In the 1970s, Bostonians enjoyed a welcome one-night respite from their long winter blues: the Jazz All Night Concert. This twelve-hour music marathon, held in February at the Church of the Covenant in the Back Bay, brought the jazz congregation together for a night of great music during some difficult and racially charged years.
The Jazz Coalition was the organizing force behind the Jazz All Night concert. Formed in July 1971, this non-profit advocacy group had two goals. The first was pragmatic: to help area musicians find places to play. The second was more ambitious: to bring together like-minded souls in a “jazz community”—a new idea in Boston in 1971. It called on musicians, educators, the media, venue owners, fans—everybody—to come together to create an atmosphere in which jazz could be respected and sustained.
Two of the Jazz Coalition’s founders and prime movers remain as pillars of the Boston jazz scene today: Mark Harvey and Arni Cheatham.
I wrote about the recordings made by the Jaki Byard Quartet at Lennie’s-on-the-Turnpike in an earlier post, and I’ve finally added an extended track from Volume 2 of Live! to my YouTube channel. I chose “Jaki’s Ballad Medley,” but as you’ll hear, Jaki was joking when he mentioned ballads. For some reason, though, the people at Prestige Records kept “Ballad” in the title.
Byard starts with a bit of his “European Episode,” and then works through “Tea for Two,” “Lover,” his own composition “Strolling Along,” “Cherokee,” and finally Frank Foster’s “Shiny Stockings.” Drummer Alan Dawson and bassist George Tucker acquit themselves admirably throughout, but the star is Joe Farrell on tenor, with two fine solos.
The recording was made on the night of April 15, 1965—which, as Lennie reminded me, was the night Havlicek stole the ball. You non-Bostonians will just have to follow the link to look that up.
May 30, 1971: Fire Closes Lennie’s-on-the-Turnpike
Firefighters broke through the roof to fight the blaze, which was confined mainly to the bar and dressing rooms, but the entire building suffered extensive smoke and water damage.
Just about all of the great jazz clubs described in The Boston Jazz Chronicles or in posts on this blog were inside the Boston city limits—the Savoy, the Stable, Storyville, the Jazz Workshop. But one, a favorite of both performers and listeners, was way up in the suburbs. That was Lennie’s-on-the-Turnpike, on the northbound side of Route 1 in West Peabody. On the morning of May 30, 1971, fire struck the club.
“You could say I am down, but not out,” proprietor Lennie Sogoloff told the Globe’s Bill Buchanan later that day. “This club has been my life since the early 50s and to see all the damage was a great shock to me. I just don’t know what direction we’ll take now. It’s something I’ll have to think about.”
Mar 5, 1974: A Memorial Concert for Lennie Johnson
“Nobody in the capacity house at John Hancock Hall could see him, of course, but you can wager your paycheck that Lennie Johnson was sitting in last night for that all-star gig they threw in his memory.”
So began Ernie Santosuosso’s review in the Boston Globe on March 6, 1974, the morning after the concert.
Johnson had been an instructor at Berklee for about five years at the time of his death in October 1973, and Berklee sponsored the concert, the biggest of the 1973-74 school year, and colleagues galore turned out to participate. Berklee had no large hall of its own (the Berklee Performance Center did not open until 1976), so whenever the school needed an auditorium, it rented the 1,100-seat John Hancock Hall.
July 31, 1949: Jimmie Martin Orchestra at the Rio Casino
I dedicated a chapter of The Boston Jazz Chronicles to Boston’s two late 1940s big bands, the “white contingent” of Nat Pierce (in the blog on July 5 and July 16) and the “black contingent” of Jimmie Martin.
The bands had much in common—passionate and talented musicians, skilled arrangers, and a decidedly modern outlook. Unfortunately, they also shared a mostly empty schedule, and if the Pierce band only worked a little, the Martin band worked a little less. In what little mention the Martin band merits in the jazz literature, it is often called a rehearsal band.
Some members of Martin’s orchestra became household names, at least in jazz households—Jaki Byard, Joe Gordon, Gigi Gryce, Lennie Johnson, Sam Rivers. Some, while not household names, were quite influential. Trombonist and arranger Hampton Reese was B.B. King’s music director for almost 25 years in the 1950s-1970s, and trumpeter Gil Askey, who had the same role with Diana Ross, was one of the founding fathers of the Motown Sound. Still others were active sidemen on the national scene (Jack Jeffers, Clarence Johnston), or doubled as performers and educators (Andy McGhee, Floogie Williams). (more…)
June 15, 1922: Jaki Byard Born in Worcester, Mass.
It was in 1964 that Nat Hentoff said that Jaki Byard was “a pervasive influence on nearly every young Boston musician who was interested in discovering new jazz routes.” Among them were pianist Dick Twardzik, trumpeter and composer Don Ellis, and saxophonist and composer Sam Rivers. But we only have room for one route-seeker per blog post, and this time it’s Herb Pomeroy.
Byard and Pomeroy were part of the modern jazz contingent resident at the Hi-Hat and Lynn’s Melody Lounge, and they played together often. They were both part of Charlie Mariano’s 1953 Imperial sessions, and Jaki’s classic, “Diane’s Melody,” debuted on one of those Imperial 10-inch LPs.
Herb Pomeroy was not shy about giving the inventive Jaki Byard his share of the credit for the big band’s success. Byard arranged much of the band’s “Living History of Jazz” concert, a narrated history of jazz stretching from African roots to the freshest of Pomeroy’s charts. It was the eclectic Byard who wove the bits of Joplin, Ellington, Bix, Bird, and the rest into a cohesive whole. Somebody, somewhere, must have a tape of this concert. I would love to hear it.
On this date and leading up to it, the Aardvark Jazz Orchestra learned a few things about improvisation from one of the masters, Jaki Byard.
Mark Harvey was a man of many facets. He started playing jazz music in Boston as soon as he arrived in 1969, led the Jazz Coalition from its inception in 1971, directed the Aardvark Jazz Orchestra since its formation in 1973, and taught jazz studies at MIT from 1980. He was as close to the center of the small world that was Boston jazz in 1986 as a person could be.
Closer still to the center of jazz, not only in Boston but elsewhere, was Jaki Byard, who in the late 1940s and 1950s worked with every modern and progressive musician in Boston, from Sam Rivers to Charlie Mariano to Gig Gryce to Herb Pomeroy. Nat Hentoff called Jaki Byard “a pervasive influence on nearly every young Boston musician who was interested in discovering new jazz routes.” Then had come the years with Charles Mingus, Eric Dolphy, Booker Ervin, and Roland Kirk. In 1969 he returned to Boston and the New England Conservatory of Music at the invitation of Gunther Schuller.
On the night of April 15-16, 1965, Jaki Byard, Joe Farrell, George Tucker, and Alan Dawson were recorded Live at Lennie’s.
Jaki Byard was on a roll in the spring of 1965, when he opened on April 12 for a week at Lennie’s-on-the-Turnpike in West Peabody. His early sixties work with Eric Dolphy and Charles Mingus made him one to watch, and his own trio and quartet recordings on Prestige showed him at his inventive and eclectic best. He was at Lennie’s to record a live set for Prestige with a formidable quartet.
On drums and vibes was Alan Dawson, who had a history with Byard going back to the late 1940s in Boston. But there was recent history, too. In 1963-64, Dawson and Byard had recorded a series of quartet recordings with Booker Ervin and Richard Davis, also for Prestige. Jaki and Alan knew each other well. When Dawson was in Boston, he was the house drummer at Lennie’s.
Jaki Byard and the Apollo Stompers waded through snowdrifts for their Wednesday gig at Michael’s Jazz Club on Gainsborough Street on February 15, 1978.
Jaki Byard exploded out of Boston in 1959 brimming with musical ideas, and the jazz world began focusing on him intently when he went with Mingus in 1962. After a whirlwind decade, he returned to Boston in 1969 to teach at the New England Conservatory of Music, and while there, formed the Apollo Stompers with NEC students.
In February 1978, the Stompers had a regular Wednesday gig at Michael’s Jazz Club, and even though the city was still digging out from the Blizzard of ‘78… well, the show must go on, and it did. Their sets at this time were rich with Byard-arranged tunes, although then-student Hankus Netsky and others from the NEC contributed charts as well. A typical night might feature a Duke Ellington medley, standards such as “Lover Man” and “So What,” and perhaps the 5/4 medley of “Take Five” and Jaki’s own “Cinco y Quatro.”