Harold Layne Jazz Legend Award


After the Susan G. Park Scholarship was presented, NEJEF knew there was a need to acknowledge those who have inspired these students to continued pursuing their music. NEJEF created an award for citizens who have contributed to the Greater Boston/New England Jazz Community. These musicians have spent a large portion of their lives promoting and performing music, (specifically Jazz music) and continue to be an inspiration to our youth.


In 2015 NEJEF named and presented the first award to legendary Boston Jazz drummer, Harold Layne for his many years of promoting Jazz throughout the Greater Boston area… Layne has played with many of the Jazz greats as they toured through Boston, produced his own Jazz series in Cambridge, and has shared his experiences, stories, and sense of Swing and humor with countless Jazz musicians as they’ve made their way through the areas’ music scene.  


The award has been dedicated to Harold Layne, as he has set the standards for what this award represents.

Past Recipients

Harold Layne—Harold was born in Cambridge, MA on October 18th, 1926. He has lived most of his life there with the exception of a couple of years in the service from 1951 to 1953. At age 14, he began playing the drums without much instruction. This didn't seem to hold him back. His peers growing up were two of the most well renowned jazz drummers that Boston has produced, Roy Haynes and Alan Dawson. He was also influenced by many other drummers of the period such as Chick Web, Big Sid Catlett, Max Roach, Buddy Rich, Art Blakey, and Philly Joe Jones. After returning from the army, Harold attended the Schillinger School, which is now known as Berklee College of Music.


For nearly thirty years, Harold was a postal worker by day and a drummer by night. Throughout the 60's he performed with trumpeter Buck Clayton, saxophonists Zoot Sims, Ben Webster, Sonny Stitt, and Eddie "Lockjaw" Da- vis, organist Don Patterson, and countless other musicians as they came through Boston. He also had the opportunity to sit in with Roland Kirk, Wynton Kelly, Cecil McBee, Kenny Burrell, and Dexter Gordon. If you ever watched Ken Burn’s “Jazz”, then you know who we’re talking about!


In the more recent past Harold could be seen performing with Billy Pierce, John Lockwood, James Williams, Cyrus Chestnut, Ira Coleman, Bruce Barth, the Rusty Scott Quartet, The Flip Side and B3 Kings. Over the years Harold has not shied away from sharing his experience, his stories and his sense of swing with the young cats on the Jazz scene. Many young musicians working their way through Boston can credit a part of their performing education having known Harold. Even for the novice Jazz fan, if you’ve spent any time around Harold and didn’t know much about Jazz before you met him, that would quickly change. Call it the Harold Layne School of Jazz.


The New England Jazz Enrichment Foundation is proud to institute the Harold Layne Jazz Legend Award presented to a musician, presenter or fan in recognition of a lifetime of contributions to the New England Jazz scene.


The 2015 and inaugural award is presented to “the Swingin’est Drummer in Boston” Mr. Harold Layne.