The Outpost Influences of Julee and Junko.


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I haven't engaged in a thorough binge of pandering to women in a while so I'm way overdue. I've also been neglecting frumpy little Boston lately. The good old Outpost is a wealth of material so let me make what I may of this convergence as I embark on yet another lazy post by exploiting meaningful coincidences.

While the participation of women as musicians in free jazz is about as expansive as its ever been, their role on the advocacy, social innovation side of the thing is less well noted. I've long been interested in whether or not there are distinct characteristics in feminine leadership and over the years I have noticed they tend to be more alert to group dynamics, less prone to chest puffing, favor some degree of inclusiveness and often think things through in interesting ways.

Patricia Nicholson Parker probably has few, if any, counterparts as an event architect for 'free jazz' anywhere and this makes it fun to spend this time of year highlighting the facets of her craft. Lyn Horton has her own distinctness in her craft as a writer. I try to keep an eye out for others as their work should be better known.

Julee Avallone and Junko Simons are among greater Bostons most notable contributers to the potential for a thriving Boston in subtle and understated ways. Ms Avallone is working on reinvention of Jam Session conventions and lord knows they need it and Ms Simons reaches out to everyone in the various pockets of Boston music scene-dom and damned if she doesn't bring them all closer together after years of odd quirky factionalism. In some subtle way it's like she's helping the community age gracefully, no small feat.

And she does tend to bring out the moment meeting's best so everyone wins.

The tell of their inclusiveness is they both converge on good old Zinman, who, until the past year or so, rarely got invited to anything by anyone outside his own circle of friends. Like I said, the place is aging gracefully.

At some time last year, Ms Avallone met with Outpost impresario, Lord Chalfen, about the possibility of doing regular jam sessions on an off night, usually Monday or Tuesday. She was thinking about some combination of a jam session and a master class option and began inviting people from among the musical grown ups to consider holding a master class and Mr. Zinman was among the invited.

Now that I've had time for a reasonably thorough conversation with her, I get a sense that her idea of a master class is really a passing of musical lore and she reported her own teacher and friend, Allan Chase, led the way in the kind of thinking she was looking for.

You see the jam session convention as is normally practiced here in dens like Wally's is a combination chest puffing, cutthroat competition and a humiliation ritual or two for those who run afoul of the changes and the demanding proficiency standards for what is basically an eternal rehash of 'historic jazz'.

It's as fussy and as ossified as a piano competition for a Chopin prize or something. Mr Lavelle has a classic piece on jam session conventions. That's the guy version. And Master classes can have the same maladies, to a lesser degree maybe but still touched with a bit of proficiency angst.

Julee, with an assist from Mr. Chase, upends the whole thing as it is 'free jazz' after all. She figures if you put the effort into getting into one of the many music programs around here or even just invested the money and effort it takes to basically figure out some expensive machined brass contraption or hunk of shaped wood that'll work, like the bygone practice of carpenters using their hand made tool boxes as their resume.

She has no interest in humiliation rituals and cutthroat dueling would just be goofy like some overhot mutt hump of a leg. She just wants to make a welcoming place where students in the various schools can mingle, hang out and make some joyful noise. What's not to like?

As Ms Avallone makes a sense of welcome for a potential future, Ms. Simons is a mentor for it as teacher at several levels from elementary education to college. She worked her way through the rough and tumble world of classical repertoire performance and teaching to land in Boston.

She daily sallies forth with her trusty 'cello from her holdfast with Thomas in the misted mouth lands of the Merrimac River. The town is mainly noted for being the birthplace of Archie Comics. My friend Doberman's uncle was, evidently, the archetype for 'Jughead'.

Her travels take her like some itinerant musical mendicant to public schools, a private school and a college in addition to all manner of charming and mysterious chamber music gigs in metro Boston suburb towns. She did a gig with my home town Reading Symphony Orchestra, (ca 1927). And then, after all this work, to relax, refresh and recharge, she's at the gallery making some of the most engaging and robust ensemble collaborations one is likely to find around here.

It seems to bring out the best in everyone and she conjures a growing unity where none was before. In the best forms of leadership it seems as if the people did it themselves and that is what we have. This convergence is simply an outcome of an outlook of inclusion accompanied by kaleidoscopic wellsprings of invention she has to fit each and every collaboration.

I've learned to not bug her and by extension all the other musicians when they show up as I finally got a sense of the state of psychic compression they tend to be in at the onset of a performance situation. See, even I learned something, better manners.

And she is among a number of teachers in the region like Carolyn Castellano at Brookline High, Jacob William at Bridgewater and Andy McWain in Southern Mass U who bring imagination and insight to aspirants at several entry levels.

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This story appears courtesy of Brilliant Corners, a Boston Jazz Blog.
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