Boston Jazz Chronicles

Richard Vacca writes about the people, places, and events that shaped Boston's jazz scene in the 20th century.

New on the Blog

Cookin’ at the Boston Jazz Society’s Jazz Barbecue!

Cookin’ at the Boston Jazz Society’s Jazz Barbecue!

For many area jazz fans in the 1980s and 1990s, the Boston Jazz Society meant one thing: the Jazz Barbecue. It was the Society’s biggest and best-known event. The annual August blast started in the mid-1970s and continued into the early 2000s. If Boston jazz had a...

Cookin’ at the Boston Jazz Society’s Jazz Barbecue!

For many area jazz fans in the 1980s and 1990s, the Boston Jazz Society meant one thing: the Jazz Barbecue. It was the Society’s biggest and best-known event. The annual August blast started in the mid-1970s and continued into the early 2000s. If Boston jazz had a...

Frankie Newton’s Boston Decade

Frankie Newton’s Boston Decade

The masterful trumpeter William Frank “Frankie” Newton (1906-1954) was well established in jazz circles long before he ever came to Boston. He’d worked with Cecil Scott, Charlie Johnson, and Teddy Hill. He was on Bessie Smith’s “Gimme a Pigfoot” session in 1933 (her...

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Books by Richard Vacca

Front cover of The Boston Jazz Chronicles

The Boston Jazz Chronicles

Available in all online stores!

First published in 2012, The Boston Jazz Chronicles recounts an exciting 25-year period in the city’s musical history. It stretches from 1937 and the swing years, to 1962, well into the modern jazz era. Famous clubs included the Tic Toc, the Hi-Hat, and Storyville. The cast of characters included Sabby Lewis, Jaki Byard, Nat Pierce, and Charlie Mariano. Larry Berk started the Berklee School, and George Wein founded the Newport Jazz Festival. From Toshiko Akiyoshi to Jimmy Zitano, the stories are all here. From Troy Street Publishing, and available online, or through a bookseller near you.

The Boston Jazz Chronicles brought back memories of my years in Boston, at Storyville in Kenmore Square and Copley Square. Every Boston jazz fan must read this book. You won’t put it down until every page is read.”

— George Wein, legendary club owner and founder of the Newport Jazz Festival

What, and Give Up Showbiz?

Available in all online stores!

Fred Taylor—who through the years wore the hats of nightclub owner, jazz festival director, concert producer, artists’ manager, promoter and publicist, theater operator, recording engineer, would-be comedian and great friend of jazz—was a man of a thousand stories. In 2015, we joined forces to start putting those stories on paper. The result is What, and Give Up Showbiz?, published by Backbeat Books in late 2020, and available online or through a bookseller near you.

Cover of What and Give up Showbiz?

Books in Progress

Photo of Paul's Mall marquee

The Boston Jazz Chronicles Volume 2

Coming 2023!

The second volume of this Boston jazz story takes readers from 1963 to 1988—from Connolly’s to the 1369 Jazz Club, from Mamie Lee & the Swingmen to James Williams, and from Summerthing to the Boston Globe Jazz Festival. It’s another 25 years of people, places and nightlife.

Other Dispatches and Conversations

photo of manual typewriter keys

Articles, Research, and Spoken Words

Further historical dispatches and conversations!

The blog is my usual vehicle for telling these Boston stories, but many stories don’t fit the blog mold. And not all stories are told in writing. Visit the Other Dispatches page to find a few previously published pieces, and a few unpublished ones, too. For example, there’s my research on songwriter Jimmy McHugh, long one of my favorites, whose tunes always constitute a lovely way to spend an evening. There’s writing on Teddi King, one of my favorite singers. Clarinetist and bandleader Dick Johnson was an enormous help to me when I was getting started on all of this, and I have a long piece on Dick and his career.

I’ve included links to video and audio where Boston history and The Boston Jazz Chronicles are the topics of conversation.