The Troy Street Observer

Dec 17, 1962: World, Meet Tony Williams

Alto saxophonist Jackie McLean opened at Connolly’s on December 17 for a week-long engagement. As was the custom at Connolly’s then, McLean worked as featured soloist with a local rhythm section. Jim Connolly hired a good one: pianist Ray Santisi, bassist John Neves, and drummer Tony Williams.

Photo of Tony WilliamsSantisi and Neves were obvious choices. They’d already been playing together for nine years, starting as the Jazz Workshop Quartet at the Stable and then with all subsequent bands that called that venue home. With Jimmy Zitano, they formed the rhythm section that drove the Herb Pomeroy Orchestra.

Both had been branching out as well. Santisi toured earlier in 1962 with Buddy DeFranco. Neves spent time in 1961 with Maynard Ferguson, and later worked with the small groups of Stan Getz and Gary Burton. Santisi was in his fifth year teaching at Berklee.

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February 17, 1913: Organist Hillary Rose Born

Pianist, organist, and bandleader Hillary Rose born in Saint Michael Parish, Barbados. Rose’s family emigrated when he was a child, settling in Cambridge, where he studied piano. He later studied at the Boston Conservatory, and privately with Sandy Sandiford, and eventually graduated from Berklee in 1955.

He organized his first band, Hillary Rose and His Rhythm Boys, in 1935. He worked with saxophonist Pete Brown in 1945, and his 1946-51 quartet with saxophonist Tom Kennedy, bassist Lee Farrell, and drummer George “Peanuts” Seaforth was a regular feature at the Savoy, the Hi-Hat, and many Merrimac Valley clubs.

Rose led a short-lived band with trumpeter Joe Gordon in 1952 (“This cat is soulful though he can’t read a note!” Gordon told Jazz Journal), then was on the road through much of the 1950s. When he returned to Boston in 1958, he was playing the organ exclusively. He led trios all over the South End, at the Trinidad Lounge, the Big M, and the Hi-Hat (he led the last house trio at the Hi-Hat, which burned in March 1959). Rose, with drummer Bill “Baggy” Grant, had the house trio at Connolly’s first with tenor saxophonist Dan Turner, then with Jimmy Tyler, from fall 1959 to spring 1962.

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