|The High Notes of Jazz Roxbury|
In the 1950s, Roxbury was home to some of the top jazz performers in the United States. Lower Roxbury, specifically the area around the intersection of Massachusetts and Columbus Avenues, was the location of several clubs including the Big M, the Hi Hat, and Wally's Paradise. These locales (both segregated and integrated) were venues for local and national performers who played on the Chitlin' Circuit.
During this time, Boston was also home to the country's largest concentration of Pullman Porters and some of the people who would later become associated with America's Civil Rights Movement, including Martin Luther King, Coretta Scott, Malcolm Little (later Malcolm X), and Louis Wolcott (later Louis Farrakhan).
The High Notes of Jazz Roxbury is an oral history project focused on this exciting and dynamic period in Boston's history. Our project is examining this unique confluence of people and activity in American history with the aim of answering two questions:
Dr. Emmett Price, Chair of the African American Studies Department and Associate Professor of Music and African-American Studies at Northeastern University, guided participants on a musical lifespan of jazz in the United States and its spread around the globe.
December 2011: The growth of jazz in Boston
Richard Vacca, jazz historian, detailed the rise of Boston's jazz nightlife. Researchers Luke Walker and Stacy Sutherland introduced Mae Arnette, a former singer and style icon.
January 18, 2012: Putting jazz into context: Jim Crow, labor movements, and life on the road
We paused for a few minutes to watch a short video of the late Al Vega playing one of his last gigs at Lucky's Lounge. Afterward, researcher Luke Walker introduced the history of the Pullman Porters, their living and employment conditions, their role in the labor union movement. Local historian Val Hyman also shared his knowledge of labor unions nationally.
February 15, 2012: Jazz and Civil Rights
March 14, 2012: Women in jazz