The Boston Jazz Chronicles

Part 1: Published and in print

Troy Street’s first book, The Boston Jazz Chronicles: Faces, Places, and Nightlife 1937–1962, recounts the story of Boston and its music at mid-century. It is the definitive source of information for jazz fans and students, researchers and librarians, and any reader interested in Boston’s cultural history. The cast of characters includes Sabby Lewis, Lawrence Berk, Jaki Byard, Nat Pierce, Charlie Mariano, Joe Gordon, George Wein, Herb Pomeroy, Sam Rivers, George Frazier, Symphony Sid Torin, Nat Hentoff, Frankie Newton, Father Norman O’Connor, and others.

Check out the reviews and testimonials from Arts FuseLibrary Journal, Nat Hentoff, Carol Sloane, George Wein, Eric Jackson, Bob Porter, Michael Steinman and others.

I researched and wrote The Boston Jazz Chronicles, but as publisher I also had other tasks to perform. I designed the book’s interior and worked out every aspect of page design in the publishing software. I selected and edited the images and obtained necessary clearances and permissions. I compiled the index. Finally, I worked with the printer over several iterations to produce the final book. With that done, I went to work writing the marketing copy. So even though researching and writing is what I enjoy most, there is much more that I do in the process of completing a project.

Find a description of the book, links to reviews, an author Q&A, and more.

Part 2: In process

The Boston Jazz Chronicles covered the years 1937–1962, but of course the music did not stop then, and the second volume of the Chronicles will cover the period from the early 1960s to 1989. I have been thinking about this project since 2010, not quite willing to commit to it wholeheartedly. I ask myself if enough time has passed—is it history yet, or are we still assessing? I ask myself if there is an audience for this story, and if there is, would they rather read a print book or an e-book. Even though I’m not fully convinced this project merits the level of work needed to create a book, I’m hedging my bets by interviewing as many people as I can.1968 Boston Globe Jazz Festival poster

Part 2 will include stories about people and places, but there are also broader themes, like how changes in personal taste affected the jazz audience, especially younger listeners, and what the changes in the economics of the music industry meant locally. There was the rise of a do-it-yourself jazz movement, creating new opportunities to hear the music, often in alternative venues, away from the name-band clubs. And in the 1960s and beyond, it was no longer a strictly Boston story, as the suburbs played a bigger role.

This is a rough guide to topics, in no particular order.

  • Berklee, Inc. Building the Berklee brand: How Larry Berk and a stellar faculty institutionalized jazz education at Berklee and solidified Berklee’s place in the field of jazz education.
  • The New England Conservatory and the Third Stream. Gunther Schuller, Carl Atkins and the rebirth of popular music at the NEC.
  • “Brought to you by…” Government, foundation and corporate support in the world of jazz. The role of sponsorship in producing programs like Summerthing and the Elma Lewis Playhouse in the Park.
  • Old time modern. The generation of musicians who were the stars of The Boston Jazz Chronicles, didn’t just disappear. Herb Pomeroy, Ray Santisi, Phil Wilson, Dave McKenna and the rest kept swingin’ and some made a major impact in education.
  • Black shadows. The decline of the Jazz Corner at Mass Ave and Columbus and the surrounding neighborhood, and the end of Local 535 of the AFM.
  • Back Bay Re-Shuffle. Not much was happening musically on Boylston Street west of Copley Square until construction started on the Prudential Center, and that changed the whole character of the Back Bay. The Jazz Workshop, Paul’s Mall and Berklee and the Berklee Performance Center capitalized on that change.
  • North Shore: Lennie Sogoloff’s Lennie’s-on-the-Turnpike, Sandy Berman’s Jazz Revival.
  • Jazz Active: The Jazz Coalition, the Boston Jazz Society, Highland Jazz, Studio Red Top and other volunteer-driven organizations committed to the music. This grass roots jazz relied heavily on venues other than nightclubs and concert halls for presentation space, so jazz found its way into churches, parks and art galleries.
  • Funk, fusion and jazz-rock: closing the gap with other popular genres.
  • Destination out. The new thing in Boston. Was it black anger? Was it spiritualism? Was it welcomed because it wasn’t the music of a past generation?
  • Messengers and Adventurers. A chapter akin to “The Melody Lounge Gang” in The Boston Jazz Chronicles, profiling major contributors like Hal Galper, Sam Rivers, John Abercrombie, Al Francis, Bill Pierce, James Williams and others.
  • Festivals and Other Big Deals. The Boston Globe Jazz Festival, Jazz All Night, Boston Sackbut Week, Jazz Week and other multi-day/multi-location celebrations of the music.
  • Radio. Jazz in the 1950s was mainly on commercial AM stations. Later, like so much music, it was increasingly on the FM band. And it was moving to public radio stations, often those with a collegiate affiliation. On the whole, these decades were good years for jazz on Boston radio.
  • Recording. Although major labels like Concord and Capitol signed their share of Boston talent, there were still small indie labels like Shiah, GM Recordings and Outrageous Records producing what the corporate labels overlooked. There were many more private recordings available on LP and the ubiquitous cassette tape. And the mid-1980s brought the compact disc and a whole new way of consuming music.
  • Cambridge in the 1980s. It seemed like all the new jazz places in the 1980s were in Inman Square and Harvard Square: the fabled 1369, Ryles, the Turtle Cafe, Jonathan Swift’s, the Regattabar… and the Willow in nearby Ball Square in Somerville. Cambridge seemed to be where it was happening in the 1980s.

As in The Boston Jazz Chronicles, there will be a bibliography, discography and index, with numerous photos and other images.