The Troy Street Observer

Apr 15, 1981: Michael’s Jazz Club Closes

Photo of James Williams
A Michael’s regular: James Williams in 1979

The days approaching Tax Day have sometimes been troubled ones for Boston’s jazz clubs. Take the Willow, for instance. On March 27, 1997 the Willow Jazz Club in Somerville was padlocked. The owner was in serious legal trouble and the city closed him down.

On April 9, 1978, the fabled Boylston Street clubs, the Jazz Workshop and Paul’s Mall,  closed. Owner Fred Taylor said he could no longer afford to stay in business.

On April 14, 1960, John McLellan, in his Jazz Scene column in the Boston Traveler, quoted a letter written by Storyville owner George Wein. The club had shut down for five weeks that spring, its first in-season closure, and was to reopen April 11. Wrote Wein: “If Storyville is successful, or even moderately successful, in this six-week period, then we will go ahead with some plans for the fall. If business is as dismal as it has been all winter, then I don’t know what the future of Storyville will be.” There wasn’t enough business. Wein turned out the lights on May 22, and closed his club.

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May 4, 1986: A Woodwind Summit at Swift’s

On May 4, 1986, James Williams convened a Woodwind Summit at Jonathan Swift’s on Harvard Square.

I’d never call Jonathan Swift’s a jazz club, but the big basement room with the low ceiling did book its share of jazz in the late 1970s and 1980s, and I heard the Art Ensemble of Chicago and Stan Getz there. This Woodwind Summit, though, was a one-of-a-kind.

For starters, it was a benefit, organized by the Boston Jazz Society to raise money for its scholarship fund. Founded in 1973 with the mission, “Keep Jazz Alive,” the Boston Jazz Society’s primary means of doing this by 1986 was through its scholarship program. The Society staged concerts, and held its famous Jazz BBQs, to raise the money needed to fund the program. Scholarship recipients prior to 1986 included saxophonists Bobby Ricketts and Ralph Moore, and trombonist Mike Grey.

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