Self help

JazzBoston boosts the scene with Jazz Week
By JON GARELICK  |  April 18, 2007

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KEYNOTE: Transplanted New Orleans singer Henri Smith joins Nat Simpkins for the Jazz Week show at Berklee.

In jazz, it’s always the iron age. As long as I’ve been listening to jazz in Boston — since the mid ’70s — the complaints have been the same: not enough places to play, or hear, jazz. Yet the tendency is always to see the not-to-distant past as a great flowering. Even if you missed the pre-Beatles Hi-Hat and Storyville of the ’50s, there was the Jazz Workshop and Paul’s Mall in the ’60s and ’70s. At various times you could catch the first set of Bill Evans at Lulu White’s in the South End and the second set of Anthony Braxton or Air at Jonathan Swift’s in Harvard Square, the Fringe or Jaki Byard at Michael’s Pub, Sonny Rollins at the Paradise (!), Steve Lacy playing duets with Roscoe Mitchell at the 1369, David Murray at Charlie’s Tap; or you could trek out to Sandy’s in Beverly to see Dizzy Gillespie or Phil Woods. The tricks of memory would have you believe that all these venues were operating simultaneously.

So how is it these days for the Boston jazz musician? Saxophonist and bandleader Charlie Kohlhase recalls setting up a gig with his friend Allan Chase recently and Chase saying, “Well, we won’t lose too much money.” Kohlhase’s response: “Twenty years ago we would have said, ‘We won’t make too much money.’ Now we’re happy not to lose too much money.”

But he adds, “It’s a great time as far as the quality of the musicians and the bands.” And there’s still a wealth of jazz to be heard in Boston, by home-grown players as well as imports, at the Regattabar, Scullers, Ryles, the Lily Pad, Bob’s Southern Bistro, the indefatigable Wally’s, and on and on.

Boston’s jazz past and jazz present will meet this coming week, April 21-29, as the non-profit coalition of musicians, journalists, presenters, and fans known as JazzBoston kicks off Jazz Week, an umbrella rubric for almost 150 events at more than 50 venues. There will be panel discussions on Boston jazz history, “Family Initiative” concerts for kids, and scores of live performances. The keynote event is a concert headlined by E Street Band drummer and Conan O’Brien bandleader Max Weinberg at Berklee Saturday night (April 21) titled “An All-Star Jazz Blowout: Benefit for New Orleans Habitat for Humanity Musicians’ Village,” with Weinberg performing in Berklee prof Phil Wilson’s Rainbow Band of students and faculty from Berklee and other area colleges. Also on the bill are New Orleans vocalist Henri Smith with local saxophonist Nat Simpkins, and a reunion of the ’80s Boston band Your Neighborhood Saxophone Quartet. (See sidebar for other Jazz Week highlights.)

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Here’s a handful of highlights from Jazz Week. For complete listings, go to www.jazzboston.org.

BENEFIT FOR NEW ORLEANS HABITAT FOR HUMANITY MUSICIANS’ VILLAGE | Berklee Performance Center, 136 Mass Ave, Boston | April 21 at 8 pm | Max Weinberg, Phil Wilson and the Rainbow Band, Henri Smith & Nat Simpkins, Your Neighborhood Saxophone Quartet.

THE MAKANDA PROJECT | Newton South High School, 140 Brandeis Road, Newton Center | April 21 at 8 pm | A tribute to one of Boston’s greats, Makanda Ken McIntyre, with John Kordalewski, Salim Washington, Charlie Kohlhase, Kurtis Rivers, Sean Berry, Josiah Woodson, Robert Stringer, John Lockwood, and Yoron Israel.

TRIBUTE TO JIMMY GIUFFRE | Rutman’s Violins, 11 Westland Ave, Boston | April 24 at 7:30 pm | Saxophonist Allan Chase, guitarist John Damian, and bassist Bob Nieske play the music of the pathbreaking saxophonist/composer and long-time New England Conservatory professor.

CREATIVE NATION CONCERT SERIES | Lily Pad, 1353 Cambridge St, Cambridge | April 25 at 7 pm | The first of three nights organized by the exciting guitarist Eric Hofbauer and his Creative Nation label finds him playing solo guitar; that’s followed by a set with his trio, Industrious Noise.

“PERSPECTIVES ON JAZZ: JAZZ WEEK, THEN & NOW” | Boston Public Library, Copley Place, Boston | April 27 at noon | With Arni Cheatham, Ron Gill, Mark Harvey, Marianne Solivan, and Bob Young.

ARTICLES BY JON GARELICK
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