Inductee Spotlight: Sabby Lewis
The ebullient pianist Sabby Lewis led a hard-swinging octet in the 1940s that was the toast of New England. Count Basie heard it, and he told Lewis: “Rock ‘em, Pops!”

2001 Hall of Fame Inductees

Ten artists were elected to the New England Jazz Hall of Fame in the initial election of 2001. We list them here, in the order in which they finished in the voting.

Johnny Hodges
Johnny Hodges (Photo by Jack Bradley)
Johnny Hodges: alto and soprano saxophonist
Johnny Hodges: born July 25, 1907 in Cambridge, MA; died May 11, 1970 in New York City
  • When he was a baby, his family moved to Hammond Street in Boston, where he was surrounded by musical neighbors, including Harry Carney, Charlie Holmes and Howard Johnson.
  • By the time he was a teen, Hodges had graduated from playing the kitchen pots and pans and the parlor piano to the soprano saxophone, upon which he was mentored by Sidney Bechet.
  • After honing his saxophone skills locally, he next worked with the Chick Webb Orchestra in New York in 1927, and then joined Duke Ellington in 1928. Hodges remained with Duke until his death, except for a 1951-55 sabbatical to lead his own group and some periodic much shorter breaks.
  • Hodges was voted best alto saxophonist by the readers of Down Beat magazine ten times, and by the readers of Metronome magazine twice. He also won the Down Beat critics poll seven times.
  • Hodges insisted that his nickname,“Rabbit,” derived from his ability to flee the truant officer, but Carney said it came from Hodges’ partiality to lettuce and tomato sandwiches.

Stu Vandermark on Johnny Hodges

If ever there was such a thing as a natural-born improviser, Johnny Hodges was it.

By age 13, Hodges “was blowing that saxophone then as well as he played it all down through the years” (Charlie Holmes) and “playing more jazz than he did with Duke” (Benny Waters). Before he learned to read music, teenager Hodges was an influence on local and visiting jazz musicians who would stop by the exclusive Black and White Club to see the alto saxophonist featured with Walter Johnson’s entertainment band.

That is where Duke Ellington first saw “Rabbit” in action.

Before 1925 Hodges became part of the first large group of jazz musicians to participate in the still active “Boston-New York Pipeline,” commuting to New York to learn via cutting contests and to impress bandleaders in both towns. In 1996, when jazz giant Benny Carter was asked whether he had learned anything from Hodges, he said, “Not to play ‘Warm Valley’ and other things that he played upon request—because nobody can make them sound the way he did.”

Alan Dawson
Alan Dawson (Photo by Nick Puopolo)
Alan Dawson: drummer, vibraphonist, teacher
Alan Dawson: born July 14, 1929 in Marietta, PA; died Feb. 23, 1996 in Boston
  • Possessed unimpeachable credentials as a performer but was just as well known as a teacher and mentor of some of the finest drummers in jazz, including Tony Williams, Clifford Jarvis and Terri Lyne Carrington.
  • Dawson himself studied with Charles Alden in Boston in the early 1950s. During that decade, he worked with Sabby Lewis before and after his military service, and toured with Lionel Hampton in 1953.
  • Taught at Berklee from 1957 to 1975, spent two years with Herb Pomeroy, and was the drummer on acclaimed Prestige albums featuring Jaki Byard, Booker Ervin, Illinois Jacquet and Dexter Gordon.
  • Joined the Dave Brubeck Quartet in 1968, following Joe Morello, and mentored Dave’s son, drummer Dan Brubeck. He remained with Brubeck until 1975.
  • In 2002, a studio session recorded in 1992 was released under Dawson’s name. “Waltzin’ with Flo” was this first-call sideman’s only album as a leader.

Tony Cennamo on Alan Dawson

Alan Dawson would not have appreciated being flowered with superlatives, and I must be careful because he overlooks my shoulder from a photograph on my bedroom wall. He was the most humble man I’ve ever known, never talking about himself, only about his fellow players and his family. The most respected drummer of modern times was the least showy. I called him "Sticks" and he called me "Mikes." When I asked him what we should call bassist John Lockwood, he quickly replied "Rosins."

I could talk about his drumming prowess, but everyone knew. Every one of his prized students admired and respected him. Ask Terri Lyne Carrington. He was her drum teacher. One time he told me he had a surprise for me, he was teaching her vibes. James Williams recorded an album with him and wrote a composition entitled "AD." Alan Dawson, a mentor to Tony Williams as well, was addicted to only two things—his playing and his family.

He had humility and a great sense of humor, and I consider my friendship with him one of the blessings of my life.

Harry Carney
Harry Carney (Photo by Brent Banulis)
Harry Carney: baritone saxophonist, clarinetist
Harry Carney: born April 1, 1910 in Boston; died Oct. 8, 1974 in New York City
  • Carney played piano, clarinet and alto sax before gravitating toward the baritone while still in his teens.
  • He began playing professionally at 15 with Boston bands led by Bobby Sawyer, Walter Johnson, Tasker Crosson and Joseph Steele.
  • Duke Ellington gained the permission of Carney’s parents to take him on the road when he was only 16.
  • Carney mastered the technique of circular breathing, but it was his amazingly big sound and musicality that gave Carney his international reputation on the baritone saxophone.
  • Carney was voted best baritone saxophonist by the readers of Down Beat magazine seven times, and by the readers of Metronome magazine four times. He also won the Down Beat critics poll twelve times.
  • In his 46 years with Duke—the longest tenure among all of Duke’s men—Carney also co-wrote “Rockin’ in Rhythm,” an Ellington staple, and served as Ellington’s designated driver on road trips.
  • His death followed that of Ellington by only five months.

Ernie Santosuosso on Harry Carney

No instrumentalist represents the brilliant continuum of the Ellington legacy more effectively than Harry Carney, the giant of the baritone saxophone.

Recruited out of Boston English High School when he was only 16, Harry anchored Duke’s reed section with his bearish tone, expanding the horizons of the baritone sax as a powerfully relevant force in jazz.

As a newly-arrived teenager, I “discovered” Ellington when he headlined at the Metropolitan Theater, long since renamed the Wang Center—and there was Harry. As a collegian in 1941, I paid heed to George Frazer’s writings lavishing praise on Ellington et al.—and there was Harry.

Nothing could deter me from enjoying the band’s visits to New England. On the day I was drafted into the Army, I celebrated that evening in company with the Ellington band at the RKO Boston—and Harry Carney, who was to eventually hold down the distinguished baritone chair through six decades—was still there. To me, he will always be a royal member of Duke’s family.

Paul Gonsalves
Paul Gonsalves (Photo by Lee Tanner)
Paul Gonsalves: tenor saxophonist
Paul Gonsalves: born July 12, 1920 in Brockton, MA; died May 14, 1974 in London, England
  • Guitar was his first instrument in 1936, but he soon concentrated on tenor sax. In the early 1940s, Gonsalves was a featured soloist with the Phil Edmunds band, from New Bedford, MA.
  • After serving in the Army from 1942-45, he worked and recorded with Sabby Lewis in 1945-46. In 1946, he joined Count Basie, then worked briefly with Dizzy Gillespie’s big band in 1949.
  • Gonsalves joined the Duke Ellington Orchestra in 1950, and remained with Ellington for the remainder of his career, except for a brief period with the Tommy Dorsey band in 1953.
  • Apart from Ellington, Gonsalves recorded widely as both a leader and a sideman. Sessions included those with Nat Adderley and Sonny Stitt in the 1960s, Roy Eldridge and Ray Nance in the 1970s, and dates with Clark Terry, Dinah Washington, Ray Charles and Billy Taylor.
  • His extended solo at the Newport Jazz Festival in 1956 put the Ellington Orchestra on the cover of Time magazine.

Tom Reney on Paul Gonsalves

Paul Gonsalves was born in Brockton, grew up in New Bedford and came to local renown as a member of the Sabby Lewis band. Pianist Paul Broadnax, who worked as an arranger for the band, recalls Gonsalves as an “incredible player who could lift a whole band. He was full of ideas, very advanced. You knew he was going places.” Gonsalves joined the Duke Ellington Orchestra in 1950 and remained until his death in May 1974, just days before Ellington’s own passing.

Gonsalves’ style—bold, serpentine, harmonically sophisticated, with unusual shadings of pitch—added immeasurably to Ellington’s tonal palette; Ellington called him a player of “profound authority.” Gonsalves also played a major role in one of the most famous moments in jazz history when, at the Newport Jazz Festival in 1956, he played an electrifying, 27-chorus solo on Ellington’s “Diminuendo and Crescendo in Blue.” The performance so revived Ellington’s sagging fortunes that he took to describing himself and Gonsalves as having been “born in Newport, Rhode Island in 1956.”

Jaki Byard
Jaki Byard (Photo by Nick Puopolo)
Jaki Byard: pianist, saxophonist, trombonist, composer, arranger, bandleader
John A. Byard Jr.: born June 15, 1922 in Worcester, MA; died Feb. 11, 1999 in New York City
  • Jaki Byard was brought up in a musical household, his mother playing piano and his father, baritone horn in a marching band. Besides piano, Jaki also played trumpet, guitar and drums.
  • Gained experience through the Entertainment Club at the Worcester Boys Club and played with local bands 1938-41, and then the Army 1941-46.
  • Toured with Earl Bostic in late ’40s and early ’50s before moving to Boston, where he played trombone with Jimmie Martin’s Boston Beboppers, recorded with Charlie Mariano, played intermission piano and tenor sax with the Herb Pomeroy big band at the Stable, and founded his own big band.
  • Byard left Boston in 1959, joining the Maynard Ferguson Orchestra. In the 1960s, he worked or recorded with a who’s who of jazz: Charles Mingus, Eric Dolphy, Booker Ervin, Rahsaan Roland Kirk, Don Ellis, Sam Rivers, and others.
  • In the 1970s, he taught at the New England Conservatory, and formed the Apollo Stompers, a big band active in both Boston and New York.
  • Recorded duet albums with Earl Hines in the 1970s and Ran Blake in 1980s.

Fred Bouchard on Jaki Byard

Vignettes of Jaki Byard pop in my mind like champagne bubbles.

Mid-phrase, fingers flying, he’d flash you Count Basie’s “basilisk stare” from the keyboard, then break into a goofy grin. Wherever he played — with Mingus, Don Ellis, Rahsaan — Jaki spanned the ages; he could play rings around any piano style from James P. Johnson to Fats Waller to Art Tatum to Don Pullen, and do it in a minute flat. Leading his rag-tag Apollo Stompers on Tuesdays at Michael’s Pub, he’d play the rickety upright as long as he could stand it, then grab his worn tenor and blow breathy marshmallows. His durable charts — the rich “Aluminum Baby” for bassist John Neves in Herb Pomeroy’s band, some for Maynard Ferguson— resonated with history and sparkled with brilliance.

When we sat down for his Blindfold Test (Downbeat, 1981), he insisted that everyone get five stars before I dropped the needle. “They’re all stars! Heck,” he harrumphed,“I’m a star myself!” He certainly was.

Bobby Hackett
Bobby Hackett (Photo courtesy of Jack Bradley)
Bobby Hackett: trumpeter, cornetist, guitarist
Robert Leo Hackett: born Jan. 31, 1915 in Providence, RI; died June 7, 1976 in Chatham, MA
  • The son of a blacksmith and the sixth of nine children, Hackett quit school at 14. His first playing jobs were on guitar and violin. In the early 1930s, Bobby worked with Payson Re’s dance band on Cape Cod, and Billy Lossez’s hotel orchestra.
  • Played with Pee Wee Russell and Teddy Roy in Boston in the mid 1930s, and led the band at the Theatrical Club in that city 1936-37.
  • Moved to New York in 1937, playing with Joe Marsala and Eddie Condon, as well as leading his own group on 52nd street. In 1939, he formed his own big band, but it was not successful.
  • Joined Horace Heidt band and, after a year, Glenn Miller, playing guitar and cornet. Recorded famous solo on Jerry Gray’s “String of Pearls.” He was later a member of the Casa Loma Orchestra in 1944-46, and the Benny Goodman Orchestra in 1962-63.
  • Worked in studio orchestras at both NBC and ABC, and became known for his solos with the Jackie Gleason Orchestra 1953-55. He toured with Tony Bennett in the mid 1950s, and was later a member of the Benny Goodman Orchestra in 1962-63.
  • Recorded the well-regarded albums Jazz Ultimate and Coast Concert with Jack Teagarden, and four volumes of Live at the Roosevelt Grill with Vic Dickenson and Dave McKenna.
  • After moving to Cape Cod in 1971, Hackett played locally with McKenna, and toured with George Wein and Benny Goodman.

Jack Bradley on Bobby Hackett

During the late 1930s, Bobby Hackett was often referred to as “the new Bix,” a term which he was never comfortable with. His musical life was never the same after hearing Louis Armstrong as a kid in Providence.

Hackett was sometimes accused of being responsible for the increase in birth rate in the 1950s because of his way with romantic ballads on the records he made with Jackie Gleason.

Armstrong said of Hackett, “He’s wonderful to have playin’ with you — Bobby plays all them big notes and leaves out all that bebop-debop nonsense.” Hackett defined music just as neatly when he said, “Music should be pretty — you should hear and recognize the melody.” In a discussion of Hackett between Armstrong and Tony Bennett, Louis summed, “I’m the coffee, he’s the cream!” That statement is like a Hackett solo—short, eloquent and to the point.

Tony Williams
Tony Williams (Promotional photo)
Tony Williams: drummer, composer, bandleader
Anthony Tillmon Williams: born Dec. 12, 1945 in Chicago; died Feb. 23, 1997 in Daly City, CA
  • Began drum studies with Alan Dawson in Boston at age 10.
  • At 16, Williams was brought to New York by Jackie McLean after McLean heard him play at Connolly’s, a Boston jazz club.
  • At 17, he became a member of the Miles Davis Quintet, joining pianist Herbie Hancock and bassist Ron Carter in one of jazz’s immortal rhythm sections.
  • Formed the fusion band Lifetime with John McLaughlin and Larry Young in 1969, and later joined the Davis alumni band V.S.O.P.
  • Formed quintet in 1986 with trumpeter Wallace Roney, saxophonist Bill Pierce, pianist Mulgrew Miller and bassist Ira Coleman, which played together for six years.
  • Williams was voted the top drummer in jazz by the readers of Down Beat magazine in 1979.
  • Williams died at age 51 from complications after minor surgery.

Bob Blumenthal on Tony Williams

Among his many achievements, Tony Williams was the most talented prodigy in jazz history, beginning private studies at age 10 with drum legend Alan Dawson and making his initial forays into free improvisation while barely a teenager with Sam Rivers’ Boston Improvisational Ensemble. At 17, Williams broke into two charmed circles— Blue Note Records and the Miles Davis Quintet —where he would redefine the role of the drums through the remainder of the ’60s.

After five years with Davis, Williams formed Lifetime, one of the first and — especially in its original trio incarnation with John McLaughlin and organist Larry Young —arguably the best of the jazz/rock “fusion” bands.

Even with his premature passing, Williams’ legacy of innovation on his instrument, and the inspired empathy he displayed in several classic bands, ensure that he will be considered among the very greatest jazz figures of the past 40 years on any instrument.

Sabby Lewis
Sabby Lewis (Photo by Ruth Williams)
Sabby Lewis: pianist, band leader
William Sebastian “Sabby” Lewis: born Jan. 31, 1915 in Middleburg, NC; died July 9, 1994 in Boston
  • Lewis didn’t arrive in Boston until he was 18, but to many, Sabby Lewis was the man on the Boston jazz scene in the late 1930s and 1940s.
  • His band won the regional competition to perform on the popular Fitch Bandwagon radio program on the NBC network in 1942, and later was heard regularly over New York’s WOR.
  • In 1948, the Sabby Lewis band, featuring saxophonist Jimmy Tyler and bassist/vocalist Al Morgan, began a six-month engagement at the Hi-Hat in Boston’s South End, helping to make it the city’s hottest club.
  • In 1952, Lewis moved into radio, becoming a disc jockey on WBMS (later known as WILD), remaining until 1957.
  • Lewis played in some of the premier jazz venues of the day, including the Apollo in New York, the Howard Theater in Washington, and the Regal Theater in Chicago. He shared billings with big-name stars including Nat Cole, Dinah Washington, Billy Eckstine and Billie Holiday.

Nat Hentoff on Sabby Lewis

There is a very brief mention of Sabby Lewis in the Ira Gitler/Leonard Feather Biographical Encyclopedia of Jazz (Oxford), but he deserves a chapter in any comprehensive history of the music.

First of all, his band nurtured many of the subsequently seminal figures in jazz history: Paul Gonsalves, Sonny Stitt, Cat Anderson, Alan Dawson, Joe Gordon, Roy Haynes, Gene Caines, among others.

He himself, as a pianist and arranger, always knew the crucial values of space and dynamics. His soloists had room to breathe, and the ensemble playing was crisp and infectiously swinging.

Sabby was also a jazz educator.

He communicated his love—and that’s the word—of the music so clearly that, I expect, he led countless numbers of listeners, in schools as well as clubs, to a deeper understanding of the lifelong pleasures of the music.

Personally, he was like a jazzman I later came to know, Clifford Brown, in that he was unfailingly generous, utterly incapable of malice, and always ready to encourage fledgling musicians—and listeners.

Serge Chaloff
Serge Chaloff (Photo by John Miner)
Serge Chaloff: baritone saxophonist
Serge Chaloff: born Nov. 24, 1923 in Boston; died July 16, 1957 in Boston
  • Born to parents involved in music education, Chaloff studied piano but at age 12 switched to the baritone sax. His greatest influences were Harry Carney and Jack Washington, stalwarts of the Ellington and Basie bands.
  • Became a big-band journeyman, working with Tommy Reynolds, Ina Rae Hutton, Shep Fields and Tommy Dorsey among others.
  • Joined Georgie Auld’s group, which played on New York’s 52d Street, where Chaloff became exposed to and tremendously influenced by Charlie Parker.
  • Joined Woody Herman’s Second Herd in 1947 and became one of the renowned “Four Brothers.” It was a time when heroin became rampant in the modern jazz world, and Chaloff fell victim to that addiction.
  • Chaloff was voted best baritone saxophonist by the readers of Down Beat magazine three times, and by the readers of Metronome magazine five times.
  • Chaloff returned to Boston in 1950 and eventually kicked his habit. He played with the Herb Pomeroy big band in 1956, and recorded a pair of small-group gems for Capitol, Boston Blow-Up and Blue Serge.

Eric Nisenson on Serge Chaloff

In the mid 1950s, Serge Chaloff left the Boston area for Los Angeles, hoping to give his career a kick-start.

This was at a time when “West Coast Jazz” was at its height and perhaps Chaloff thought he could fit into that scene. Sadly, he developed a tumor on his spine and suffered through several operations which left him partially paralyzed. However, despite being in a wheel chair, he continued to play, and it was in this period in 1956 that he recorded his greatest album, one that would be considered one of the finest jazz records of the 1950s, Blue Serge. It is an absolutely indispensable album.

Unfortunately, the cancer spread and on July 16, 1957, Chaloff passed away. He was not quite 34 years old.

The accomplishments he left behind should never be forgotten. More than any other baritone saxophonist, he adapted the concepts of bebop to his horn. And even more importantly, he created some thrilling and beautiful music.

Sonny Stitt
Sonny Stitt (Promotional photo)
Sonny Stitt: saxophonist, composer
Edward “Sonny” Stitt (born Edward Boatner, Jr.): born Feb. 2, 1924 in Boston; died July 22, 1982, in Washington, D.C.
  • Sonny Stitt, whose father was a college music professor and whose brother was a concert pianist, studied piano at age 7, then clarinet and alto saxophone.
  • Worked with Sabby Lewis in 1942, and became an early disciple of Charlie Parker.
  • In the 1940s, Stitt played alto in the bop-oriented big bands of Billy Eckstine and Dizzy Gillespie.
  • Began playing tenor and baritone in 1949 and formed a two-tenor group with Gene Ammons.
  • His recordings on Prestige included albums with Bud Powell and J.J. Johnson, and for a brief time in 1960, he was in Miles Davis’ group.
  • In the early 1970s, Stitt joined the “Giants of Jazz” with Gillespie, Art Blakey, Kai Winding, Thelonious Monk and Al McKibbon.

Bob Young on Sonny Stitt

There’s a reason why everyone who was anyone in jazz—Dizzy Gillespie, Gene Ammons, Hank Jones, Miles Davis—wanted to share the stage with Sonny Stitt. He was indisputably one of the most inventive and inspiring saxophonists in the business.

In the 1950s, “original” wasn’t a description usually associated with Stitt only because he was unfairly dismissed by some as a mere Charlie Parker clone. The music the Boston-born reedman went on to make in subsequent years, though, on alto, tenor and baritone sax, has endured and made those charges seem trite. Stitt’s body of music truly was original, as much because of its soulful drive as its glorious beauty.

By infusing bebop with a blues feel that came naturally and the deep-rooted swing he’d absorbed early, Stitt became an unpretentious pioneer who broadened the fan base for a vital new music.

Yes, he could roar off fast as lightning and relax a ballad to sleep. But most of all, Stitt could tell a story with his horn—man, could he tell a story—and like the contributions of the finest players in jazz, those tales have stood the test of time.