Five jazz legends and 36 emerging talents were honored at the 2014 ASCAP Jazz Wall of Fame Induction Ceremony, which was held at the New York Institute of Technology’s Auditorium on June 9. Paul Williams, ASCAP’s president and board chairman, presided over the ceremonies which included the presentation of over 40 awards and a total of seven musical performances. Miles Davis biographer Quincy Troupe presented the ASCAP Foundation Vanguard Award to singer-songwriter Gregory Porter, whose album Liquid Spirit received the 2014 Grammy for best jazz vocal album; after receiving his award, Porter sang the album’s title track.
Two of the five Wall of Fame honorees—vocalist Helen Merrill and pianist/composer/arranger Dick Hyman—were in attendance to accept their awards and gave heartfelt interpretations of music that was extremely important to them.
Merrill, who first came to fame for her 1954 debut recording which featured trumpet icon Clifford Brown and bassist Oscar Pettiford, sang the 1926 Ray Henderson-Mort Dixon standard “Bye, Bye Blackbird” which she originally recorded over a half century ago on her classic 1958 album The Nearness of You. The 87-year-old Hyman, who has made over 100 albums but is probably best known for his role as music director for 11 of Woody Allen’s films, performed a solo piano rendition of his 1969 composition “The Minotaur.” It was particularly fascinating to hear it this way since his original recording of it was the first ever top-40 hit performed on a Moog synthesizer.
Beverly Clarke, the granddaughter of blues icon Bessie Smith (1894-1937) accepted a plaque on her behalf, and Latin percussionist/composer Bobby Sanabria accepted on behalf of Puerto Rico-born trombonist/composer Juan Tizol (1900-1984), who is perhaps most remembered today for
“Caravan” and “Perdido” as well as his many years as a sideman in the Duke Ellington Orchestra. During his spirited acceptance speech, Sanabria offered a list of many important Puerto Ricans who contributed to the history of jazz. To additionally honor Smith and Tizol, Vaneese Thomas sang George Brooks’s “Send Me To The Electric Chair,” which was immortalized in Bessie Smith’s 1927 recording, and trombonist Steve Turre led a quintet in “Caravan.” Although guitarist Kenny Burrell (b. 1931) is still very much with us, he was not able to attend the event, but a recorded video message from him was screened for the audience, and his protégé Russell Malone gave a phenomenal performance of “Listen to the Dawn,” one of Burrell’s most famous compositions.
Before the five 2014 Wall of Fame inductees were honored in words and live music, Ken Hatfield and Sachal Vasandani announced the recipients of the 2014 Herb Alpert Young Jazz Composer Awards. The composers (who range in age from 11 to 29) and their award-winning compositions are listed below.
Nii Akwei Adoteye: “The Oblivious Giants”
Michael Caudill: “Time to Go”
Esteban Castro: “I’m Dizzy!”
Michael Conrad: “West Point”
Rafael de Lima: “Fables of Mingus”
Addison Frei: “Delicate Fog”
Walter Gorra: “Jazongo”
Nicolas Hetko: “Lights Out”
Daniel Kaneyuki: “The Awakening”
Keith Karns: “The Square”
Martha Kato: “Frostwork”
John Kosch: “Only You”
Paul Krueger: “Phoenix Metamorphosis”
Sara McDonald: “Sandcastles”
Michael Orenstein: “There, Here”
Andrew Schiller: “Sirens”
Jeff Schneider: “When You Know She Loves You Back”
Erica Seguine: “Reel No. 1”
Josh Shpak: “Let Go”
Todd Simon: “Amalgam”
Martin Terens: “Lost”
Zan Tetickovic: “Ples”
Tissiana Vallecillo: “Dynamite Chihuahua”
Matt Wong: “Jerry y Andrea”
Zac Zinger: “Cerberus”
Christopher Zuar: “So Close, And Yet So Far Away”
Nicole Zuraitis: “To the Hive”
The following composers received honorable mention:
Juan Anderson: “Mala Suerte” / “La Alhambra De Noche”
Dominic Bierenga: “Don’t Wait for Tomorrow”
Jake Chapman: “Ecuador”
Jodie Landau: “Counting Sheep”
David Meder: “Elegy”
Caili O’Doherty: “The Promise of Old Panama City”
Jeremy Siskind: “Spin So Violent”
Benjamin Tiberio: “(e)motion”
Hatfield additionally presented the 2014 ASCAP Foundation Johnny Mandel Prize to Erica Seguine who, after receiving her award, performed her intriguing Celtic-infused award-winning composition “Reel No. 1,” whose main theme is punctuated by an insistent single note piano ostinato.
United States congressman John Conyers, Jr. of Michigan was scheduled to receive ASCAP’s first-ever Jazz Advocate Award, but he was unable to attend, so his award will be presented to him at a later date. The panelists for the 2014 ASCAP Jazz Wall of Fame were Alan Bergman, Jay Leonart, and Rufus Reid. The judges for the 2014 Alpert Awards were Ken Hatfield, Rufus Reid, and Sachal Vasandani.
All in all, it was an extraordinary celebration of the past, present, and future of jazz and the audience seemed extremely appreciative. Among the luminaries in attendance were the legendary jazz vocalist Sheila Jordan (who appears in the background of the Erica Seguine video above), pianist/arranger Roger Kellaway, jazz radio host Phil Schaap, and Mercedes Ellington, granddaughter of Duke Ellington and the president and founding artistic director of the Duke Ellington Center for the Arts.