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Who Knew?

Posted by Jim Botticelli  August 22, 2013 06:18 PM

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                                         The poster for 1959's Boston Jazz Festival
                                               Special thanks to

It was 54 years ago today George Wein brought the bands to play. The Newport Jazz Festival Godfather held the First Annual Boston Jazz Festival at Fenway Park on this and the next two days back in 59.

August 21 was a Friday night that year and Pee Wee Russell headlined the festival's maiden voyage aided and abetted by a boisterous Thelonius Monk performance. The crowd was a paltry 5000, but both the Globe and the Traveler gave the evening the thumbs up, despite disappointing shows by Dakota Staton and, unbelievably, Ray Charles.

Saturday's crowd was better at 8500; Horace Silver's new trumpeter Blue Mitchell got high marks for his solo on Silver's ballad Peace. Dave Brubeck achieved a lightness, according to critics, that lifted the crowd, only to have that lightness dashed by no-show Sarah Vaughn. Also playing that night was the Boston-based Herb Pomeroy Band with Dick Johnson on alto sax.

Sunday also drew 8500 to see Dizzy Gillespie who the Traveler said had "technique to throw away and a warmth to fill Fenway Park". The Duke Ellington Orchestra closed the show and despite expectations, the Traveler described the band's performance as "uncharacteristically unmusical".

Despite the inherent acoustic challenges presented by Fenway Park, and a disappointing turnout, the festival was critically deemed "a good first start" and 1960 was placed on the radar screen. The radar had to be adjusted to face Wakefield where a two day fest took place that year. There never was a Second Annual Boston Jazz Festival.
This blog is not written or edited by or the Boston Globe.
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About the author

Jim Botticelli, a 1976 Northeastern University graduate, is a retired Boston Public Schools teacher. In college, he drove a cab and learned the city's cow paths. An avid collector of More »

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