Tony Mauriello might not be known in the local jazz community today, but for 25 years, he was an influential player on the Boston entertainment scene. His most noteworthy gig? For twelve years he co-owned the fabled Back Bay nightclubs Paul’s Mall and the Jazz Workshop with Fred Taylor. Mauriello died a year ago, away from the public eye, on December 14, 2017. I missed it, and thus I’m a year late with this remembrance. As they say, better late than never.
Tony Mauriello’s early experience was in corporate accounting, but when he turned 30 he decided to chase a dream. He bought a struggling nightclub on Harvard Avenue in Allston called Luke & Rennie’s in 1960 (the Wonder Bar occupies the building in 2018). He renamed it the Starlight Lounge, and began offering live entertainment seven nights a week. The Starlight quickly moved into mainstream jazz (Sir Charles Thompson, Joe Bucci) and R&B/soul (Ben E. King, Bobby Hebb). That’s when Mauriello met Fred Taylor, who at that time was an artists’ manager and booking agent. The two became good friends.
Tony Mauriello also managed the Forum in Kenmore Square in the mid-sixties, which had the distinction of being Boston’s first discotheque.
There are comebacks, and then there are comebacks. Thirty-four years ago, in June 1981, Miles Davis staged a memorable comeback performance in Boston that ended five years of self-imposed silence. The four-night barrage stood the jazz world on its ear, and although the music was formidable, what made it all so head-turning was that it was such an event.
It’s been four months since I last posted on this blog, and sometimes I get email from readers wondering what’s going on. I didn’t intend to stop writing, but a new project came along and it is taking most of my time—I’m working with Fred Taylor of Scullers Jazz Club on his autobiography. It’s an “as told to” book, and I’m honored to be the one he’s telling it to.
It’s quite a story—the Jazz Workshop and Paul’s Mall, the Great Woods Jazz and Blues Festival, the Harvard Square Theater, the Tanglewood Jazz Festival, Scullers, and hundreds of concerts, benefits, and shows… And of course it’s a story of people, Bostonians as well as national figures in jazz, pop and comedy. There are stories, or parts of stories, in general circulation, for instance regarding Miles Davis and Dave Brubeck. But everybody’s in here. Take the name “George.” So far we’ve talked about Wein, Benson, Shearing, Carlin, Winston, Garzone, Coleman, Frazier, and Duke. I suspect we’ll be getting to Russell, Colligan, Schuller and Duvivier.
Running respected jazz clubs like the Jazz Workshop and Scullers might be Fred Taylor’s foremost claim to fame, but it isn’t his only contribution to jazz. He’s also been a recording engineer, and one of his efforts produced an album that played an important role in the early careers of Dave Brubeck and Paul Desmond.
Taylor was a student at Boston University in 1952, and had a jazz group in which he played drums. The pianist knew Brubeck from his army days, and raved about him, so when Brubeck came to Storyville that October, Taylor lugged his reel-to-reel tape recorder to the club and obtained Brubeck’s permission to tape the session.
The Jazz Workshop and Paul’s Mall, the two cellar rooms at 733 Boylston Street that provided the best live music in the city for 15 years, closed on April 9, 1978.
It was a sad day for Boston listeners: on Sunday, April 9, Milt Jackson and the Ray Santisi Trio played the last set at the Jazz Workshop. Weak finances forced owners Fred Taylor and Tony Mauriello to shut down. “The last six months have been burdensome, and when we realized we couldn’t get the seating we needed at the Paris Cinema in order to stay in business as a ‘name’ music club, that did it for good,” Taylor told the Boston Globe.