August 15, 1988: The 1369 Jazz Club Closes
“The sight lines are not very good. As you walk in, the long bar is to the right. To the left of the aisle there is a cluster of red-draped tables and a wooden bench running almost the length of the club…If you have any traces of claustrophobia, the seats against the wall are not for you…To get to the restrooms one has to walk past the stage. If there is a medium-sized band working you have to walk through them.”
So wrote the Globe’s Fernando Gonzalez in his Jazz Notes column on August 12, 1988, marking the last weekend of the 1369 Jazz Club, at 1369 Cambridge Street, Inman Square. Yes, the club was awkward and smoky and it could get crowded, but we liked it anyway. Every jazz fan in town had the blues that weekend. I have such vivid memories of some of the nights there—George Adams, Don Pullen, Dannie Richmond, and Cameron Brown, anyone?—that it’s hard to believe it was 25 years ago.
The club wasn’t closing, Gonzalez noted, because it was an economic or artistic failure. It was the result of a landlord/tenant dispute. The club lost in court and was evicted after a three-year running battle with the building owner, who, after dispensing with the scruffy jazz types, installed a realtor’s office.
The 1369 featured Rebecca Parris and her quartet on that last weekend (RPQ at that time included Mike Monaghan on reeds, John Harrison on piano, Ron Murray on bass, and Grover Mooney on drums). On Sunday afternoon, there was one last blues jam with Silas Hubbard Jr., and the Sunday night house band led by drummer Bunny Smith with vocalist Arlene Bennett closed it out. The eviction notice took effect the next day, August 15.
Dennis Steiner, Jay Hoffman, and Bob Pollack bought the bar in 1983. They had no previous experience running a club, but they built a fine one with a loyal following. They did well by the local musicians, the backbone of any club. I remember Jerry Bergonzi, Katy Roberts, Jay Branford, Laszlo Gardony, and many others. During Alan Dawson Month, the drummer played with a different band—different personnel, different concept—every Wednesday. And there were the Sunday blues jams and Monday jazz jams.
Then there were the not-so-local musicians, like Lee Konitz, Joanne Brackeen, Sheila Jordan, Hal Galper, Henry Threadgill, and the Hammond Organ festival. The 1369 wasn’t bringing in any lounge music, Dixieland, or mainstream swingers. There was a lot of post-bop, fresh-sounding music with an air of unpredictability about it. If you wanted safe, you were better off at the Regattabar.
Anyway, it’s gone now for these 25 years, but maybe, just maybe, it will live on through a documentary film. Here is a short clip from a film called A Place for Jazz, never released. There is a Facebook page that provides some background. Best of luck to the filmmaker!