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Apr 222017
 

I try to be optimistic, but it’s hard not to observe that the jazz club scene in eastern Massachusetts is worse than it’s been in decades.

Arturo Sandoval -- coming to The Cabot  in Beverly this summer. Photo: Eric Antoniou.

Arturo Sandoval — coming to The Cabot in Beverly this summer. Photo: Eric Antoniou.

By Steve Elman

You can’t turn back the clock, can you?

I was 30 in 1979, a jazz radio host with seven years of work at WBUR behind me. One Sunday in December, I was dismayed by a piece in the Boston Globe Magazine written by the late Amram Ducovny, who was VP for Public Relations at Brandeis at the time – twenty years before he received acclaim as a novelist and his son David Duchovny achieved stardom in The X-Files.

The cutline on Ducovny’s piece read, “Most of the musicians I want to see are dead,” and his article went on from there. He was a passionate fan of Eddie Condon-style trad jazz, swing, and post-swing. He reminisced about his clubhopping days in Greenwich Village in the ‘40s and ‘50s, bemoaned the dearth of “live jazz performance[s] of my music,” and reported taking solace in tapes of Ed Beach’s mainstream jazz radio show on New York’s WRVR.

I wrote an arrogant little letter to the editor, which the Globe actually printed, touting my own show and programs hosted by Ron Della Chiesa and Tony Cennamo, and urging Ducovny to get out to the clubs in New York and Boston where jazz was alive and well, thank you very much.

The scene changes.

In only three months of 2017, Boston has already lost the sensitive and accomplished singer-educator Mili Bermejo, and one of the sweetest guys ever to host a jazz show, Steve Schwartz. They were just two of the bright lights I remember from my own clubhopping days in the ‘70s and ‘80s. Now I know what Ducovny knew: I’m going to hear (in Willie Dixon’s words) that big bell tolling more and more as time goes on, and every time I hear it, I’ll be reminded that someday it’ll be tolling for me, too.

I try to be optimistic, but it’s hard not to observe that the jazz club scene in eastern Massachusetts is worse than it’s been in decades. It’s certainly a ghost of the scene that existed when Ducovny was complaining. There was a time when big venues – the Jazz Workshop, Paul’s Mall, Sandy’s in Beverly, and Lennie’s-on-the-Turnpike – were bringing in name acts every week, and smaller venues – Michael’s, Debbie’s, the Willow, the 1369, Ryles, and many more whose names I’ve forgotten, were giving major players and Berklee and Conservatory bands regular opportunities to play, sometimes seven nights a week. Even hotel lounges, like the Merry-Go Round at the Copley Plaza, offered worthwhile listening – Teddy Wilson played that room regularly, and I remember seeing the pioneering jazz violinist Joe Venuti do a one-nighter there.

Past is past . . . except for right now. For the next two weeks, thanks to Jazz Boston and Thelonious Monkfish, you have the chance to experience what a thriving scene is really like. Through the first week of May, there are about fifty jazz events of note happening in the Boston area, an average of about three events each day. (And I have not even included in this count venues that are normally out of reach of folks in the metro area and near-jazz like cabaret, Latin music, funk, etc.) If the arts mavens in Boston were doing their jobs, you would have heard about this long before now.

I apologize for being a little late on the uptake, but I’ve tried to do some penance by compiling (in so far as far as I know) the only single listing in any medium of all of the great music you can hear through May 7. Look below, and make your plans accordingly.

Whom do we have to thank for this bounty?

Shout-out one goes to Jazz Boston, a non-profit, mostly volunteer group, soldiering on in the tradition of community groups like the Jazz Coalition and the Boston Jazz Society, doing what it can to get out the word about the music year-round. Once a year, Jazz Boston puts great effort into marshalling various music forces in the area for an annual Jazz Week, and the 2017 edition has just begun, with a rich stew of offerings through April 30. ”Jazz Week” is not a Jazz Boston production, per se. It’s really an umbrella idea, encouraging venues that already program jazz to join with independent producers and solo artists to show what might be happening regularly if they all put their minds to it, but the results are what count.

Yoko Mlwa and Sheila Jordan at Thelonious Monkfish. Photo: Janice Tasi

Pianist Yoko Miwa and vocalist Sheila Jordan at Thelonious Monkfish. Photo: Janice Tasi.

Shout-out two to our own Little Downtown, Inman Square in Cambridge, where two tiny venues defy the trends and present a huge amount of experimental and avant-garde music with almost no advertising and precious little media support. It began with Gil Aharon and his colleagues at The Lilypad, a bare-bones gallery / performance space that just keeps finding and presenting players who stretch your perceptions, where the offerings always include a very significant proportion of jazz. (You’ve got to love any place that gives regular hearings to Boston’s kings of new music, The Fringe, who hold forth there on many Mondays.) And now we have Outpost 186, just a stone’s throw from the Lilypad, managed by Rob Chalfen. Chalfen has enlisted a crew of musician-programmers (Dave Bryant, Jacob Williams, Charlie Kohlhase, et al.) to assist him in selecting the artists. For Jazz Week, they’re really showing their stripes, bringing in a living legend of the saxophone, the uncompromising Joe McPhee, and pairing him up with master percussionist Ra-Kalam Bob Moses on Sunday April 23 – and that’s just the evening show. In the afternoon of the same day, pianist Harvey Diamond, who is almost as revered among Boston musicians as the Dalai Lama is in Tibet, will have a rare club gig, with saxophonist Richard Tabnik. Even in the old days, the Boston area never had two venues almost exclusively devoted to the avant-garde.

Shout-out last (but certainly not least) to Jamme Chantler of Thelonious Monkfish. He has done something truly noble in steering his successful restaurant into the dangerous waters of music production, and deciding to program jazz, of all things. This is a guy who loves the music as only a true fan can. If the name of the restaurant doesn’t tell you everything you need to know, he calls the attached music venue “The Jazz Baroness Room,” which is a reference to the late Pannonica de Koenigswarter – look her up to see how hip that is. With good advice from his colleagues in the local music community, he is providing consistent programming of high-quality jazz, and this year’s “jazz festival” at Monkfish is a demonstration of just how good that programming is. I’ve heard and enjoyed five of the local artists who will be playing over the ten nights of the festival (Yoko Miwa, Tim Ray, Dominique Eade, Paul Broadnax and Eula Lawrence), which gives me confidence in recommending the whole shebang. But the festival’s headliners take it up another notch – the three-saxophone powerhouse of George Garzone, Jerry Bergonzi, and Frank Tiberi (billing themselves as the Italian Tenors) hold forth on April 29, and on May 5 the master vocalist Sheila Jordan returns to Monkfish, where she was triumphant back in December.

So, there are no excuses. Get out there and see some live jazz in the next two weeks, and know what it’s like to be part of a great scene.

Alas, on May 7, Beantown goes back to being a pumpkin. Aside from the Lilypad and the promise offered by Outpost 186, what other presenters in the immediate vicinity can we count on this summer and fall? Running the gamut from small to large, we have:

Wally’s Café in the South End keeps the faith. Nightly jam sessions there are something close to a sacred tradition in Beantown, although you never know who will appear and who will play.

At one time, The Beehive in the South End had aspirations to include a significant proportion of jazz, but you’d be hard pressed now to find more than a handful of jazz gigs there in any given year.

Clubowner Jack Reilly died in June 2016, but his venue Ryles in Inman Square is holding on to jazz brunches on Sundays, and the room offers fairly consistent jazz programming on Friday and Saturday nights. The rest of the schedule is Latin music, dance, and other non-jazz fare.

The Celebrity Series, bless it, has stepped up in the past five years to bring some very important players to town. The SF Jazz Collective, Abdullah Ibrahim, Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra, Chucho Valdés, and Vijay Iyer have all given memorable performances under the Celebrity Series’ auspices, and the future looks just as good. Jazz offerings for this season are rounded out with Dave Holland’s band AZIZA on May 6. The 2017-2018 season features two shows already on my must-see list – Hudson, a supergroup composed of Jack DeJohnette, John Scofield, John Medeski, and Larry Grenadier, at Berklee on October 8, and a double bill of Anat Cohen’s Tentet & Ben Wendel’s Seasons at Sanders on March 10 next year. And how could I miss Christian McBride, Joshua Redman, Eddie Palmieri, or the piano duo concert by Chucho Valdés and Gonzalo Rubalcaba?

On the other hand, it seems that the Regattabar at the Charles Hotel has come close to adopting the philosophy that keeping the doors closed is preferable to programming jazz. Their schedule now looks like that of a club on life support. Of the 61 nights available for music at the Regatta in April and May, I count five devoted to top-name artists – Marcus Strickland (who played the club on April 1), Ron Carter (the only two-nighter, on April 28 and 29), Billy Childs on May 5, and Stanley Jordan on May 12. Five nights have B-list jazz people (no dis, just facts) – bassist Linda May Han Oh gigged on April 5, singer Patrice Williamson’s tribute to Ella Fitzgerald is coming up on April 25, and then it’s pianist Kevin Harris with Terri Lyne Carrington on April 26, the Jason Anick – Jason Yeager duo on May 17, and pianist Yoko Miwa on May 19. Finally, there are four nights given to non-jazz artists – Guy Davis (blues), singer-songwriter Nellie McKay, rock guitarist Martin Barre, Julian Zerounian (cabaret / world music). The percentages are pathetic: The club is dark or given over to private events 77% of the available time. Only 16.4% of the nights are devoted to the music for which this club is ostensibly known.

Two indominables: Publicist Sue Aucoin and programmer Fred Taylor. Photo:

Two indominables: Publicist Sue Auclair and veteran programmer Fred Taylor. Photo: Eric Antoniou.

The other major venue, Scullers, at the DoubleTree Suites by Hilton, has kept a pretty full schedule of interesting music, despite management’s decision to cease a programming relationship with the indomitable Freddie Taylor. Their bookings for the foreseeable future are encouraging, including Jeremy Pelt, Cecile McLorin Salvant, Bill Frisell, Ravi Coltrane, Roy Haynes, David Sanborn and Noah Preminger, and even the Black Art Jazz Collective.

As for Mr. Taylor, the man who gave us the Jazz Workshop and Paul’s Mall, he ain’t down yet, thanks to Casey Soward and Sue Auclair. They’ve given Fred the chance to book a “Jazz and Heritage“ series at Soward’s Cabot Theater in Beverly. The theater has already been revitalized with a host of music events, and the only thing missing from the menu has been jazz. But not anymore. This summer’s offerings at the Cabot will include shows by Grace Kelly, Joey DeFrancesco, Arturo Sandoval and John Pizzarelli, and we can hope for more as the year goes on.

So there are some bright spots ahead. But consider: the current announced bookings at the area’s jazz clubs and venues from May 7 to June of 2018 presents fewer interesting offerings than are being presented in the current two weeks. Sure, there will be more dates added to the club schedules, but isn’t it a bit shocking that more isn’t in the pipeline?

I don’t have my head in the clouds. I know that a venue has to make money, and jazz is one of the least profitable arts you can program – so the Regatta’s approach is understandable. But what we really need is someone who is not so tied to a budget – namely, someone with the resources and the vision to step up in Boston in the way that SF Jazz has stepped up in the City by the Bay. It would have to be someone who knows that the music deserves non-profit devotion and the establishment of an institution on the order of the BSO or the MFA.

Head out of the clouds again, I doubt that anyone ever will do this unless a local entrepreneur with jazz sympathies makes a billion-dollar killing in the biotech market. Which is why any attempt to broaden the scene and give jazz musicians opportunities to work deserves praise, and, more importantly, patronage from people who care. This means you.


More:

Highlights of Jazz Week (April 21 – 30) and the Thelonious Monkfish Jazz Festival (April 27 – May 7), plus some other tasty performances in the same time period (I have italicized the names of artists who deserve particular attention):

Artist(s) — Venue — Date — Time

Yoko Miwa Trio – Thelonious  Monkfish– Fri 4/21/17  – 8 PM
(a Jazz Week event)

Jeremy Pelt — Scullers — Fri 4/21/17 — 8 / 10 PM
(a Jazz Week event)

Full Metal Revolutionary Jazz Ensemble — Lilypad — Sat 4/22/17 — 7 PM
(a Jazz Week event)

Melissa Kassel/ Tom Zicarelli Group  –Third Life, Somerville  – Sat 4/22/17 — 730 PM
(a Jazz Week event)

Hunt Quartet (Yuka Hamano Hunt, Joe Hunt, Mark Pinto, Bronek Suchan) — Lilypad — Sat 4/22/17 — 830 PM
(a Jazz Week event)

JCA Orchestra & Strings Theory Trio – The Space, Jamaica Plain — Sat 4/22/17 — 8 PM

Cecile McLorin Salvant & Sullivan Fortner —  Scullers — Sat 4/22/17  – 8 / 10 PM
(a Jazz Week event)

Kurtis Rivers Quartet — Piano Craft Gallery — Sun 4/23/17 — 4 PM
(a Jazz Week event)

Harvey Diamond Quartet w. Richard Tabnik, Jon Dreyer, Dave Hurst — Outpost 186 — Sun 4/23/17 3 PM
(a Jazz Week event)

MIT Vocal Jazz Ensemble (Luciana Souza repertoire) — Killian Hall, MIT — Sun 4/23/17 — 3 PM
(a Jazz Week event)

Joe McPhee, Ra-Kalam Bob Moses w. Jeb Bishop, Damon Smith — Outpost 186 –Sun 4/23/17 8 PM
(a Jazz Week event)

FieldTRIP: Phil Grenadier & Gary Feldman — Lilypad — Mon 4/24/17 — 7:15 PM

Jerry Bergonzi, Phil Grenadier & Luther Gray — Lilypad — Mon 4/24/17 –8:30 PM

The Fringe (George Garzone, John Lockwood, Bob Gullotti) — Lilypad — Mon 4/24/17 10:30 PM

NEC Jazz Composers’ Workshop Orchestra — Jordan Hall — Tue 4/25/17 — 7:30 PM
(a Jazz Week event)

Kenny Werner & Ra-Kalam Bob Moses — Lilypad — Tue 4/25/17 — 7:30 PM

Patrice Williamson (Ella Fitzgerald repertoire) — Regattabar — Tue 4/25/17 — 7:30 PM
(a Jazz Week event)

Kevin Harris Project w. Terri Lyne Carrington — Regattabar — Wed 4/26/17 — 7:30 PM
(a Jazz Week event)

Charlie Kohlhase’s Explorers Club — Lilypad — Wed 4/26/17 — 7:30 PM

World Leaders (Bob Sinicrope, Bill Vint, Michael Sabin,Russ Hoffman, John Baboian, Adam Nazro) — Ryles — Wed  4/26/17 — 9 PM
(a Jazz Week event)

Tim Ray Trio — Thelonious Monkfish — Thu 4/27/17 — 7 PM
(a Monkfish Festival event)

Brad Shepik & 6 Guitarists from NEC — Lilypad — Thu 4/27/17 — 7:30 PM

Ron Carter — Regattabar — Fri 4/28/17 — 730 / 10 PM
(a Jazz Week event)

Branford Marsalis & Kurt Elling w. Joey Calderazzo, etc. — Cary Hall, Lexington — Fri 4/28/17 — 8 PM
(a Jazz Week event)

Yoko Miwa Trio — Thelonious Monfish — Fri 4/28/17 — 8 PM
(a Monkfish Festival event)

Jared Sims — Third Life, Somerville — Fri 4/28/17 — 8 PM
(a Jazz Week event)

Ron Carter — Regattabar — Sat 4/29/17 — 730 / 10 PM
(a Jazz Week event)

Italian Tenors (George Garzone, Jerry Bergonzi, Frank Tiberi) — Thelonious Monkfish — Sat 4/29/17 — 8 PM
(a Monkfish Festival event)

Pittson Family Band — Lilypad — Sat 4/29/17 — 7:30 PM
(a Jazz Week event)

Bill Frisell, Tony Scherr & Kenny Wollesen — Scullers Sat 4/29/17 — 8 / 10 PM
(a Jazz Week event)

Mark Harvey & Aardvark Jazz Orch — Kresge Aud, MIT — Sat 4/29/17 — 8 PM
(a Jazz Week event)

Daniela Schächter Trio — Thelonious Monkfish — Sat 4/29/17 — 6 PM
(a Monkfish Festival event)

Rufus Reid, Tim Ray, & Steve Langone — Arlington Town Hall — Sun 4/30/17 — 7 PM
(a Jazz Week event)

UJazz Boston Trio (Tony Martin, Domenic Davis, Brian Hull) — Recital Hall, UMass Boston — Sun 4/30/17 — 7 PM
(a Jazz Week event)

Dominique Eade, Tim Ray, & John Lockwood — Thelonious Monkfish — Mon 5/1/17 — 7 PM
(a Monkfish Festival event)

Jerry Bergonzi, Phil Grenadier & Luther Gray — Lilypad — Mon 5/1/17 — 8:30 PM

The Fringe (George Garzone, John Lockwood, Bob Gullotti) — Lilypad — Mon 5/1/17 — 10:30 PM

Christian Li Trio –Thelonious Monkfish — Tue 5/2/17 — 7 PM
(a Monkfish Festival event)

Vadim Neselovskyi Trio — Regattabar — Tue 5/2/17 — 730 PM

Paul Broadnax, Peter Kontirmas, & Les Harris, Jr. — Thelonious Monkfish — Wed 5/3/17 — 7 PM
(a Monkfish Festival event)

Christian Sands — Scullers — Thu 5/4/17 — 8 PM

Patrice Williamson, Mark Shilansky & Keala Kaumeheiwa — Thelonious Monkfish — Thu 5/4/17 — 7 PM
(a Monkfish Festival event)

Billy Childs — Regattabar  – Fri 5/5/17 —  730 / 10 PM

Sheila Jordan, Yoko Miwa, Brad Barrett & Scott Goulding — Thelonious Monkfish — Sat 5/5/17 — 8 PM
(a Monkfish Festival event)

AZIZA (Dave Holland, Chris Potter, Lionel Loueke, Eric Harland) — Sanders — Sat 5/6/17 — 8 PM — Celebrity Series

Ravi Coltrane — Scullers — Sat 5/6/17 — 8 / 10 PM

Eula Lawrence, Tim Ray, John Pierce & Les Harris, Jr. — Thelonious Monkfish — Sat 5/6/17 — 8 PM
(a Monkfish Festival event)

Cercie Miller, Dominique Eade, Lisa Thorson, Allan Chase, Tim Ray, John Lockwood, George Schuller – Finale of the Highland Jazz Festival at Newton South High School – Sun 5/7/17 – 2 PM

Mike Turk, Sonny Barbato & Bruce Gertz — Thelonious Monkfish — Sun 5/7/17 — 6 PM
(a Monkfish Festival event)

Domin

Vocalist Dominique Eade. Photo: William Rivelli.

What Comes After: the Year Ahead (so far) in Boston Jazz:
A Convenient Combined Concert Chronology (the Fuse does it all for you!)

Artist(s) Venue Date Time Presenter

The Alchemists (Matt Langley, Dennis Livingston, Randy Roos, Jerry Leake) — Lilypad — Tue 5/9/17 — 8 PM

Eric Alexander — Scullers — Fri 5/12/17 — 8 PM

Stanley Jordan (solo) Regattabar — Fri 5/12/17 — 7:30 PM

Roy Haynes Fountain of Youth Band — Scullers –Sat 5/13/17 — 8 / 10 PM

David Sanborn with Noah Preminger — Scullers — Thu 5/18/17 — 8 / 10 PM

David Sanborn — Scullers — Fri 5/19/17 — 8 / 10 PM

David Sanborn — Scullers — Sat 5/20/17 — 8 / 10 PM

Jimmy Greene — Scullers — Thu 5/25/17 — 8 / 10 PM

Nicholas Payton “Afro-Caribbean Mixtape” — Scullers — Fri 5/26/17 — 8 / 10 PM

Sean Jones — Scullers — Sat 5/27/17 — 8 / 10 PM

Spyro Gyra — Scullers — Fri 6/2/17 — 8 / 10 PM

Grace Kelly Band & Joey DeFrancesco Quartet — Cabot Th. — Sat 6/3/17 — 8 PM — Fred Taylor

Spyro Gyra — Scullers — Sat 6/3/17 — 8 / 10 PM

Composers’ Collective (Allan Chase, Dan Rosenthal, Randy Pingrey, Jason Robinson, etc. ) — Lilypad — Tue 5/9/17 — 8 PM

Benny Green —  Scullers  – Thu 6/15/17  – 8 PM

Hiromi [Uehara] & Edmar Castaneda — Scullers — Fri 6/16/17 — 8 / 10 PM

Hiromi [Uehara] & Edmar Castaneda — Scullers — Sat 6/17/17 — 8 / 10 PM

Tierney Sutton Band (Sting repertoire) — Regattabar — Thu 6/22/17 — 730 / 10 PM

Black Art Jazz Collective — Scullers — Thu — 6/29/17 — 8 PM

Bill Charlap Trio — Regattabar — Thu 6/29/17 — 730 / 10 PM

Dorado Schmitt & Django Festival All-Stars — Scullers — Fri 6/30/17 — 8 / 10 PM

Arturo Sandoval — Cabot Th. — Sun 7/9/17 — 7 PM — Fred Taylor

Alex Snydman Trio — Regattabar — Thu 7/20/17 — 7:30 PM

Hudson (Jack DeJohnette,John Scofield, John Medeski, Larry Grenadier) –Berklee PC — Sun 10/8/17 — 7 PM — Celebrity Series

Christian McBride (w. Marcus Strickland, etc.) — Sanders — Sun 10/29/17 — 7 PM –Celebrity Series

Eddie Palmieri Orchestra — Berklee PC –Sat 11/4/17 — 8 PM –Celebrity Series

John Pizzarelli Quartet w. Jessica Molaskey — Cabot Th. — Fri 12/1/17 — 8 PM — Fred Taylor

Chucho Valdés & Gonzalo Rubalcaba (piano duo) — Jordan Hall — Fri 2/16/18 — 8 PM — Celebrity Series

Anat Cohen Tentet &amp Ben Wendel’s Seasons — Sanders — Sat 3/10/18 — 8 PM — Celebrity Series

Joshua Redman &amp Brooklyn Rider — Berklee PC — Sat 5/19/18 — 7 PM — Celebrity Series
Brooklyn Rider

Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra Symphony with Wynton Marsalis — Sun 6/10/18 6 PM –Celebrity Series

Links to the calendar pages on venue websites, and addresses of venues where appropriate:

Celebrity Series

Jazz Boston’s Jazz Week

Fred Taylor’s Jazz & Heritage Series at the Cabot – Cabot Theater, 286 Cabot Street, Beverly:

The Beehive, 541 Tremont Street, South End, Boston: http://www.beehiveboston.com/calendar/

The Lilypad, 1353 Cambridge Street, Inman Square, Cambridge

Outpost 186, 186½ Hampshire Street, Inman Square, Cambirdge

Thelonious Monkfish (music events are in the Jazz Baroness Room) – 524 Massachusetts Avenue, Central Square, Cambridge

Scullers at the DoubleTree Suites by Hilton Hotel, overlooking Storrow Drive in Allston

The Regattabar at the Charles Hotel, Harvard Square, Cambridge

Ryles, 212 Hampshire Street, Inman Square, Cambridge

Wally’s – 427 Massachusetts Avenue Boston http://www.wallyscafe.com/music-schedule.html


Steve Elman’s four decades (and counting) in New England public radio have included ten years as a jazz host in the 1970s, five years as a classical host in the 1980s, a short stint as senior producer of an arts magazine, thirteen years as assistant general manager of WBUR, and currently, on-call status as fill-in classical host on 99.5 WCRB since 2011. He was jazz and popular music editor of The Schwann Record and Tape Guides from 1973 to 1978 and wrote free-lance music and travel pieces for The Boston Globe and The Boston Phoenix from 1988 through 1991.

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  13 Responses to “Commentary and Preview: The Shrinking Scene v. Jazz Week and the Thelonious Monkfish Jazz Festival”

Comments (13)
  1. You are so right. Jazz Boston is to be commended for their leadership and determination. WGBH is back in the game with its Jazz 24/7 Internet music stream as well as the return of live shows in their Fraser Performance studio (John Stein played last Fri. 4/14 and Lauren Henderson performs May 12th). We hear you and are doing what we can to “broaden the scene.”

  2. I kind of hear you in your article.

    I have been programing the Beehive and Beat (Harvard Sq) for the last 9 years. I might add that I do program jazz 18 gigs a week. I regularly have George Garzone, Jerry Bergonzie, Frank Tibieri, Rak Alam Bob Moses, plus younger great players like Noah Preminger, Jason Palmer, Tim Miller … aspiring and exciting players like the young flamenco pianist Olivia Perez Collellmir, and on and on.

    I work in a commercial “multi-use” environment where owners who have invested millions need me to find a way to pay the bills while I work hard to respect music and the expansive musicians we all know. I would be happy to give my experience as someone who has been on the front lines of this issue, especially in the “jazz scene is shrinking” narrative. Feels a bit self indulgent maybe? (another discussion).

    I might sum up with something I happened to read yesterday morning that seems appropriate. In a letter from Pliny (the younger) to Senecio. He is bemoaning the fact that there are so many great poets reading daily and “audiences are slow to form” as well as the note that: “Most sit about in public places gossiping and wasting time when they could be giving their attention.” According to Pliny “it isn’t as it was in our fathers’ time.”

    • Bruce, thanks for your note. I try to have a little more perspective than Pliny did, as I set out at the top of the piece. And I admire anyone who programs jazz at all – so kudos to you for putting Liz Tobias on stage at the Beat twice this week – on the 25th and 29th . I don’t mean to demean your work – you’re out there in the real world, and I do understand. But I view the scene (as I’ve said earlier) through jazz-colored glasses, and I have to lobby for the music I love. So I have to ask – why didn’t The Beehive and The Beat step up a little more for Jazz Week? That’s now, not yesterday.

      • I am all for Pliny as well — and have a soft spot all the others throughout the history of the arts who have lamented that things used to be better in a supposed ‘Golden Age.’ Nostalgia is inevitable, but I think you can argue that some eras in the arts in retrospect look much healthier and more vital than others. In terms of theater history, there are peak creative times — the Greeks, Shakespeare, Jonson, and company, the period of Ibsen, Shaw, and Chekhov — and there are fog-bound valleys. (Only those with services or products to sell (MFA programs, commercial conglomerates, etc) propagandize that the arts are always great — it is the perpetual renaissance syndrome.) But the peak times would not have occurred without an active audience, plenty of artistic activity, and a bedrock sense that theater played a substantial role in how society reflects on itself. Great jazz may be out there — but it must be brought to the public’s attention, its value asserted and supported by those who purport to love it … programmers, artists, media, critics, etc.

        • “Great jazz may be out there — but it must be brought to the public’s attention, its value asserted and supported by those who purport to love it … programmers, artists, media, critics, etc.” — a huge thanks to the Arts Fuse for so reliably doing so.

  3. hey Steve ~ thanx for the very cool shout out for Outpost, we can use all the shouting we can get!
    FYI this September will represent our 10th year of programming at the venue, as well as 4 years before that as Zeitgeist Gallery with Al Nidle before Gill took it over in ’06, and 9 years before that at the original Zeitgeist at 312 Broadway. In general the indie gallery scene has been part of the mix in presenting jazz & improvised music around these parts for some time.
    Promotion as you note has always been a challenge.
    Onward & Upward with the Arts!

  4. Great to see so much attention being paid to the Boston scene, though, like Ken Field, I find the gloomy assessment of the state of things undercut by the story’s own content and at odds with the outside-the-clubs activity that, to my admittedly biased eye, is only picking up steam. Steven, if you see this, please be my guest at an upcoming Mandorla Music Series show

  5. Steve Elman is a keen observer and a knowledgeable writer. But I have to say that it seems a bit odd to me to be so pessimistic about the state of jazz venues in the Boston area while simultaneously listing an extensive and impressive set of jazz performances during (and following) JazzBoston‘s JazzWeek, the important point being that, as Steve alludes to in his piece, JazzWeek is not primarily a production, but rather a spotlight on what is already going on in the Boston jazz scene on a very regular basis. Also worth noting: I have been curating the small “Boiler House Jazz Series” at the acoustically-wonderful Charles River Museum of Industry & Innovation in Waltham, and we will be entering our second year in the fall. Also new: a Thursday night jazz series at Lydia Shire‘s great restaurant Scampo in the Liberty Hotel Boston.

  6. I want to remind folks that we also have a commitment to jazz out here in Framingham. Weekly jazz jam in its 12th continuous year and a regular program of featured jazz shows that are in a focused hall, not a bar. Come visit sometime! Amazing Things Arts Center in downtown Framingham.

  7. Since we’re getting all philosophical – It was the best of times, it was the worst of times. Ken makes a good point. We’ve got to spotlight what’s going on and embrace the love of jazz where we find it.

    • I am all for philosophy, but I am not going to let the comment from the WGBH rep that we have “got to spotlight what’s going on and embrace the love of jazz where we find it” pass without a firm kick in the pants. From the 2012 downsizing of broadcasting jazz to the quiet death of the Summer Arts Weekend in 2016, the station’s attitude toward arts coverage has been a complete disgrace, given the resources it has to devote to the local arts. It currently pays cheap lip service to jazz with a 24/7 jazz streaming service and repackaging Eric Jackson’s interviews. That is about it, no doubt enough to pull in some donor dollars. There’s little on the website in terms of substantial journalistic attention to jazz.

      And when on WGBH do you hear anything about jazz, particularly local musicians? It is a very, very rare occurrence. I have never heard balloon-head yak-meisters Jim and Margery ever talk about jazz. They are busy yammering about ‘hot’ topics that are already being pretty well chattered to death on Cable TV news, and the arts don’t exist there, only entertainment news. Does WGBH show much love for jazz? Their current ‘spotlight’ is the size of a pint-sized flashlight. There were better times for jazz on WGBH — we are scraping along on the bottom now. Let’s not pretend otherwise.

      • “Balloon-head yak-meisters?” Hey, Bill, I’m a fan of Jim and Margery, great fun to hear their badgering and teasing as I’m driving about Boston. And they are great with guests. I like them!

        • Hi Gerry, Becky, my wife, likes Jim and Margery as well. They are harmless enough, usually repeating the same safe and predictable memes you hear on TV Cable News. They are mainstream to the core: deferential to the powers-that-be, never in the least iconoclastic. My point is that the resources and time handed over to these talkers could be devoted to real news gathering and serious arts coverage, not just yakking. But that would be expensive and the arts simply aren’t worth the trouble. As I point out, they rarely chat about the local arts, which is the point of my comment. So I am not impressed. Others aren’t as well. One test: ask a news reporter at WGBH about these pundits. He or she will roll their eyes …

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