The Troy Street Observer

The Jaki Byard Quartet Plays a Medley at Lennie’s

I wrote about the recordings made by the Jaki Byard Quartet at Lennie’s-on-the-Turnpike in an earlier post, and I’ve finally added an extended track from Volume 2 of Live! to my YouTube channel. I chose “Jaki’s Ballad Medley,” but as you’ll hear, Jaki was joking when he mentioned ballads. For some reason, though, the people at Prestige Records kept “Ballad” in the title.

Byard starts with a bit of his “European Episode,” and then works through “Tea for Two,” “Lover,” his own composition “Strolling Along,” “Cherokee,” and finally Frank Foster’s “Shiny Stockings.” Drummer Alan Dawson and bassist George Tucker acquit themselves admirably throughout, but the star is Joe Farrell on tenor, with two fine solos.

The recording was made on the night of April 15, 1965—which, as Lennie reminded me, was the night Havlicek stole the ball. You non-Bostonians will just have to follow the link to look that up.

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May 30, 1971: Fire Closes Lennie’s-on-the-Turnpike

lennie'sLogoFirefighters broke through the roof to fight the blaze, which was confined mainly to the bar and dressing rooms, but the entire building suffered extensive smoke and water damage.

Just about all of the great jazz clubs described in The Boston Jazz Chronicles or in posts on this blog were inside the Boston city limits—the Savoy, the Stable, Storyville, the Jazz Workshop. But one, a favorite of both performers and listeners, was way up in the suburbs. That was Lennie’s-on-the-Turnpike, on the northbound side of Route 1 in West Peabody. On the morning of May 30, 1971, fire struck the club.

“You could say I am down, but not out,” proprietor Lennie Sogoloff told the Globe’s Bill Buchanan later that day. “This club has been my life since the early 50s and to see all the damage was a great shock to me. I just don’t know what direction we’ll take now. It’s something I’ll have to think about.”

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May 13, 1963: Joe Bucci Is Wild About Basie

Joe Bucci’s Capitol LP, Wild About Basie!, garnered a 3-star review in Down Beat. Organist Bucci (1927-2008), from Malden, worked in a duo with drummer Joe Riddick in the early 1960s. His work was marked by its relentless bass lines, which he played on the foot pedals exclusively.

Cover of Wild About Basie!
Joe Bucci’s Wild About Basie!, Capitol ST-1840

Organist (and accordionist) Joe Bucci wasn’t the only guy playing the Hammond B-3 in Boston in the 1960s. Hillary Rose, Fingers Pearson, Hopeton Johnson, Walter Radcliffe, and others were playing it in the South End clubs from the late fifties on.

Bucci’s big break came at the Agganis Arena in Lynn, on Aug 21, 1961, Count Basie’s 57th birthday—and Bucci and Riddick opened the show for Basie Band. The Count was impressed, and he booked Bucci for a month in his New York club. He also put in some good words in the right places, and Bucci was on the program at Newport in 1962, and recording for Capitol. The result was Wild About Basie!, an all-Basie program of favorites old and new, including “Splanky,” “Shiny Stockings,” and “Woodside.”

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April 1965: Jaki Byard, Live at Lennie’s

Jaki Byard Live LP
Jaki Byard Quartet Live Vol. 1

On the night of April 15-16, 1965, Jaki Byard, Joe Farrell, George Tucker, and Alan Dawson were recorded Live at Lennie’s.

Jaki Byard was on a roll in the spring of 1965, when he opened on April 12 for a week at Lennie’s-on-the-Turnpike in West Peabody. His early sixties work with Eric Dolphy and Charles Mingus made him one to watch, and his own trio and quartet recordings on Prestige showed him at his inventive and eclectic best. He was at Lennie’s to record a live set for Prestige with a formidable quartet.

On drums and vibes was Alan Dawson, who had a history with Byard going back to the late 1940s in Boston. But there was recent history, too. In 1963-64, Dawson and Byard had recorded a series of quartet recordings with Booker Ervin and Richard Davis, also for Prestige. Jaki and Alan knew each other well. When Dawson was in Boston, he was the house drummer at Lennie’s.

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April 8, 1968: Gretsch Drum Night at Lennie’s

Image of Gretsch Drum Badge
Gretsch Drum Badge

April 8, 1968, witnessed the second Gretsch Drum Night at Lennie’s-on-the-Turnpike on Route 1 in West Peabody.

The people at Gretsch Drums came up with an interesting promotion in the late 1950s, called Gretsch Drum Night. The idea was simple enough: round up a trio of drummers who are endorsing the company’s wares, put them on a nightclub stage with a newest set of drums and accessories, and have them each play singly with the house band, and together in thundering drum battles. What you got, remembered Lennie Sogoloff, was “a lot of noise…but they were all fruitful nights. All the drummers in town would show up.”

Gretsch was the big name in jazz drumming then, with their Progressive Jazz kits and long list of endorsing drummers: Art Blakey, Kenny Clarke, Max Roach, Shelly Manne, Mel Lewis, Tony Williams, and on and on. To promote their catalog and their drummers, the company sponsored Drum Nights as early as 1960. In April of that year, Roulette recorded a Gretsch Drum Night session at Birdland in New York. The drummers played with piano, bass, and a couple horns.

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