NEW YORK (PIX11) — The annual Jazz at Lincoln Center Gala made its triumphant return on Wednesday night at the Frederick P. Rose Hall. The theme: Body and Soul: America Rises Through The Arts.

It was a true convergence of musical brilliance. With the center’s orchestra led by artistic director Wynton Marsalis, the gala itself returned from a two-year pandemic hiatus. 

“It’s been two years,” JALC Executive Director Greg Sholl said. “So, it’s long time since we’ve had the opportunity to open the house this way and to celebrate the music.

This year’s gala was hosted by award-winning actors — and husband and wife duo — Courtney B. Vance and Angela Bassett. It was also held to honor two of its major contributors, Grammy Award-winning trumpeter and Oscar nominee Terrance Blanchard, who was president of the JALC’s Artistic Excellence Ward, and Darren Walker, President of the Ford Foundation and a major driver behind Jazz At Lincoln Center.

“Jazz has always been the bedrock of our society, and always kind of represents the values of what a true democracy is supposed to be. You see it when you witness musicians on a bandstand sharing ideas,” Blanchard told PIX11 News.

One of the night’s performers was Elvis Costello.

“I don’t think it’s ever been a better time to sing. Singing involves breathing in and out, and a feeling. Trying to tell a story,” he told PIX11 News.

Walker received the JALC’s Ed Bradley Award for Leadership, which is named after the legendary journalist who also sat on the center’s board for 15 years and hosted the Jazz at Lincoln Center radio show for 14 years. The award was presented by former First Lady Michelle Obama and on stage by Bradley’s widow, Patricia Blanchet.

Of the culmination of the dream that is now Lincoln Center, in accepting the award, Walker lamented some who thought Jazz at Lincoln Center was a “radical idea.”

Radical, maybe. But Jazz at Lincoln Center is a permanent and prominent fixture in the New York Arts scene and beyond.