The Troy Street Observer

Mar 17, 1972: At the Black Avant Garde Coffeehouse

Photo of All Saints Lutheran Church
All Saints Church, home of the Black Avant Garde Coffeehouse

The sextet Jazztet played at the Black Avant Garde Coffeehouse. From its very beginnings in mid-1971, the Jazz Coalition helped publicize events involving jazz and culture wherever it could find them. One of the places they publicized during its short lifetime was the Black Avant Garde Coffeehouse, in the All Saints Lutheran Church, at 85 West Newton Street in the South End. It was an unpretentious place, with a door around the back of the church, no alcohol, no junk food, and some edgy music. There was David S. Ware’s group Apogee, the Jazz Missionary Group, Phil Musra’s group, and the one playing on St. Patrick’s Day in 1972, Jazztet.

The six members of Jazztet went on to long careers in jazz. Trumpeter Sinclair Acey left Boston later in 1972 and played with Thad and Mel and Frank Foster. He’s still active in New York. Tenor saxophonist  Justo Almario worked with everybody from Mongo Santamaria to Placido Domingo, and is now a top West Coast session man. Alto saxophonist Bill Thompson is on the woodwinds faculty at Berklee and frequently playing around this area. Another Californian is guitarist Aurell Ray, who toured with Sonny Rollins for four years. Drummer Ralph Penland has extensive studio and touring credits and teaches at Pasadena City College. I could not find the whereabouts of bassist Tom Holland.

The musicians moved on, and so did All Saints Lutheran Church. In 1986, it was renovated and became the Jorge Hernandez Cultural Center, part of the Villa Victoria Center for the Arts.

Jazztet left behind no recordings as far as I know, but shortly after Sinclair Acey arrived in New York, he worked with Milton Marsh, and they recorded Monism in 1974. Composer Marsh calls “Ode to Nzinga” “afro/jazz/rock.” I’m not sure what that is exactly, but I like the energy and it is music in the spirit of those times.


The second tune is in honor of St. Patrick’s Day. Aurell Ray doesn’t get a solo here, but he’s keeping rhythm while Sonny plays “Don’t Stop the Carnival.” There’s party music and there’s Party Music, and whatever they’re doing in South Boston today can’t keep up with Rollins.



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