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

Various Artists: The Boston Creative Jazz Scene 1970-1983

JazzTimes may earn a small commission if you buy something using one of the retail links in our articles. JazzTimes does not accept money for any editorial recommendations. Read more about our policy here. Thanks for supporting JazzTimes.

You can accuse Boston, Mass., of a great deal-provincialism, racism, poor road design, an unhealthy fixation on its major-league baseball team-but one thing you can never say is that it has a dearth of great musicians. Some grow up there; others are drawn from outside by top-notch schools like Berklee and the New England Conservatory. Many eventually move on to bigger cities, but a sizable number choose to stay and enhance the culture of their hometown. However, the more experimental sides of that culture haven’t always been well documented, which makes this book/CD set worthy of note. One question, though: Is the single nine-track disc in a simple but colorful paper slipcase meant to accompany the 78-page paperback, or vice versa? Since the name of the book’s author appears nowhere on the cover, the latter seems more likely.

That name, by the way, is Mark Harvey. Far more than just an interested observer of Boston’s avant-garde, he was and is an active participant, both as a player and as an organizer of, among other things, a long-running jazz ministry at Emmanuel Church in the Back Bay, which later moved across the Charles to Harvard-Epworth Church. (Full disclosure: I attended Emmanuel as a youth and frequently saw him perform there with his Aardvark Jazz Orchestra.) In lucid prose, Harvey outlines the scene’s early development in the ’50s and ’60s and skillfully connects the dots between its two main ’70s branches: the free players and the fusioneers. He singles out the institutions that made Boston such a fertile location for exploratory jazz during this time, and makes the welcome point that many of those institutions were themselves created by musicians.

Start Your Free Trial to Continue Reading

Become a JazzTimes member to explore our complete archive of interviews, profiles, columns, and reviews written by music's best journalists and critics.
Originally Published