Jazz Music in Boston | UB today

Exploring Boston’s jazz scene

In the video above, Jake D’Ambra takes us around some of his favorite jazz clubs in Boston. Photo by Jake Belcher

Arrived at BU three years ago, Jake D’Ambra (Questrom’19), originally from Rhode Island, had only one ambition: to play the saxophone at Wally’s Café, the historic South End jazz club opened there is over 70 years old. Wally’s is a staple among student jazz musicians in Boston, who regularly pack the small bar for seating during open night jam sessions, which admittedly can be daunting. “The first time I played at Wally’s, I was so scared,” D’Ambra says. “My hands were shaking, but I had a blast.”

Now, the young business student regularly hosts Wally’s 5 p.m. set on Saturdays.

A jazz musician since eighth grade, D’Ambra knew he wanted to explore the local music scene while at BU. Boston has a rich jazz heritage and continues to attract aspiring musicians from around the world who come to study in the many local conservatory programs. He regularly performs with music students from Berklee College of Music, the New England Conservatory and the Longy School of Music, to name a few.

Acknowledging that not everyone his age is a fan of jazz, D’Ambra says it’s something you have to experience in person to truly appreciate. Embracing the role of advocate for the music he loves, he regularly drags his Questrom friends to jazz clubs around town. Some of them have even grown to like it.

To help you explore the Boston jazz scene, D’Ambra offers:

Darryl’s Corner Bar and Kitchen
604 Columbus Avenue, Boston

A five-minute walk from the Huntington Ave stop of the BU Shuttle (BUS) is Darryl’s Corner Bar & Kitchen, which offers upscale Southern cuisine, live jazz and a lively bar scene from its opening in 2010. music from Wednesday to Sunday in a variety of genres, including jazz, funk, R&B, soul and world music.

D’Ambra recommends: Go to Darryl’s for the jazz, but stay for a meal. “The food is amazing. It’s like soul food. Matches the atmosphere of the place perfectly. »

In your ear records
957 Commonwealth Avenue, Boston

No musical experience in Boston would be complete without a trip to a major record store to rummage through old vinyl. Although it’s in the heart of West Campus, In Your Ear can be tricky to find (it’s down a flight of stairs, under a Bank of America kiosk), but it’s worth the search. In business for 35+ years, the store offers a mind-blowing selection, ranging from vinyl records and CDs to 8-track, cassettes and VHS tapes.

D’Ambra recommends: For those new to jazz and interested in exploring the genre, listen to Dexter Gordon and Charles Lloyd, both tenor saxophonists (like D’Ambra). He has a soft spot for Lloyd: “I would have liked to hear Lloyd when I was younger. Many of his tracks are easy to listen to and prepare you for different types of jazz.

Wally’s Cafe Jazz Club
427 Massachusetts Avenue, Boston

Founded in 1947 by Barbadian immigrant Joseph Walcott (better known as Wally), Wally’s was one of the first black-owned nightclubs in New England, and today it is still owned and operated by the descendants of Walcott. It’s long been a favorite haunt of budding jazz musicians drawn to the club’s open jam sessions, where they can sit down with the house band and show off what they’ve got. Wally’s offers live music 365 days a year, with a mix of traditional jazz, funk, Latin and blues. Wally’s is 21 and over after 9 p.m., so watch the first show if you’re under 21.

D’Ambra recommends“Be prepared for anything. The music changes all the time. You’re not going to hear better jazz. Oh, and you might want to think about getting there early,” he says, “The later you get there , the larger the crowd.

D’Ambra’s first exposure to jazz was through hip-hop artists like Nas and MF DOOM, who would sample jazz recordings and mix them to their beats. D’Ambra eventually sought out the original jazz recordings they had sampled and focused on listening to jazz. Below is a hip-hop and jazz playlist that traces his exploration of both.

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Ada J. Kenney