Acclaimed pianist Keith Jarrett, saxophonist Anthony Braxton and bassist Richard Davis were the toast of the New York arts world on Monday night (13Jan14) as they were presented with prestigious Jazz Masters Awards.

Educator Jamey Aebersold was also among the honourees at the Jazz at Lincoln Center prizegiving, where the four musicians received the National Endowment for the Arts accolades, the highest jazz prizes in America.

During the ceremony, Jarrett admitted he was pleasantly surprised to be accepting the title after he was kicked out of top Massachusetts school Berklee College of Music as a youth, but he insists creating music takes more than just a good education.

The pianist, who is known for his improvised solo recitals, told the audience, "Music is either in the air and you find it or it is in the air and you don't find it. You can be educated about everything there is to do with music, and you are still zero until you let go of what holds you back. My job in my opinion is to let it out, but I don't believe there are any rules."

The honourees were each also awarded fellowships worth $25,000 (£15,625).