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UW-Madison professor nets highest jazz honor

MADISON, Wis. (AP) - An 83-year-old music professor at the University of Wisconsin-Madison who has played bass with Bruce Springsteen and classical conductor Igor Stravinsky has been awarded the nation's highest honor in jazz.

The Wisconsin State Journal reported Friday that Richard Davis won a 2014 Jazz Masters Fellowship from the National Endowment for the Arts.

"It feels good to be honored amongst your peers," Davis told the newspaper. "I've known about these awards for years because I know most of the people who received them. It's almost like a club."

Davis is a Chicago native who has been a professor in Madison since 1977. He arrived after spending 23 years in New York City establishing himself as one of the world's premier bass players. Down Beat International Critics Poll named him best bassist from 1967 to 1974.

Other honorees this year were Keith Jarrett, Anthony Braxton and Jamey Aebersold.

The NEA said in a statement that Davis and the other award recipients were chosen for their "lifetime achievements and exceptional contributions to the advancement of jazz."

Davis credited his teacher, Walter Dyett at DuSable High School in Chicago, for infecting him with a lifelong passion for jazz and performance.

Davis's career as a studio and performing musician spans six decades. He's released a dozen albums of his own, earned recognition as a top jazz bassist worldwide and performed all over the world.

The award comes with a $25,000 prize.

Davis continues to teach and has no plans to stop.

"It's difficult to think of not teaching," he said. "I teach with the attitude of a family and that works very well."

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