Inductee Spotlight: Alan Dawson
Boston’s best: 40 years of teaching, over 170 recordings, and Alan Dawson always got the first call when they needed a drummer at Lennie’s, Lulu White’s or the Starlight Roof.
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The New England Jazz Hall of Fame

Welcome to the website of the New England Jazz Hall of Fame at Worcester Polytechnic Institute. Since 2001, the Hall of Fame has inducted 20 great musicians into its ranks, and named musicians and non-musicians alike as Unsung Heroes of the music.

This site documents the New England Jazz Hall of Fame and its activities:

  • About: Background on the Hall of Fame, its traveling exhibit, the New England Jazz Alliance, and the WPI Jazz History Database.
  • Inductees: Photos and biographical information on the 20 members of the Hall of Fame.
  • Unsung Heroes: Jazz advocates from around the region recognized by the Hall of Fame for their efforts to promote and preserve the music.
  • Library: Information on past Hall of Fame election cycles, and stories about some notable friends and supporters of the Hall.

The New England Jazz Hall of Fame, which is dedicated to honoring the region’s greatest jazz musicians, is marking a banner year in 2017 with two major announcements. First, the Hall has found a permanent home with the Jazz Studies Program at Worcester Polytechnic Institute. Second, it is commencing its fourth election cycle, which will open the doors to an unknown number of new members, as chosen by more than a hundred knowledgeable voters.

The place of jazz in American culture, and its status as our greatest cultural gift to the world, is often overlooked. The New England Jazz Hall of Fame was founded to recognize that contribution, and in particlular to honor those with strong ties to our New England home.

A Renewed Focus on History

Originally established in Boston in 2001, the Hall has lived a virtual existence through this website, as well as a nomadic one through a traveling exhibit that has made its way around New England for over ten years. Now the Worcester Polytechnic Institute (WPI) has offered the Hall of Fame a permanent, physical home, and extending its welcome with an opening ceremony and concert on April 29, 2017 at the Alden Memorial Hall. The event is open to the public and free to all.

It was always a goal of the Hall’s founders to set roots in a community where jazz is appreciated and where the historical information would be more widely accessible. By establishing a physical presence at WPI, students, researchers, and jazz fans alike can access the Hall of Fame’s history at its permanent home in Worcester. This city is an hour’s drive from New England’s three most populous state capitals—Boston, Providence, and Hartford—as well as from the home of America’s first and greatest jazz festival, Newport, RI.

April 29 will also include the first announcement regarding the schedule and procedures for the next Hall of Fame election. Nominations will be open from July 1, with voters casting their ballots between September 15 and November 15. Inductees will be announced in January 2018, with the induction ceremony following during April, Jazz Appreciation Month.

Such a day of celebration will of course include music. WPI jazz ensembles will play during the afternoon, followed by an evening concert featuring the New England Conservatory Jazz Ensemble, directed by Ken Schaphorst, performing the music of Hall of Fame member Jaki Byard.

An International Turn for the WPI Jazz History Database

The host of the April 29 event, the Jazz Studies Department at WPI under the direction of Prof. Richard Falco, will make two announcements of its own.

The first concerns the Jazz History Database, the JHDB, an online multimedia “museum” hosted by the Jazz Studies Department. It contains thousands of photos, videos, audio recordings and news clippings, focused primarily on New England artists and dedicated to the preservation of “at-risk” jazz artifacts. Now, however, the database is broadening its scope, and the April 29 event will launch a new international initiative for the JHDB. WPI is expanding the platform and inviting collaborators from across the world to trace the origins and influence of jazz music globally.

While public access to the Hall of Fame and the Jazz History Database provide a opportunities to learn about the featured artists, it doesn’t stop there. WPI’s Falco will also announce a new collaboration with its media partner, Worcester’s WICN-FM.

“Using the content of the JHDB, WICN’s on-air hosts and staff can focus on New England Jazz Hall of Fame inductees, as well as other artists profiled within the database,” said Falco, who takes on the additional role as faculty curator of the Hall of Fame exhibit. “WICN will provide us with great support, and through their broadcasts and streaming, they’ll bring wider exposure to the music of these artists.”

The Hall of Fame Meets Jazz Appreciation Month

It is fitting that WPI and the Hall of Fame make these announcements in April. The Smithsonian Institution first declared April as Jazz Appreciation Month in 2002, thus making the April 29 announcement both timely and relevant to the celebration of jazz, America’s classical music. To add a bit more local flavor to the event, April 29 also happens to be Duke Ellington’s birthday. Three of Ellington’s most recognized stars—Johnny Hodges, Harry Carney, and Paul Gonsalves—were among the first inductees to enter the New England Jazz Hall of Fame.