The 1369 Jazz Club in Cambridge was not without its disadvantages. “The sight lines are not very good. As you walk in, the long bar is to the right. To the left of the aisle there is a cluster of red-draped tables and a wooden bench running almost the length of the club…If you have any traces of claustrophobia, the seats against the wall are not for you…To get to the restrooms one has to walk past the stage. If there is a medium-sized band working you have to walk through them.”
So wrote the Globe’s Fernando Gonzalez in his Jazz Notes column on August 12, 1988, marking the last weekend of the 1369 Jazz Club, at 1369 Cambridge Street, Inman Square. Yes, the club was awkward and smoky and it could get crowded, but we liked it anyway. Every jazz fan in town had the blues that weekend. I have such vivid memories of some of the nights there—George Adams, Don Pullen, Dannie Richmond, and Cameron Brown, anyone?—that it’s hard to believe it was 35 years ago.
The club wasn’t closing, Gonzalez noted, because it was an economic or artistic failure. It was the result of a landlord/tenant dispute. The club lost in court and was evicted after a three-year running battle with the building owner, who, after dispensing with the scruffy jazz types, installed a realtor’s office.
The 1369 featured Rebecca Parris and her quartet on that last weekend (RPQ at that time included Mike Monaghan on reeds, John Harrison on piano, Ron Murray on bass, and drummer Grover Mooney, a club stalwart). On Sunday afternoon, the club hosted one last blues jam with Silas Hubbard Jr., and the Sunday night house band led by drummer Bunny Smith with vocalist Arlene Bennett closed it out. The eviction notice took effect the next day, August 15.
Jay Hoffman, Bob Pollak, and Dennis Steiner bought the bar in 1983. They had no previous experience running a club, but they built a fine one with a loyal following. They did well by the local musicians, the backbone of any club. I remember Jerry Bergonzi, Katy Roberts, Jay Branford, Laszlo Gardony, Stan Strickland, and many others. During Alan Dawson Month, the drummer played with a different band—different personnel, different concept—every Wednesday. And there were the Sunday blues jams and Monday jazz jams. Hoffman, a tenor saxophonist before he got into the bar business, ran them.
Then there were the not-so-local musicians, like Barry Harris, Lee Konitz, Joanne Brackeen, Sheila Jordan, Hal Galper, and Henry Threadgill. The 1369 didn’t bring in any lounge music, Dixieland, or mainstream swingers. There was a lot of post-bop, fresh-sounding music with an air of unpredictability about it. If you wanted safe, you were better off at the Regattabar.
We all had our favorites, and one of mine was the Hammond B3 Organ Festival in April 1987. For six consecutive nights, five organists filled the Inman Square club with the big Hammond sound. First up on April 6 was Philadelphia’s Trudy Pitts, working then as always with drummer/vocalist Bill Carney, aka Mr. C. Next up was Don Patterson. Patterson, also then living in Philadelphia and attempting a comeback, was in poor health and lived only a few months after this gig. Third was Dr. Lonnie Smith. Fourth was Charles Earland. Finally, Brother Jack McDuff closed out the festival on Friday and Saturday nights. It was a tour through the Prestige Records catalog—McDuff, Earland, Patterson, and Pitts released over 50 Prestige LPs among them in the 1960s.
Anyway, it’s gone now, but maybe it will live on through a documentary film. Here is a short clip from a film called A Place for Jazz, never released. There is a Facebook page that provides some background. Best of luck to the filmmaker!