The New England Jazz Association has elected the first ten jazz artists to the New England Jazz Hall of Fame. The 172 invited voters made their selections based on personal preferences, but the nominees list included only deceased artists who were born in New England, relocated to the region, or spent a significant part of their lives there.
The first round of inductees includes:
- Johnny Hodges, saxophonist, Duke Ellington band
(b. July 25, 1907, Cambridge, MA; d. May 11, 1970)
- Alan Dawson, drummer
(b. July 14, 1929, Marietta, PA; d. Feb. 23, 1996)
- Harry Carney, saxophonist, Duke Ellington band
(b. April 1, 1910, Boston; d. Oct. 8, 1974)
- Paul Gonsalves, saxophonist, Duke Ellington band
(b. July 12, 1920, Boston; d. May 14, 1974)
- Jaki Byard, player, composer, arranger, bandleader
(b. June 15, 1922, Worcester, MA; d. Feb. 11, 1999)
- Bobby Hackett, cornetist/trumpeter
(b. Jan. 31, 1915, Providence, RI; d. June 7, 1976)
- Tony Williams, drummer
(b. Dec. 12, 1945, Chicago; d. Feb. 23, 1997)
- Sabby Lewis, pianist/band leader
(b. Nov. 1, 1914, Middleburg, NC; d. July 9, 1994)
- Serge Chaloff, baritone sax
(b. Nov. 24, 1923, South Boston; d. July 16, 1957)
- Sonny Stitt, alto and tenor saxophone
(b. Feb. 2, 1924, Boston; d. July 22, 1982)
Since the Hall of Fame does not yet have a permanent home, a touring exhibit showcasing the inductees is scheduled to be unveiled at the International Society Gallery at Tremont Theater in Boston on April 1, 2002. NEJA President Brent Banulis notes that there will be a concert series throughout April in conjunction with the event featuring artists such as the Herb Pomeroy Quartet, McGhee and Jimmy Woode, Dick Johnson and Greg Abate with the Al Vega Trio, the Boston Jazz Repertory Orchestra led by Carl Atkins and Bill Lowe, and the Paul Broadnax Quintet.
Banulis first began advocating for a New England jazz center on the Boston Harbor waterfront in 1997, but he was unable to convince major cultural and financial institutions in the area that the idea was financially viable. Therefore, the NEJA shifted its focus from finding a space dedicated to jazz to promoting and supporting local jazz artists. The NEJA is a membership organization that holds regular concert events and offers educational opportunities for children.