The Boston Jazz Chronicles Volume 2

The Boston Jazz Chronicles Volume 2: A Work in Progress

The Boston Jazz Chronicles covered the years 1937–1962, but of course the music did not stop then. The second volume of the Chronicles will cover the next 25 years. The combined result will be a sweeping 50-year view of jazz activity in the city.

If The Boston Jazz Chronicles told the story of how the “Silent Generation” ascended to jazz prominence in the 1950s, then Volume 2 tells the story of how the Baby Boomers staged a similar ascent in the 1970s.

I have thought about this project for six years, asking myself if enough time has passed—is it history yet, or are we still assessing? It’s both. It’s history. And we’re still assessing. This volume will help that assessment by collecting much of what is known in a single source.

As in the first volume, Volume 2 will include stories about people, places, and events. But there are broader themes. One is how trends and changes in popular taste affected the jazz audience, especially younger listeners. Another is what the changes in the urban environment, and in the economics of the music industry, meant to the local music scene. Issues involving the racial climate in Boston provide a constant backdrop. There was the rise of a do-it-yourself jazz movement, creating new opportunities to present the music, in settings removed from the established schools and nightclubs. And in the 1960s and beyond, it was no longer strictly a Boston story—the music established itself in Cambridge and then migrated to the suburbs, too.

Again, as in the first book, this volume of The Boston Jazz Chronicles will be illustrated with period maps, photos, and ephemera. And it will include a bibliography, discography and index. It will be available in print and as an ebook.

A Story About People

The Boston Jazz Chronicles is a story about people above all else. An amazing crew of musicians and singers worked in the city in these years. A short and very incomplete list of people and groups you’ll find includes Hal Galper, Sam Rivers, John Abercrombie, Bill Pierce, Stark Reality, James Williams, Dave McKenna, Mark Harvey, Alan Dawson, Rebecca Parris, Gene DiStasio’s Brass Menagerie, Arni Cheatham, Jimmy Mosher, Terri Lyne Carrington, Ran Blake, Webster Lewis, Mamie Lee, Jerry Bergonzi, Your Neighborhood Saxophone Quartet, the Hollyday Brothers, John LaPorta, Maggi Scott… And there are educators (Lawrence Berk, Gunther Schuller), deejays (Tony Cennamo, Eric Jackson), presenters (Cathy Lee, Buck Spurr), clubowners (Lennie Sogoloff, Fred Taylor)… It’s a long list who made this place happen in these 25 years.

Perhaps inevitably, many of these people came together in organizations formed to present the music and advance the jazz agenda. “Jazz Active” is a recurring theme. The Jazz Coalition, the Boston Jazz Society, Highland Jazz, Studio Red Top and other volunteer-driven organizations formed, and some had very long runs. These grass roots groups relied heavily on non-traditional venues for presentation space, and jazz found its way into churches, parks, art galleries, and schools.

Around Town: Events, Education, Media…

It’s that old saying, “it takes a village.” Building a scene is about more than playing notes.

  • Festivals and Other Big Deals. The Boston Globe Jazz Festival, Boston Sackbut Week, Jazz Week and other multi-day/multi-location celebrations.
  • Lawrence Berk built Berklee into an educational powerhouse. With its stellar faculty, Berklee institutionalized jazz education and solidified its place as a worldwide leader in the field. Meanwhile, over at the New England Conservatory, Gunther Schuller, Carl Atkins and others brought jazz education to the school. And these two weren’t alone. Other institutions making a place for jazz included Boston University, Tufts, Harvard and Brandies.
  • “Brought to you by…” Government, foundation and corporate support comes to the world of jazz; the role of sponsorship in producing programs like Summerthing and the Playhouse in Franklin Park.
  • Jazz in the 1950s was mainly on commercial AM stations. But over time, it migrated to the FM band. Increasingly, its new home was on public radio stations, often those with a collegiate affiliation. There was music on the air and plenty of it. These were good years for jazz on Boston radio.
  • Although major labels like Concord and Arista/Novus signed their share of Boston talent, most of the Boston musicians who made it to vinyl did so on indie labels like Intro, Shiah, Outrageous, and Accurate. The number of recordings made by local artists increased yearly through the 70s and 80s. And then there were those ubiquitous cassette tapes…

Don’t Forget the Music

Every style of music being played in the 1950s was still being played in these 25 years. You could still hear everything from trad jazz to hard bop. Then add to that mix the avant-garde, jazz-rock, funk and fusion, and Latin music and influences from other parts of the world.

There was a time around 1980 when if you felt like hearing some jazz piano on a Saturday night, you could choose from an astonishing stylistic assortment of players. Dave McKenna, Makoto Ozone, James Williams, Lowell Davidson, Maggi Scott, and Bob Pilsbury might all be working on the same night. Each had an individual sound and style. You’d never confuse them.

And all of that is a story worth telling.