his friend and British musician Evan Parker. “I should be giving this to him,” the ever-humble drummer said upon collecting the prize.
Other notable winners of the night included American saxophonist Donny McCaslin, who memorably featured on David Bowie’s final studio record, Blackstar, and collected the award for international jazz artist of the year and performed at the ceremony. He dedicated the prize to Bowie.
“When we did Blackstar together, you blew our minds, because you are a one-take guy,” the record’s producer and longtime Bowie confidante Tony Visconti enthused in a congratulatory video speech. “You would just play live in the studio and that would be the take. David and I were not used to such professionalism. If it wasn't for you, Blackstar wouldn’t be the success that it is.”
La La Land and Whiplash director Damien Chazelle was also honored, receiving the Impact Award.
“I’ve been jazz-obsessed my whole life. As a former wannabe jazz musician, I was never quite good enough to make it, so I decided to film jazz musicians instead and try to put jazz onscreen,” the filmmaker said via video speech. “I truly believe in the marriage between jazz and cinema, and I hope to play a small tiny part in keeping that tradition alive.”
Earlier in the evening, British singer Laura Mvula won soul artist of the year, which she followed up with a stirring live performance of “The Man I Love” in tribute to Ella Fitzgerald, whose 100th birthday coincided with the awards show.
Van Morrison was also in attendance, presenting British rhythm, blues and jazz singer Georgie Fame with the Lifetime Achievement Award. Fame closed the show, backed by a four-piece band that included trumpeter Guy Barker.
The full list of winners is as follows:
Breakthrough Act of the Year (sponsored by Yamaha)
International Jazz Artist of the Year (sponsored by Oris Watches)
Vocalist of the Year (sponsored by PRS for Music)
Instrumentalist of the Year (sponsored by Rathbones)
Blues Artist of the Year (sponsored by The Piano Bar Soho)
Soul Artist of the Year (sponsored by RCS)
Jazz Innovation of the Year (sponsored by Mishcon de Reya)
Digital Initiative of the Year (sponsored by Pollitt & Partners)
Gilles Peterson - Worldwide FM
Album of the Year (public vote) (sponsored by Arqiva)
Rolling Stones - Blue & Lonesome
UK Jazz Act of the Year (public vote) (sponsored by Grange Hotels)
Live Experience of the Year (public vote)
Orphy Robinson All Stars – The Bobby Hutcherson Songbook
Ppl Lifetime Achievement Award
The Gold Award