The Troy Street Observer

The Second Boston Globe Jazz Festival

In the mid-1950s, the Boston Globe disdained jazz, and in 1955 even openly mocked George Wein’s efforts at Jazz Night at the Boston Arts Festival. Times change, and in 1966 the Globe hired Wein to produce the first Boston Globe Jazz Festival, at the Boston War Memorial Auditorium (later renamed the Hynes Convention Center).

1967 Boston Globe Jazz Fest program cover
1967 Boston Globe Jazz Festival program cover

It was a success, and Wein was back at it on Jan 20–21, 1967. He brought that old Boston hand, Father Norman O’Connor, along to emcee. Down Beat’s Alan Heineman was there, and though there were high points, his overall reaction was: “lackluster.”

That mood started on Friday night. The Modern Jazz Quartet was “disappointing” and the Dave Brubeck Quartet was “dull.” Even Monk’s Quartet was “pleasant and predictable—to the extent that Monk can ever be called predictable.” By then it was 11:30, and much of the audience departed before the Thad Jones – Mel Lewis Jazz Orchestra played a single note. But their set was sizzling, with superior ensemble blowing and exceptional soloing: “Highlights? Hell, the entire set was a highlight.” But less than half of the capacity crowd remained to hear them.

The theme for Saturday afternoon was “Jazz for Youth,” and it featured Boots Mussulli’s Milford Area Youth Orchestra. Heineman was pleasantly surprised (as was everyone else), praising the work of trombonist Tony Lada, trumpeter Johnny Dearth, flautist Ronnie Julian, and the “near-professional drumming by Bob Tamagni, 16, who drove the unwieldy unit without letup. The Milford band provided the most interesting moments of the afternoon.” The Continentals, a second “youth” big band from the Arlington Academy of Music, inexplicably opened the evening session and wasn’t part of the Jazz for Youth program.

The Newport All-Stars provided a strong Boston connection, as pianist Wein, cornetist Ruby Braff, and bassist Jack Lesberg were all natives, and clarinetist Edmond Hall was residing in Cambridge. (Three weeks later, on February 11, Hall died of a heart attack, suffered while shoveling snow at his home.) But their set never got on track.

Erroll Garner followed with a “typical but enjoyable” trio set, and Sarah Vaughan “seldom challenged herself, doing mostly shallow pop and show tunes.” But her encore, a “spellbinding, heartbreaking “Motherless Child” almost made it possible to forget what an eminently ordinary evening it had been theretofore.”

George Wein in 1967 relied on a stable of established artists to attract the biggest possible audience. That meant Sarah Vaughan, Erroll Garner, and Dave Brubeck, and I wonder why the Ellington Orchestra missed it (they didn’t miss it in 1968). And here, as at more than one Newport and Newport/New York festival, “The result was generally entertaining but rarely exciting.” Wein would shake things up in 1969, adding Sun Ra and Roland Kirk to the Globe festival program.

Heineman praised Roland Hanna’s work on Thad & Mel’s “Quietude,” a tune the orchestra recorded at the Village Vanguard in April 1967, heard here. There was almost no difference in personnel from Boston in January to the Vanguard in April.

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