Apr 19, 1942: First Sunday Jam Session at the Ken Club
What became an institution in Boston jazz, the Sunday afternoon jam session, started in April 1942 at the Ken Club, on the corner of Tremont and Warrenton Streets (a corner that no longer even exists).
Jam sessions started as informal and private affairs among musicians, and that hasn’t changed. In about 1937, though, the idea of a public jam session took hold, where a small group of musicians played unrehearsed music for an invited audience. The audiences grew, and organizers began charging a modest admission fee to pay the musicians enough to meet the union’s minimum scale. A unique set of circumstances established these sessions in Boston on Sunday afternoons, where they remained for some 25 years.
It was the Ken Club, at 58 Warrenton Street, that started the Sunday sessions. The Ken had all the ingredients. First, they had the talent. The Ken was the home of small-group jazz during the war, and the best groups of the day, such as those of Red Allen and Frankie Newton, worked there. There was an energetic organizer in Bill Ingalls, a DJ on WCOP. It was wartime, and Boston was teeming with sailors looking for entertainment. Finally, most New York union musicians had Sundays off, and the Ken could thus invite top musicians to Boston to host the jam sessions.
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