And the Inductees Are… Your 2018 Choices for the Ertegun Jazz Hall of Fame


Nina and Nat

News | Apr, 27th 2018

Each of the following artists were chosen by those of you who voted for our 2018 Ertegun Jazz Hall of Fame induction! Each of them also made an indelible impact on America's music and influenced millions in the process. Find out more about each artist and also find a playlist of some of their best work, as selected by Jazz at Lincoln Center, at the bottom...

Learn more about the Ertegun Jazz Hall of Fame.

James "Jimmie" Blanton

Entering the Hall of Fame in his centennial year, bassist James “Jimmie” Blanton proved one of the most groundbreaking voices on the string bass in Jazz’s history. In his all-too-short 23 years, Blanton sparked a bass revolution, applying formidable pizzicato and arco technique to the instrument to draw the bass from its role as timekeeper, and brought it to the forefront as a solo voice. His astonishing harmonic ear and unerring sense of swing enabled him to create deft and complex contrapuntal lines in the music, while his innovative mind inspired him to take some of Jazz’s first bass solos, notably during his time with the Duke Ellington Orchestra from 1939-1941. On group pieces like Jack the Bear or Sepia Panorama, or on duets with Ellington like Plucked Again or Body and Soul, Blanton redefined the possibilities of the bass’ role, and set a template that would be copied for decades to come. Indeed, his contribution to the Ellington Orchestra is so vast and so transformative that this era of the band is often dubbed “The Blanton-Webster Band.” His all-too-short life cut short in 1942 by tuberculosis, Blanton reshaped Jazz’s history during his limited years of playing, and his visionary conception of the bass’ role remains felt to this very day.

Nina Simone

A child prodigy who mastered the piano as a child, Eunice Waymon would ultimately re-shape the boundaries of jazz and popular song, as well as help to define its role in reflecting and driving the Civil Rights struggle, as she transformed herself into the legendary vocalist, pianist, composer, bandleader, and icon Nina Simone. Absorbing the sounds of the Church, of Classical Music, and of popular song at an early age, Simone initially aimed at pursuing a career as a classical pianist, ultimately changing her course following a rejection from the Curtis Institute of Music, a rejection many have argued was racially motivated. Adopting the stage name Nina Simone and playing nightclubs, Simone gained renown quickly as a pianist and a vocalist capable of astonishingly unique and nuanced interpretations of songs. Quickly developing her career, Simone also began to push at the boundaries of Jazz performance, bringing in older repertoire, drawing on Spirituals and Gospel traditions, while also embracing newer pop repertoire. A supremely gifted composer, Simone also took deep professional risks, using her musical voice to speak out in support of the Civil Rights efforts, and calling attention to iniquity and violence, most famously on Mississippi Goddam. Steadfastly refusing to be tied to any specific style, Simone continued to experiment with new sounds, continued to compose new music, and continued to use her voice and art to address social inequality, even at the expense of her career. As a pianist, Nina Simone offered formidable technique and a mastery of the lyrical possibilities of the piano; as a vocalist, her dark-hued voice could wring every drop of emotion from the quietest ballad while also shining in full-throttle ecstatic works; and just like her music, Nina Simone’s impact is wide and diverse, having inspired generations of artists, no matter the genre.

Nat "King" Cole

Even from his earliest years, Nat Cole was unstoppable: a piano player, vocalist, actor, and entertainer, Cole would become of the most beloved figures in entertainment that the United States ever saw. As a pianist, Cole offered a melodic, swinging sound that shone in his highly influential trio model (one that would be copied by generations of artists to come), while also anchoring now-legendary endeavors like the Jazz at the Philharmonic tours. And when Cole paired his piano playing with his vocal work, he ascended to legendary status. Sporting a honeyed tone and an effortless, unrushed phrasing, Cole quickly became almost a hit-making machine, delivering classic rendition of song after classic rendition of song, to the delight of millions. For a veritable cavalcade of popular music, Nat Cole’s version was and remains definitive. Whether in small ensemble, where he continued to shine his Jazz chops, or in lush larger orchestrations, Cole brought a warmth and clarity to his interpretations that have endured every test of time. Through his string of successful radio and television appearances, Cole also maintained an outpost of mainstream, even crossover, popularity for Jazz into the 1960s, all while maintaining his artistry at peak levels. His chameleonic mastery of styles have ensured that his legacy is felt across many genres, even five decades after his passing, as generations of singers continue to mimic his phrasing, while countless vocalists and instrumentalists attempt to capture his innovative sound and spirit.

(Photos courtesy Wikimedia)


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