The Troy Street Observer

Tak Takvorian Part 1: Navy Trombonist

Vahey “Tak” Takvorian was a trombonist by trade, a big-band trombonist by preference, and a member of some of the very best bands during their mid-century heyday. Takvorian toured the South Pacific with Artie Shaw’s navy band, played the glorious Gil Evans charts with Claude Thornhill, and played lead for Tommy Dorsey for five years. In the late 1970s, he had another go in Boston with the Herb Pomeroy Orchestra. He was a first-class sideman who made the most of his opportunities.

Photo of Tak Takvorian in navy uniform
Navy Musician First Class Tak Takvorian. Photo courtesy Denise Takvorian.

Tak Takvorian (1922-2009 ) was the first name-band musician I spoke with when I started researching The Boston Jazz Chronicles, in 2004. I wrote an article about him for the newsletter of the defunct New England Jazz Alliance. This updated article, with Tak’s own words from our 2004 interview and photos supplied by his daughter Denise, does a better job of giving this fine player his due.

Twin brothers Vasken and Vahey Takvorian were born in Somerville, Massachusetts in 1922. Their family moved to nearby Watertown a few years later. Both played music from an early age. Tak started on cello and switched to trombone at age 12. Vasken played bass. “Before I graduated from high school in 1940, I was already playing four nights a week with Larry Cooper’s band at the Mansion Inn in Cochituate (Massachusetts). Cooper played clarinet, and modeled his band after Artie Shaw’s. Being in school and playing nights…I didn’t have much time to do homework.” Tak also worked in violinist Lew Bonick’s dance band.

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Mar 16, 1984: The New Artie Shaw Orchestra

Photo of Dick Johnson and Artie Shaw
Dick Johnson and Artie Shaw, 1984. Photo Donna Paul.

Opening night of the 13th Boston Globe Jazz Festival featured the return of one of the most newsworthy figures in the music’s history. The new Artie Shaw Orchestra, under the direction of Dick Johnson, made its Boston debut at the Imperial Ballroom of the Park Plaza Hotel. About 1,500 dancers, nostalgists, and the just plain curious turned out for it.

Shaw himself was on a Boston bandstand for the first time since 1953 to emcee and conduct while Johnson played his parts on “’S Wonderful,” “Back Bay Shuffle,” “Stardust,” and more. “We recorded “Stardust” in one take,” said Shaw. “I’d like to see Fleetwood Mac match that.” The crowd loved it.

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August 19, 1939: Artie Shaw on the Ritz Roof

Photo of Artie Shaw
The casual Artie Shaw

The Ritz-Carlton, at Arlington and Newbury Streets, was always the hotel of the Proper Bostonians, with their afternoon teas and debutante balls. They just let the rest of us use the roof for dancing during the summer months back when FDR was President.

The Ritz wasn’t the first hotel roof to offer dancing under the stars during the summer—that was the Westminster, which stood where the John Hancock Tower now stands—but it was the best-known.

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Mar 14, 1938: Holiday Joins Shaw in Boston

Billie Holiday made history by joining the Art Shaw Orchestra at Boston’s Roseland-State Ballroom.

Art Shaw at Roseland-State advertisement
Billie Holliday (sic) joins the Shaw band, March 1938

An unhappy Billie Holiday left the Basie band in mid-February 1938, and here she was, four weeks later, in Boston and joining the Art (not yet Artie) Shaw Orchestra. That band was working out of Charlie Shribman’s Roseland-State Ballroom, on Mass Ave at Burbank. The brothers Charlie and Sy Shribman, in return for a percentage of the band’s future earnings, were backing Shaw financially and providing rehearsal space for the band during its incubation period.

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