About the Des Moines Community Jazz Center Hall of Fame

Des Moines may not be the JAZZ "capital of the world", but that hasn't stopped the Greater Des Moines Community Jazz Center (CJC) from recognizing the musical contribuitions of the city's finest and most influential musicians.

Started in 2001, the Des Moines Jazz Hall of Fame was established to hoor those musicians who have been proud to call Des Moines (or Central Iowa) home. Musicians selected for the Des moines Jazz Hall of Fame have not only influenced future generations of musicians, but have provided the city's jazz fans with years of musical adventure and enjoyment.

Each October since 2001, Des Moines' jazz fans have gathered at Adventureland Inn in Altoona (just east of Des Moines) to celebrate the contributions of many talented and dedicated individuals.  In addition, the CJC presents Special Recognition awards to musicians, jazz educators, promoters or others that have contributed to the JAZZ tradition in Central Iowa.   Another Award known as "The Bobby Dawson Award" is also presented to a student musician involved in CJC jam sessions and activities.  For information on upcoming Hall of Fame events, contact Phyllis Leaverton at 515 / 276-0777.

Hall of Fame

Howard and Seymour Gray -2007 Inductee

If you wanted to hear jazz in Des Moines in the 1940s, you would head to a club owned by brothers Howard and Seymour Gray — the Sepia Club on Center Street. The club boasted not only some of the hottest music in town, but delicious home cooking from the brothers’ sister Gladys Bates.

Although nationally known musicians played regularly at the club, including Thad Jones who made his home in Des Moines for a short time, the local house band developed a strong following. Led by Howard Gray on tenor and Seymour on bass, the band featured the top players in the area. Many CJC Hall of Fame winners graced the bandstand at The Sepia including Speck Redd, Frances Bates, Bobby Parker, Bobby Dawson and others.

Although The Sepia Club closed in 1965, it provided a launching pad for many local musicians and introduced many fans to the joys of jazz ... and fried chicken!  Seymour (bass) and Howard (tenor) continued playing music in Des Moines after the Sepia was closed.