This is a sad weekend for jazz in Boston. The Paul's Mall/Jazz Workshop complex is closing down. A center for live entertainment since 1963, the two small adjacent clubs can no longer afford to pay top jazz musicians to perform. But the clubs are not going to die quietly. This weekend, they will go down swinging, literally. B.B. King will play the Mall and Milt Jackson the Workshop, both musicians performing tonight through Sunday night.
B.B.'s earthy blues are an appropriate final act for Paul's. His is the raucous, salty sound of good-time blues, the kind of blues an audience loves to react to by yelling "yea, allright" or "wooo" or "mmm-mmm." B.B.'s piercing guitar style might be a bit too much for the Mall's small room, however, and some members of the audience may find themselves yelling "ooo, my ears" during instrumental breaks.
At the Workshop the only thing the audience will be yelling is "more, more, Milt, Milt," because Milt is so great. Milt Jackson, probably the foremost vibist in jazz today, got his start with the Dizzy Gillespie big band in the '40s. He was part of a rhythm section which included John Lewis on piano, Kenny Clarke on drums, and Ray Brown on bass. Clarke, Lewis, and Milt, with Percy Heath pickin' bass later went on to form the Modern Jazz Quartet (MJQ). But, before the group acquired that famous name, it was called the Milt Jackson Quartet (still MJQ). Milt was its natural leader while Lewis provided the driving innovative musical compositional force key to the quartet's success.
Milt's fluid, unshakeably cool, melodic style is the essence of good jazz. His professionalism, musical integrity, and perfection is the essence of dedication to his art. That ought to get me a free seat. Maybe two.
And speaking of seats, Sandy's Jazz Revival in Beverly has plenty of them, and they all face the stage, on which the Salt City Six will be performing tonight through Sunday night. Barry Keiner is the featured pianist with the band. "Big deal," you say. "What do I care?!" you shrug. "Who the hell is Barry Keiner?" you ask. Stop talking and I'll tell you. Barry Keinner is none other than a former pianist with the Buddy Rich big band. That is not to say that Buddy will be in Beverly, but I understand that he had his pants pressed there once.
Ah, spring: (I have now lapsed into the reflective, philosophical part of the column, which is optional, but recommended, reading.) the tweeting birdies, the busy bees, the balmy air, the warm zephyrs that breeze through the Crimson shop and blow my columns to pieces, casting my sentient and often hilarious lines away into the nether. But, no more will balmy bursts of breeze blast these words off galley sheets and leave you, dear reader, baffled. I have placed on reserve at Lamont and Hilles libraries all previously blown away lines, and will continue to do so.