Library: Yet More Jazz Chronicles

Not all book research ends up in a book. What to do with that research? Write it up and give it away in the Troy Street Library! Here you’ll find a collection of stories on some of my favorite Boston people and places. There are also links to other writing and media that I’ve produced along the way. This material is free to view or download.

If you have comments or questions,  send me email and I’ll respond as soon as I can.

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Charlie Mariano and the Birth of Boston Bop

Charlie Mariano Boston All-Stars PRLP 153In my opinion, Charlie Mariano (1923-2009) and Jaki Byard were the most important musicians to emerge from Boston in the 25-year period documented in The Boston Jazz Chronicles. This article outlines why I hold that lofty assessment of Mariano: “He helped build the foundation of modern jazz in Boston on three fronts: as soloist in the Nat Pierce Orchestra of the late 1940s; as a bandleader cutting the records (including the Prestige 10-inch LP shown here) that introduced Boston’s modern jazz talent to a wider world in the early 1950s; and as the founder of the original Jazz Workshop in 1953.” Here is a look at those formative years in Charlie Mariano’s career, before his travels took him to every corner of the jazz world.

View or download Charlie Mariano and the Birth of Boston Bop

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Dick Johnson: Never on the Ragged Edge

Cover of Dick Johnson LP, Most LikelyIn 1957, Dick Johnson (1925-2010), known primarily an alto saxophonist in Buddy Morrow’s “Night Train” orchestra, recorded the album Most Likely for Riverside Records. Its title was a shortened form of the phrase that summarized Riverside’s expectations for their rising star: “most likely to succeed.” That success was decades in coming, however, and it was his first love, the clarinet, that brought Johnson his eventual recognition. The clarinet work on his early-1980s Concord Jazz recordings caught the ear of Artie Shaw. When Shaw reorganized his namesake orchestra in 1983, he named Johnson to lead it as well as play the original clarinet parts. That orchestra became the focus of Dick Johnson’s later career, but quite apart from it he was one of New England’s best-known—and busiest—jazz musicians. And he was very generous with his time when I was writing The Boston Jazz Chronicles, and we talked often. This article is a retrospective of Dick’s decades-long career.

View or download Dick Johnson: Never on the Ragged Edge

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The Teddi King Story

Teddi KingTeddi King (1929-1977) is one of the finest singers of any genre to come out of the Boston area, and she’s a favorite of mine. This article is based on a three-part series I wrote for the Troy Street blog in 2013, and traces King’s career from her early days singing in Boston with Ray Dorey and Nat Pierce, through her years recording jazz on Storyville Records and pop with RCA, and finally to her being recognized in the 1970s as a peerless interpreter of the Great American Songbook.

View or download The Teddi King Story

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Jimmy McHugh: A Hep Kid With a Beat

Jimmy McHughJimmy McHugh (1893-1969) was Boston’s man on Tin Pan Alley and the composer of some 500 songs between the mid-1920s and mid-1950s. I first wrote about him for the now defunct regional jazz magazine Quarternotes about ten years ago and I’ve been interested in him ever since. He was friends with Gershwin, Ellington, and Sinatra, and a hitmaker on Broadway and in Hollywood. But it’s the songs—“I Can’t Believe That You’re In Love With Me,” “On the Sunny Side of the Street,” “Exactly Like You,” “A Lovely Way to Spend an Evening,” “A Most Unusual Day”—that place McHugh in the top tier of American songwriters. This article looks at McHugh’s Boston and New York years, ending in 1926.

View or download Jimmy McHugh: A Hep Kid With a Beat

McHugh was born and raised in Jamaica Plain, and in 2013, I made a presentation on McHugh’s life and music to the Jamaica Plain Historical Society.

Hear the audio of that presentation.

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The Real Jazz Is on Transition

"REAL JAZZ IS TRANSITION"

I’m one of those people who thinks that the best music generally comes from the independent labels, and for 1950s and 1960s jazz, that meant for example Riverside, Solid State, Dawn, and from Boston, Transition. Tom Wilson was the man behind Transition, which operated for about two years in the mid-1950s before the money ran out. Nonetheless, he achieved a good measure of artistic success despite the financial constraints. He documented jazz in Boston and Detroit, produced the first recordings of Sun Ra and Cecil Taylor, and made Donald Byrd’s first recordings as a leader. All this was before he went to New York and made the records that earned him a reputation as a studio genius. Here, though, I stay with the Transition Records story, drawing material from five different blog entries and unpublished book research.

View or download The Real Jazz Is on Transition

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Chapter 10, “Paradise,” from The Boston Jazz Chronicles

sabbyAtWallys_rlJoseph “Wally” Walcott was the first African-American to own and operate a nightclub in New England. He opened Wally’s Paradise on January 1, 1947, and from that day forward it was a jazz club. It’s now called Wally’s Cafe, and it is located across the street from its original location, and Walcott’s grandsons run the place these days. And come January 1, 2017, Wally’s will celebrate its 70th birthday—70 years as a family-run small business that happens to be a jazz club. That in itself is amazing, and Chapter 10 of The Boston Jazz Chronicles, “Paradise,” recounts the whole remarkable story. And if you enjoy this chapter, remember, there are 19 more waiting for you between the covers of the book.

View or Download Chapter 10, “Paradise,” from The Boston Jazz Chronicles

 


LINKS TO FURTHER READING AND LISTENING


“Jazz From Storyville” Broadcast

Dnightlightsavid Brent Johnson, the creator and host of the syndicated radio program Night Lights, celebrated George Wein’s birthday with a show titled Jazz From Storyville, originally broadcast in November 2015. All the music played was recorded at the club, including selections by Billie, Bechet and Brubeck. I was David’s guest, and our conversation about Storyville weaves in and out of the music. Go to Jazz at Storyville to listen to the hour-long program, or to read a transcript of our conversation.

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