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Historic Jazz Club Plays Last Refrain

By James Y. Stern, SPECIAL TO THE CRIMSON

BOSTON--Nestled between the Whittier Street housing projects, the Boston Police Department and a dry, dead and abandoned lot, Connolly's Star Dust Room provides an inconspicuous home for one of Boston's most famous jazz venues.

But last night, the famed Roxbury landmark held a farewell concert. The legendary music spot's days are numbered. The Boston Redevelopment Authority (BRA), which owns the property, plans to go forward with plans to evict Connolly's despite its lack of an actual proposal to replace the club.

Connolly's--where patrons once listened to such greats as Duke Ellington, Coleman Hawkins, Dexter Gordon and Stan Getz--fell one vote short of being named an official landmark by the Boston Landmark Committee.

It now looks to be the future home of a shopping mall, according to Anthony Crayton, a former Boston city councillor.

But the mood at last night's concert remained upbeat despite disappointment over the eviction.

Performers reflected on the influence Connolly's has had on their music. Bassist David Gold called the closing "a shock."

"It's got the best audience I've ever played for because they really understand the music," Gold said. "There are really very few places where an artist can test himself."

Randy Skinner, who plays trumpet with George Clinton and the P-Funk All-Stars, said Connolly's remains important for his music.

"It's still a great testing ground," Skinner said. "The live atmosphere and the ambiance is what makes Connolly's Connolly's."

Regulars also talked about their memories and feelings of the club.

"This was the place if you liked jazz," said Bill Edwards, a patron since 1963.

Others stressed the social side of the local institution. Freida D. Marsh, who tends bar at Connolly's talked about its inviting atmosphere.

"It's a great place for people, no matter what their color or job," Marsh said.

The bar serves as a social center for much of the neighborhood in lower Roxbury, but the life inside the run-down structure is not always apparent to outsiders.

The building's facade is undoubtedly dilapidated. A tin sign, announcing liquor andcocktails, looks as though no one has maintainedit since its 1950s installation.

Appearances can be deceiving, cautioned patronMabel J. Redding, who has been coming toConnolly's since 1959--the year she turned 21.

"People look at the outside and they have towonder about the inside, but it's not about that,"Redding said. "It's about the spirit of theplace."

Loyalty to the club runs high. One long-timefan wrote a postcard to Connolly's from his homein Florida, asking the management to "save him abrick."

The bar opened as Murray's Cafe in 1935,following the end of Prohibition, and acted as asocial center in what was a mostly Irish-Germanneighborhood.

James M. Connolly acquired the establishment in1955 and introduced Lower Roxbury's jazz craze tohis bar.

Meanwhile, the neighborhood underwent adramatic demographic shift, as a largely blackpopulation moved in, which patrons said aided thejazz movement.

All political efforts to save Connolly's appearto have failed. Crayton, who lobbied forConnolly's before the Landmark Commission,expressed disappointment with the proceedings.

He said the decision was made with neither henor Connolly's owners present.

According to Crayton, the eviction will goforward despite the fact that the BRA does nothave an actual proposal for the replacementshopping mall

Appearances can be deceiving, cautioned patronMabel J. Redding, who has been coming toConnolly's since 1959--the year she turned 21.

"People look at the outside and they have towonder about the inside, but it's not about that,"Redding said. "It's about the spirit of theplace."

Loyalty to the club runs high. One long-timefan wrote a postcard to Connolly's from his homein Florida, asking the management to "save him abrick."

The bar opened as Murray's Cafe in 1935,following the end of Prohibition, and acted as asocial center in what was a mostly Irish-Germanneighborhood.

James M. Connolly acquired the establishment in1955 and introduced Lower Roxbury's jazz craze tohis bar.

Meanwhile, the neighborhood underwent adramatic demographic shift, as a largely blackpopulation moved in, which patrons said aided thejazz movement.

All political efforts to save Connolly's appearto have failed. Crayton, who lobbied forConnolly's before the Landmark Commission,expressed disappointment with the proceedings.

He said the decision was made with neither henor Connolly's owners present.

According to Crayton, the eviction will goforward despite the fact that the BRA does nothave an actual proposal for the replacementshopping mall

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