Boston had a heavy home-grown jazz scene in the 1940s and '50s. Top music schools were thee, a steady college demographic ensured a sophisticated club audience, and Boston was a major stop on the East Coast club touring circuit. Jazz musicians who benefited from the rich jazz activity were Serge Chaloff, Dick Wetmore, Charlie Mariano, Jaki Byard, Jimmy Woode, Varty Haroutunian, Boots Mussulli, Herb Pomeroy and others.
Among the many jazz clubs in Boston back then was the Stable, in the city's Back Bay section. In 1954, the club instituted a small-group policy that allowed local trios, quartets and quintets to be featured nightly. Boston's trend to indy groups started a year earlier in an educational collective known as the Jazz Workshop.
Instead of stuffy music-school instruction, the Jazz Workshop enabled younger musicians to join and learn through doing by jamming with more seasoned players. The hot-house idea was Charlie Mariano's. Space was rented out on Stuart Street near Copley Square, and a number of groups formed as a result of the Workshop gatherings.
One of these groups was the Jazz Workshop Quintet, featuring pianist Dick Twardzik and saxophonist Jay Migliori, who was studying at Boston's Berklee School of Music. The rest of the group was Johnny Rae (vib), Jack Carter (b) and Bob Atcheson (d). In May 1954, the group performed on Harvard radio station WHRB. Fortunately tape was running. The result is the newly released A Harvard WHRB Session: Jazz Workshop Quintet (Fresh Sound).
This album shines for several reasons: We get to hear Twardzik in his prime, out in the open, not as a sideman. We also have a chance to hear Migliori's tenor bounce, which was sophisticated and smokey. And because the radio station treated the performance as a studio session, the quintet was able to record several versions of songs. This allowed Fresh Sound to include a few alternate takes. Particularly noteworthy is Terry Gibbs's Fatty.
Twardzik would wind up recording a searing album with Chaloff months later and touring with Chet Baker in Europe, where Twardzik died of a heroin overdose in 1955. Migliori would go on to form Supersax in the early 1970s.
JazzWax clip: Here's Fatty...
This story appears courtesy of JazzWax by Marc Myers.
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