Established in 2006, the Ascona Jazz Awards recognizes artists from the jazz world who distinguished themselves during the previous year or during their artistic career. The award is presented annually during the JazzAscona festival and is supported by the Municipality of Ascona.
Over 50 years of career, an icon for soul music, one of the great classic American voices: for the first time at the festival, the 2012 recognition is awarded to the “Soul Queen of New Orleans”: the amazing Irma Thomas.
Uncle Lionel Batiste & Paul Kuhn
In sign of the ongoing interest for the music and culture of New Orleans, JazzAscona assigns the Ascona JazzAward to Uncle Lionel Batiste, singer, grand marshal and bass drummer for the legendary Tremé Brass Band. Uncle Lionel, was born in 1931 and is a unique figure in New Orleans: he is a legend to young musicians and a true connection to the music's tradition and roots. A crowning achievement to a unique and unparalleled career, a second Ascona Jazz Award 2011 is presented to pianist, singer, and bandleader Paul Kuhn, active on stage and screen since the 1950s and a swing icon in Germany.
Shannon Powell & Herlin Riley
The 2010 Ascona Jazz Award goes to drummers Shannon Powell and Herlin Riley, two musicians with extraordinary technical skills and great musical sensitivity. Both from New Orleans, Riley and Powell are perfect expressions of the rich rhythms and musical soul of the Crescent City, at the crossroad of traditional and contemporary. The award recognizes their extraordinary talent, which generated collaborations with internationally renowned artists, and their ability to excel in different styles, from traditional jazz to modern jazz and R&B.
The 2009 Ascona Jazz Award goes to Rossano Sportiello, the gifted young Italian pianist from Naples whose international career took off at JazzAscona. A piano virtuoso and a stride master, Sportiello has conquered audiences and critics with his artistic sensibility and extraordinary musical talent. A musician very much in demand, he lives in the United States and performs all over the world.
The winner of the 2008 Ascona Jazz Award is New Orleans saxophonist Donald Harrison, considered among the most influential figures in contemporary jazz. The award recognizes Harrison’s passion and commitment to the culture of New Orleans' Mardi Gras Indians in his role as “Big Chief”, inherited from his father.
Premio alla Carriera/ Lifetime Achievement Award
The 2007 Ascona Jazz Award goes to American saxophonist Red Holloway, a living "soul jazz" legend who helped define the role of the saxophone in soul and R&B music. From his debut in the early 1950s in Chicago, Holloway has enjoyed a star-studded career, performing with legends such as Dexter Gordon, Lionel Hampton, Billie Holiday, Ben Webster, Sonny Rollins, and Lester Young. At 80+ years of age, Holloway continues to be a saxophonist of remarkable freshness and dynamism, garnering admiration and enthusiasm from audiences worldwide.
Premio Speciale/ Special Award
Father Jerome Ledoux
A special Ascona Jazz Award 2007 goes to a very unique New Orleans personality: charismatic Father Jerome LeDoux, the long-time Parish Priest of St. Augustine Church, the oldest black Catholic church in America and located in the historic Tremé neighborhood. Father Ledoux receives this award for his extraordinary contributions promoting and sustaining the African-American musical and cultural heritage of New Orleans.
The Ascona Jazz Award 2006 goes to musical director Pepe Lienhard. One of the most popular pop musicians in Switzerland, Pepe Lienhard never forgot his first great passion: jazz. During his career he accompanied, with his band, world-famous stars such as Frank Sinatra, Sammy Davis Jr., and Shirley Bassey. Today Lienhard directs the Swiss Jazz Orchesta and, since 1995, the Swiss Army Big Band, which he has helped shape into a first-class jazz and swing orchestra.
2006 Premio Speciale
A special Ascona Jazz Award for 2006 goes to New Orleans singer Lillian Boutté, recognizing her extensive support of Hurricane Katrina victims, her role as World Ambassador of New Orleans music, and her position as Godmother of the SOS New Orleans Jazz Heritage Fund, launched by JazzAscona. Immediately following the Katrina tragedy, Lillian Boutté committed to supporting and assisting fellow New Orleanians in difficulty: loaning her name to the various solidarity initiatives; generating attention from the media about conditions in her city; participating in numerous fundraising concerts in Germany, Switzerland, Italy and other European countries; and not least, during reconstruction, championing the rights of musicians and the black population.