Flyer for George Benson at Jazz Workshop 1971It was not a banner year for Boston jazz clubs in 1971. The audience was something of a moving target. The younger people who are vital to the success of any club scene were still going out, but to clubs featuring rock, not jazz. So they were at Brandy’s, or O’Dee’s, or Lucifer—and not in jazz clubs. The older crowd who did patronize those clubs were going out less often, especially during the week. So the challenge was to program a schedule to attract a younger crowd that extended beyond the student body at Berklee.

If you went looking for jazz, there weren’t too many choices. There was Wally’s in the South End, and the Kismet Lounge in Allston. The Playboy Club in Park Square presented an occasional name to play with Bob Winter’s house trio. If you had a car, you could head to Lennie’s-on-the-Turnpike in suburban West Peabody, but a fire closed Lennie’s in May. The only full-time, name-band jazz room in Boston was the Jazz Workshop on Boylston St.

This table shows what you would have heard at the Jazz Workshop 50 years ago.

The 1971 Jazz Workshop Calendar

Dec 26-Jan 10 Freddie Hubbard
Jan 11-17 Jack McDuff
Jan 18-24 Bill Evans Trio
Jan 25-31 George Benson Trio
Feb 1-11 Larry Coryell
Feb 12-14 Sam Rivers
Feb 15-21 Joe Henderson
Feb 22-28 Mose Allison
Mar 1-7 Archie Shepp
Mar 8 Laugh and Cry
Mar 9-14 Charles Mingus
Mar 15-21 Muddy Waters
Mar 22-28 Jeremy Steig
Mar 29-Apr 4 Jimmy Smith
Apr 5-11 Colwell-Winfield Blues Band
Apr 12-18 Kenny Burrell
Apr 19-25 Modern Jazz Quartet
Apr 26-May 2 Chick Corea
May 3-9 Shirley Scott
May 10-16 Bo Diddley
May 17-23 Jimmy McGriff
May 24-30 Herbie Hancock
May 31-Jun 6 Tony Williams
Jun 7-13 Miles Davis canceled, replacement not known
Jun 14-20 Thad Jones/Mel Lewis Sextet
Jun 21-27 Charles Mingus
Jun 28-Jul 4 Sam Rivers
Jul 5-11 T-Bone Walker
Jul 12-18 James Cotton
Jul 19-25 Weather Report
Jul 26-Aug 1 George Benson
Aug 2-8 Mississippi Fred McDowell
Aug 9-15 Elvin Jones
Aug 17-22 Charlie Byrd
Aug 23-29 Mose Allison
Aug 30-Sep 12 Larry Coryell
Sep 9-19 Rahsaan Roland Kirk
Sep 20-26 Bill Evans Trio
Sep 27-Oct 3 Les McCann
Oct 4-10 James Montgomery Blues Band
Oct 11-17 Herbie Hancock
Oct 18-24 Alex Taylor
Oct 25-31 Gato Barbieri
Nov 1-7 Os Cinco
Nov 8-14 Ralph Graham
Nov 15-21 T-Bone Walker
Nov 22-28 Modern Jazz Quartet
Nov 29-Dec 5 Miles Davis
Dec 6-12 Tim Hardin
Dec 13-19 James Cotton
Dec 20-26 Colwell-Winfield Blues Band
Dec 27-Jan 2 Larry Coryell

Plus a Little Jazz at Paul’s Mall

Paul’s Mall, the adjoining club, had some jazz in 1971, too. Paul’s Mall was larger than the Workshop, with 245 seats and a bigger stage. Big bands needed that stage, so they always played at the Mall. In 1971, Don Ellis, Maynard Ferguson, and Duke Ellington were in the house. And artists with a big earnings potential needed those extra seats, so they played the Mall as well. In 1971, that included Erroll Garner, Joe Williams, and Cannonball Adderley. Miles Davis and Les McCann would join them there in 1972.

Something else was cooking at Paul’s Mall in 1971—the Latin-jazz-dance groups led by percussionists Mongo Santamaria and Willie Bobo. Latin jazz wasn’t widely popular in 1971, but these groups had a crossover appeal that attracted a big audience.

Observations, 50 Years Later

Mose Allison at the Jazz Workshop, 1971Even a quick glance at the schedule shows it’s clearly a post-bop world. Artists who rose to prominence in the 1960s fill the calendar, from Chick Corea to the Hammond B-3 organists to Tony Williams.

The other side of that is the small number of swing-era and bop-era artists booked. There was Duke Ellington, the sole elder statesman. There were the era-transcending figures Miles and Mingus, and Cannonball and the MJQ. But other still-active artists like Dizzy Gillespie, Gerry Mulligan, and Sonny Stitt were absent. (Art Blakey was a steady presence at the Jazz Workshop who just happened to miss 1971.)

There’s a bit of adventure scheduled, with Roland Kirk, Sam Rivers, and Archie Shepp. Why not more? I can only suggest that it is because groups from the cutting edge lost money. The blues, though, made money, so there are ten weeks given over to Muddy Waters, T-Bone Walker, and others.

Local groups were in the mix, sometimes opposite the bigger names in the Mall. Charlie Mariano’s Laugh and Cry (a one-nighter), Claudio Roditi’s Os Cinco, Ralph Graham’s jazz-funk group, and the blues bands of James Montgomery, and of Bill Colwell and Mike Winfield, had their turns.

Aside from Shirley Scott, women headliners were absent, which in retrospect doesn’t come as a surprise.

The notable engagement of 1971 was Weather Report in July. It was their first gig anywhere. Fred Taylor’s strong relationships with Wayne Shorter and Joe Zawinul brought it about.

So that was the Jazz Workshop, 50 years ago. You might argue (and some did) that the schedule was too safe, too predictable. Indeed, ten artists appeared twice each during 1971. And Larry Coryell, the guitarist the jazz press thought would be the one to finally bridge the worlds of jazz and rock, appeared three times. But, as Mauriello told me, “they did business for us.” Taylor and Mauriello were doing their best to book the music that appealed to the younger listeners who were actually buying records and attending shows. It worked. The Jazz Workshop continued to present the best in jazz until both clubs closed in 1978.