A Jazz Lesson — with a Distinct Boston Accent

April 28, 2011

-By Penny Cherubino

Boston has played an important role in the history of jazz in Boston. The neighborhood is currently home to two of the area’s important jazz institutions– Berklee College of Music and  JazzBoston, the organizing force behind the annual Jazz Week celebration. This year, the music will be in the air April 29th through May 8.

Jazz Clubs

The renowned jazz journalist, Nat Hentoff wrote, “The stretch of Mass. Ave. between Huntington and Columbus was, by the late ‘40s, Boston’s answer to 52nd Street in Manhattan — with not only the Roseland, but the Savoy Café, the Hi-Hat, Wally’s, and a handful of smaller clubs.” Soon after, some of that jazz began moving to the Back Bay.

In 1950, George Wein had been building a reputation in clubs around Boston. People were asking him to open a jazz club of his own. “You just didn’t open a club. You had to have money, but I didn’t have any money. I had $5,000 that hadn’t been used for my college education, because the GI Bill paid for my college. So I leased a room from the hotel, and so I was in business for $5,000,” Wein said in an interview with All About Jazz.

That club was Storyville, and it began at the Copley Square Hotel before moving on to other locations. That was the start of Wein’s career as a producer of music. He went on to produce the Newport Jazz Festivals and from there spread the concept of Jazz Festivals worldwide. He has been called, “the most famous jazz impresario” and “the most important non-player… in jazz history.”

The Jazz Workshop

Over on Stuart Street, a quartet of musicians– Charlie Mariano, Varty Haroutunian (Hart), Herb Pomeroy, and Ray Santisi– opened a place where students and professional musicians could meet, hold jam-sessions, classes, and private lessons. That was the beginning of the Jazz Workshop, according to a “Quarter Notes” magazine article by Al Natale and Richard Vacca.

The article explained that while the school didn’t last, the musicians began playing at a club on Huntington called the Stable with the unofficial name of The Jazz Workshop.

733 Boylston Street

When the building housing the Stable was torn down for the Mass Pike, the music moved to 733 Boylston Street. That address was home to two memorable clubs– Paul’s Mall and the Jazz Workshop, under the management of Fred Taylor, Tony Mauriello, and Peter Lane.

Over On Newbury

Lawrence Berk was an MIT graduate and musician. In 1945, he founded Schillinger House at 245 Newbury Street. In a departure from traditional music schools, he not only championed the Schillinger system of harmony and composition, but he also offered training in jazz. His initial enrollment was 50 students, mostly GIs. Under the leadership of Berk and later his son, Lee Eliot Berk, that school grew into the Berklee College of Music. Today Berklee has more than 4,000 students who come to Boston from 80 countries.

Jazz Week Events

This year, Jazz will return to the Back Bay with a series of events at Emmanuel Church, the Berklee Performance Center, the 3rd floor stage at Best Buy on Newbury Street, Top of the Hub, The Copley Square Central Library, the Berklee Recital Hall, and the Old South Church. The full schedule for Jazz Week is at www.jazzboston.org.

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