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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Feb 15, 1978: The Apollo Stompers at Michael’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.”

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