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ASCAP adds historic names to Jazz Wall of Fame

"Is there anything more American than jazz?” asked legendary songwriter and ASCAP (American Society of Composers, Authors and Publishers) president/chairman Paul Williams at last night’s ASCAP Jazz Wall of Fame Induction Ceremony 2014, held at the NYIT Auditorium across the street from ASCAP’s headquarters on Broadway.

Dick Hyman and Helen Merrill at last night's ASCAP Jazz Wall of Fame Induction
Scott Wintrow

It was a rhetorical question, of course, but it was answered in the affirmative, both by the evening’s inductees and the performances that honored them.

Williams himself inducted “Empress of the Blues” Bessie Smith, with Rufus Thomas’s daughter Vaneese Thomas an excellent performer choice. Late composer/trombonist Juan Tizol was inducted by The Simpsons’ composer and ASCAP board member Alf Clausen, and honored musically by Saturday Night Live band trombonist Steve Turre.

Guitarist Kenny Burrell couldn’t make it, but disciple Russell Malone was an outstanding musical stand-in following bassist Jay Leonhart’s induction of Burrell.

Williams again took over the presenter role for Helen Merrill,who sang fine after revealing that she had just required vocal chord treatments. And Dick Hyman conceded nothing in his piano performance after his induction from Alan Bergman.

In other presentations, singer-songwriter Gregory Porter received the ASCAP Foundation Vanguard Award, and performed following his presentation from poet Quincy Troupe. The ASCAP Foundation Johnny Mandel Prize was presented by guitarist Ken Hatfield to the young jazz composer Erica Seguine, and Hatfield and jazz singer Sachal Vasandani, who are members of the Herb Albert Young Jazz Composer Awards panel, presented the awards to 27 young composers.

Congressman John Conyers, Jr. was scheduled to receive the Jazz Advocate Award, but couldn’t get away from his responsibilities in Washington, D.C. in order to accept his award at the event.

The ASCAP Jazz Wall of Fame was established in 1997 and stands at the performing rights organization’s headquarters. It now features the names of 99 historic inductees.

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