Jazz Commentary: Remembrance of Jazz Venues Past

By Steve Provizer

The idea of posting this list now is to remind people of what has been lost and hope that it stirs us to preserve what we have left.

Izzy Ort’s Bar and Grill.

No one knows how lasting the ramifications of the coronaviris (COVID-19) will be. Physical suffering and mortality are going to increase. And it is certain that the need to decrease the spread of the disease through social isolation will lead to an enormous amount of financial suffering on the part of businesses large and small. No doubt nonprofit cultural organizations and venues will be hard-pressed to find the resources needed to survive the loss of revenue. Given their already tight margin, jazz venues will be especially hard hit.

With the help of others, including my good friend Dick Vacca (The Troy Street Observer), I’ve compiled a list of venues in Boston that had live jazz, at least for a while. The idea of posting this now is to remind people of what has been lost and hope that it stirs us to preserve what we have left.

1369 Club
Accurate Records Loft
Arbor House
Ark of the Covenant
Back Bay Hilton
Beantown Jazz Festival
Bella Luna
Betty’s Rolls Royce
Boston Arts Festival
Boston Conservatory at Berklee
Boston Globe Jazz Festival
Brothers in Brookline
CCP Studios
Charles St. Playhouse
Choppin Blok
Club 47
Club Zircon
Copley Plaza Bar
Darryl’s Corner Bar & Kitchen
Elbow Room
Ellis Room
Essex Hotel bar
Fairmount Grille
Friends of Great Black Music loft
Gallery East
Green Street Grill (Cambridge)
Green Street (JP)
Hasty Pudding
Hi Lo Lounge
Hotel Avery
Hyde Park Jazz Festival
Inn Square Men’s Bar
Izzy Ort’s
Jazz Workshop/Paul’s Mall
Johnny D’s
Jonathan Swift’s
Kresge Auditorium
Lennie’s on the Turnpike
Les Zygomates
Liberty Cafe, a basement in Central Sq
Lizard Lounge
Blue Parrot
Lulu White’s
Magnolia Loft
Merry Go Round at the Copley Plaza
Middle East Corner
Modern Theater
Most of the strip clubs had Hammond trios
Outpost 186
Oxford Ale House
Paine Hall
Paris 25
Parker House
Performance Center in the Garage
Playground Series at the loft on Harrison Ave
Plough and Stars
Pooh’s Pub
Ramsey/Toy VFW Post, Dorchester
Real Deal Jazz Club at the Cambridge Multicultural Center
Rise Club
Scotch and Sirloin
Starlite Roof
Stone Soup
Studio Red Top
Sunflower Cafe
the (old)Winery
Thelonius Monkfish
Third Life Studio
Top of the Hub
various churches and libraries,
Village Smokehouse in Brookline
Vouros Bakery
Western Front
Wurst Haus
Your Father’s Moustache
Zeitgeist Gallery

From Dick:

These are mainly Boston jazz venues, or suburban spots inside Route 495, in operation from 1972 onward — though there are a few from the ’60s. Individual schools and churches are not included. And there were rock rooms like the Channel and the Paradise that had jazz on occasion, but not often enough to make the list.

Downtown Crossing/State St/Quincy Mkt
Bay Tower Room
Cafe Fleuri, Meridien Hotel
Chez Freddie
City Hall Plaza
Concerts on the Common
Michael’s Waterfront
Sir Harry’s

Theatre District
1-2-3 Lounge
Bradford Hotel Grand Ballroom
Caribe Lounge
Four Corners
Stuart Manor
The Vagabond
Tic Toc
Varty’s Jazz Room

Park Square
Number 3 Lounge
Playboy Club
The Other Side

Back Bay
Darbury Room, became The Point After
Hatch Shell
Hotel Eliot Lounge
ICA Theatre
Lenox Hotel
My Apartment Lounge
Office Lounge
Turner Fisheries

Huntington Ave
Club Symphony
Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum
Museum of Fine Arts

Roxbury/South End
Desert Lounge
Handy’s Grill
Juice and Jazz
Piano Factory
Pioneer Club
Rainbow Lounge
Savoy on the Hill
The Station

Playhouse in the Park (Elma Lewis, Franklin Park)
Strand Theatre

Kenmore Square
Cafe Yana
East Boston
Airport Hilton
P.J.’s Lounge

Kismet Lounge

Atrium Lounge
Spinnaker Lounge (Hyatt)
Turtle Cafe

West of Boston
Acton Jazz Cafe
Bonfire, Westborough
Colonial Inn, Concord
Cottage Crest, Waltham
Decordova Museum, Lincoln
Ephriam’s, Sudbury
Finally Michael’s, Framingham
Matrix, Natick
Piety Corner Gardens, Waltham
Sticky Wicket, Hopkinton

North of Boston
Buddy’s, Revere
Cafe Beaujolais, Gloucester
Club Caravan, Revere
Ebb Tide, Revere Beach
Lakeside, Topsfield
Oceanside Jazz and Big Band Festival, Winthrop
Romie’s, Danvers
Stouffer’s Bedford Glen Hotel, Bedford
The Surf, Revere Beach
Wagon Wheels, West Peabody

South of Boston
Boston Jazz Society’s Jazz BBQ
Joseph’s, Braintree
Great Woods Performance Center
Water Music’s Jazz Boat

Steve Provizer writes on a range of subject, most often the arts. He is a musician and blogs about jazz here.

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  1. Alan L Reische on April 10, 2020 at 12:03 pm

    That’s quite a list. I was fortunate enough to have visited many of these venues in their prime.

    A couple of notes. Danny’s, on Haviland Street, was a very active venue. It seemed to be a fallback for guys from Pomeroy’s band when they didn’t have other bookings. Varty (Hartunian) was there frequently, as was Santisi and the Neves. I subsisted on lousy pizza, cheap drafts (dimeys!) and music for the better part of a year.

    The Lai Lai was a strange dump – there never seemed to be food service going during regular hours, which was probably a good thing, but the music could be outstanding. That’s where I first got a jones for Tiernyey Sutton. when she was at Berklee.

    Izzy Ort’s and jazz? I must have missed it. I believe it was connected through a rear doorway to the Palace, which was the platonic ideal of a very down and dirty rock and roll joint. The Palace often had two bands playing, one in front and one at the rear of their place. Roosevelt – that was his name – manned a grill at the front that looked like the ideal locus for breeding cultures that NIH never dreamed of. At times, Izzys was I believe a gay bar. I don’t know, I just never thought of it as a music venue.

    In Roxbury/South End, you got the Pioneer but you could add ‘The South End Businessman’s Association’, another after hours club with I recall very odd entryways. I remember ascending a fire escape and entering through a rear window to hear Sam Woodyard’s group. Not recommended, then or now.

    Tinkers was a strange story. It was on a stretch of Tremont Street that hadn’t yet been urbanized. I was there to hear the Junior Cook-Bill Hardman unit. Parking was on a side lot next to a torn down building. A few weeks after our visit, the manager/owner was found dead in his office. Gunshot wounds. I don’t believe the crime was ever solved.

    Well, thanks for taking a moment to listen. The golden days of jazz really were golden, and Boston for a while occupied a good part of it.

    Stay safe.

    Alan Reische

    • Alan L Reische on April 11, 2020 at 4:56 pm

      I’m told Sabby Lewis played Izzy Ort’s but that was in the early or mid-1950s, before my time.

  2. Dick Vacca on April 10, 2020 at 2:02 pm

    The police did solve John Tinker’s 1982 murder — he was shot by a club employee.

  3. Steve Provizer on April 10, 2020 at 3:43 pm

    That’s good stuff, Alan-thanks. Here’s a link about Izzy Ort’s: https://www.troystreet.com/tspots/2013/10/02/october-2-never-a-dull-moment-at-izzy-orts/

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