Become a member and get exclusive access to articles, live sessions and more!
Start Your Free Trial

JT50: The July/August 2016 Issue of JazzTimes

A look back at the issue featuring the oral history of Seventh Avenue South

July/August 2016 issue of JazzTimes
July/August 2016 issue of JazzTimes

We’d been doing oral histories on legendary artists for several years before we decided, in 2016, to use that same format to talk about a place rather than a person. But it was a place with a whole lot of personality. The jazz club Seventh Avenue South in New York City was owned by Randy and Michael Brecker, along with some other folks, and became famous not only for great music but for its raucous scene. As editor Evan Haga noted in an introduction to the piece for JazzTimes’ website, “They don’t make jazz clubs like this anymore.” He added, “The club flourished in the late 1970s and ’80s, presenting legendary artists, legends-to-be, the hottest session aces and groundbreaking fusion bands, helping to define a brilliant but historically overlooked jazz era.”

Shaun Brady’s oral history of the venue was, and still is, without question the most lurid piece the magazine has ever run. Randy Brecker himself described the club as “kind of a den of iniquity.” And when it closed its doors for the last time in 1987, his late brother Michael called it “the end of an error.” Error or not, the stories that people like John Scofield, Will Lee, Marcus Miller, Mike Stern, Steve Gadd, Bob Mintzer, Peter Erskine, Dave Liebman, and many others told Shaun make this piece—and issue—truly unique. From Miles Davis talking dirty to the waitresses (and them giving it back) to Sarah Vaughan imbibing illegal substances to Jaco Pastorius, well, just being Jaco Pastorius, the tales of a hard-partying jazz scene feel almost cinematic. And very much of an era. (If you missed Shaun’s piece the first time around, you can get it now as a free download from our website.)

Other oral-history pieces on important venues would follow in the coming years, including articles on Bradley’s and the original Knitting Factory, although none of them would be quite as profane and riveting as the Seventh Avenue South extravaganza. In addition, James Gavin wrote a fascinating story on the notorious Slugs’, where Lee Morgan was shot to death in 1972. We would have needed a time machine to do a proper oral history on that one, but it’s clear from Gavin’s in-depth look that that club had its own wild and crazy stories to tell. And as longtime JT columnist Nat Hentoff put it in the title of one of his anthologies, “Listen to the Stories.” 

Download “Sex, Drugs & Jazz: An Oral History” here.