The Troy Street Observer

Ron Gill: The Jazz Advocate

Photo of Ron Gill, 1977
Ron Gill, 1977. Uncredited Boston Phoenix photo.

Ron Gill was a guy who thought you could never do too much for jazz. Gill, who died on April 16, 2020, at age 85, sang countless songs in a career that stretched back to the mid 1950s. He also spent 20 years as a deejay, entertaining the Hub in the wee small hours of the morning. And he was a leader in the local jazz community, active with Boston’s Jazz Coalition and later with the New England Jazz Alliance. Gill had energy to spare for the scene he loved.

Brooklyn-born Ron Gill grew up listening to great singers, beginning with Billy Eckstine. He began performing as a high school student in Boston, and sometimes sang with friends who later formed the doo-wop group, the Love Notes. (They recorded a Gill composition, “Surrender Your Heart,” in 1953.) His next singing stop was the Caribbean, with Gene Walcott, “the Charmer,” in 1954-55. He was one of Walcott’s Calypso Rhythm Boys—the group’s balladeer.

Drafted in the mid-fifties, the army assigned Gill to the Special Services, their entertainment branch. Uncle Sam sent him to Germany to entertain the troops stationed there. Gill was still singing calypso (“a little Belafonte thing”), but he was surrounded by jazzmen. He remembered meeting saxophonists Eddie Harris and Leo Wright, and drummer Lex Humphries. Gill added more jazz to his repertoire.

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Boston’s Jazz All Night Concert

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.

Jazz Image of All Night concert poster, 1981
Jazz All Night Concert poster, 1981

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.

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Jan 15, 1977: Benefit for the Creative Music Studio

This is another one of those concerts I haven’t been able to learn anything about, but nonetheless it seems significant and I wanted to mark the date and post a facsimile of the event’s flyer. Some of the usual suspects were involved—the Jazz/Arts Ministry and the Jazz Coalition, and the site was the benefit-friendly Church of the Covenant.

The actual Creative Music Studio was located in Woodstock, New York. It was a program run by the non-profit Creative Music Foundation, founded by Karl Berger in 1971. This Boston benefit concert featured several musicians long associated with the CMS, including Michael Gregory Jackson and Ed Blackwell, and other notables chipped in to help, including Boston-based players like Jimmy Giuffre and Baird Hersey.

If anyone can fill me in on this show, or on Boston artists who were involved with the Creative Music Studio, I’d appreciate it. In the meantime, here’s the flyer.

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April 21, 2007: Welcome Back, Jazz Week!

Jazz Week 2007 logo
Jazz Week 2007

JazzBoston kicked off a renewed and revived Boston Jazz Week, the first in 24 years, on April 21, 2007.

From 1973 to 1983, the Boston’s Jazz Coalition sponsored Jazz Week, an annual springtime burst of energy that found jazz music in venues likely and unlikely, at all times of day, and played by a few name bands and many local ones.

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