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Culture Clubs: A History of the U.S. Jazz Clubs, Part III: Kansas City, Philadelphia, Los Angeles & Beyond

Karl Ackermann By

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The Jazz Workshop opened in 1953, when locals Charlie Mariano and Herb Pomeroy used their music school space for jam sessions. The venue moved from Stuart Street to Huntington Avenue one year later and then to Boylston Street in 1963. Over the years the club played host to an impressive array of jazz artists including Miles Davis, Duke Ellington, Ramsey Lewis, Sonny Rollins, John Coltrane, Herbie Hancock, Ron Carter, Chick Corea, Joe Zawinul, Ahmad Jamal, Stan Getz, Mose Alison, Keith Jarrett and the Sun Ra Arkestra. Another victim of the 1970s economic crisis, the club closed in 1978.

George Wein opened Storyville in 1950 in the Hotel Buckminster and featured regular performances from the likes of Billie Holiday, Ella Fitzgerald, Duke Ellington, Louis Armstrong, Charlie Parker, Gerry Mulligan and Dave Brubeck. In 1953 the club moved to the Copley Square Hotel where it remained until 1959 when it relocated to the Bradford Hotel on Tremont Street. While the club was a platform for the best talent in jazz, Wein's high standards came with a reciprocal cost. The financial strain led to Wein giving up the club in 1960. Wally's Café opened in 1947 at 428 Massachusetts Avenue and moved across the street in 1978 when most of the Mass Avenue clubs were long gone. Joseph Walcott—known as Wally—was the first African American to own a nightclub in the Boston area. Walcott used his venue to successfully mix students from Berklee College of Music, the Boston Conservatory, and the New England Conservatory of Music with veterans of the swing era. Walcott died in 1998, at the age of 101, but his family continues to run the club in the same vein, primarily giving the stage to students. Wally's Café is the oldest surviving jazz venue in Boston and one of the oldest in the U.S.

Today, in the Boston area, there are two, more modern, jazz clubs along the Charles River. The Regattabar opened in 1985 at the Charles Hotel at 1 Bennett Street in Harvard Square and has featured artists such as the Mingus Big Band, Ahmad Jamal and Ron Carter. Scullers opened in 1989 in the Allston neighborhood, just south of Harvard. Along with jazz, the club features world music, cabaret and blues but shows are sporadic. Saxophonist David Sanborn and Cuban trumpeter Arturo Sandoval have played there recently but local talent dominates the calendar. Thelonious Monkfish is at 524 Massachusetts Avenue in Cambridge and mixes sushi with a full calendar of jazz from accomplished, if not well-known, artists. Many, such as Yoko Miwa, Paul Broadnax and Andy Voelker, play extended engagements.


There were jazz satellites in other U.S. cities, though often modest in scope and longevity. Like Philadelphia, Detroit had a stellar home-grown crop of jazz musicians that went on to national prominence. Elvin, Hank and Thad Jones, Howard McGhee, Tommy Flanagan, Paul Chambers, Yusef Lateef, Milt Jackson, Kenny Burrell, Ron Carter, Frank Foster, Sir Roland Hanna, Donald Byrd, Sonny Stitt, Alice Coltrane, James Carter, Geri Allen, Kenny Garrett and Betty Carter are just a few of the well-known artists to emerge from that city. And like many of the jazz hubs of the 1920s, Detroit was on the cusp of modern jazz from the outset.

At the turn of the twentieth century, the burgeoning auto industry brought large numbers of southerners to Detroit. The forerunners of the big bands were at the vanguard of the city's music industry; one that later gave birth to the Motown sound. Beginning in the era in which Storyville was vanishing from New Orleans, the so-called society bands of Detroit played local events, weddings, parties and dances staying within the boundaries of standard ragtime material. Two black band leaders emerged from that time as having broken new ground. Benjamin Shook experimented with, and perfected, syncopation while Leroy Smith, was playing symphonic jazz of the Paul Whiteman style, in the early stages of the genre. Smith played the Pier Ballroom, a famous dancehall that was part of an amusement complex called Electric Park. Competing for audiences was an all-white society band led by Paul Specht that played the Addison hotel in downtown Detroit.


Under the Radar Karl Ackermann Benny Moten Count Basie Joe Turner Charlie Parker Sonny Stitt Dexter Gordon Miles Davis benny golson Walter Dickerson McCoy Tyner Marilyn Crispell Marc Copland Joe Chambers Uri Caine Charles Fambrough Stanley Clarke Melody Gardot Jimmy Heath John Coltrane Albert Heath Percy Heath Kenny Barron Bill Barron Michael Brecker randy brecker duke ellington Dizzy Gillespie Benny Goodman Tommy Dorsey Glen Miller Billie Holiday Art Blakey Cannonball Adderly Philly Joe Jones Thelonius Monk Nina Simone Yusef Lateef Nat King Cole Lester Young Ray Bryant Red Garland Paul Chambers Terell Stafford Orrin Evans Cecil Payne Sonny Rollins Frank Morgan Chick Corea Chuck Mangione Gerald Veasley Charlie Hunter Jelly Roll Morton Kid Ory Lionel Hampton Wardell Gray Art Pepper Charles Mingus Ella Fitzgerald Cab Calloway Louis Armstrong Lena Horne Billy Eckstein wynton marsalis Modern Jazz Quartet Shelly Manne oscar peterson Herb Ellis Lennie Tristano Gerry Mulligan Dave Brubeck Chet Baker John LaPorta Serge Chaloff Herb Pomeroy Les McCann Milt Jackson Cannonball Adderley Keith Jarrett The Jazz Crusaders Joe Henderson Elvin Jones Alex Cline Nels Cline Monty Alexander Diane Schuur ernie watts Bill Frisell Kurt Rosenwinkel Scott Colley Brian Blade Edward Simon Randy Weston Herb Alpert Artie Shaw Johnny Hodges Harry Carney Roy Haynes Sidney Bechet Charlie Mariano Jaki Byard Nat Pierce Mingus Big Band David Sanborn arturo sandoval Frank Foster Roland Hanna Donald Byrd Alice Coltrane James Carter Geri Allen Kenny Garrett Betty Carter Dewey Redman Joshua Redman George Shearing Joe Williams Woody Herman Jessica Williams abdullah ibrahim Terence Blanchard Chuck Israels Larry Bunker
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