BOHP_2005-05-19_AVega Chapter 2
FB: Well, you know as we sit here in Berklee's premises here at 150 Mass Avenue, we look around us and a lot of the former nightclubs and jazz joints that you worked in were right in these couple of blocks. AV: Next door was Sherry Biltmore, that was a hotel. In those days they had trios. After I had started my trio at the High Hat and worked Storyville, I went to work at the 123 Lounge in Boston. That was seven nights a week. You know, the kids don't have anything like that now. That was two trios, three singers, seven nights a week, I stayed there for three years. I didn't want to take too many nights off because we were working on a two week notice thing so we just kept working. I still kept teasing them because I didn't know how long the gig is going to last. If I had known it was going to be three years I probably would have cut down on the teaching, but I was doing all that. I had started doing that in the 50's when I started my trio. I was working seven nights a week at the High Hat, opposite Erroll Garner, Oscar Peterson, Charlie Parker, Lester Young, Sonny Stitt, you know on and on, Count Basie's small band. I didn't tell you that. The Basie small band included Buddy DeFranco on clarinet, Wardell Grey on sax, and [cornettist] Thad Jones the first time. The second time he came back he had Mumbles there, what's his name, you know? FB: Clark Terry. AV: Clark Terry, yeah. FB: Wow. AV: And Marshall Royal instead of Wardell Grey, and Connie Kay on drums. I got a chance to play with Basie, and he was a very humble guy. Like he'd say, “This singer wants to do a sit in, I don't know the tune.” You know, what the hell! I say, “Yeah…” I had been trained in general business, including playing thousands of tunes a week, you know. So anyway, I was going seven nights there, going to [New England] Conservatory and teaching at Schillinger House, which is now Berklee. And the other building on Fenway, Boylston Street, what's the other street, Hemenway? FB: Hemenway, yeah. AV: That was the Bostonian Hotel, and I worked that room and it was the Jewel Room, that was a beautiful room. FB: Nice mahogany paneling? They use it for a recital hall now. AV: They all had baby grand pianos you know, that was before keyboards. Finally another thing that comes to mind. In ‘61, I was so tired of playing the beat-up pianos around town I told my trio, “I got to find a good piano and you guys don't mind if we don't work steady for awhile?” They didn't care, because the girl was a housewife too, we had on bass. The drummer had a day job. So I went to work at Storyville across from the Metropolitan Theatre, the Wang Center nowy and was the Bradford Hotel which is the whatever they call it now [Roof]. So that was the last Storyville. The first Storyville was Buckminister Hotel, the second one was Copley Square, and the last one was the Bradford Hotel, downstairs. George Wein had gone to New York, so I was emcee-ing the room. Ruth Shapiro was running the hotel, her father owned it, and I actually ended up working with Ruth a couple years ago when she had the Baker Sisters and we ended up working together again. But at the time, she was running the room and I was emcee-ing and playing solo piano. When Betty Carter or someone came in, I got my trio to back her up. She was straight ahead then, so it was no problem. We had Chico Hamilton, George Shearing Quintet, which was top notch. FB: They were very hot then. AV: [inaudible] trio. Cannonball Adderley. Josh White, the folk singer. I remember he came in and he said, they introduced me to him, he said, “I brought along three people, Peter, Paul and Mary.” I says, “OK, I'll run the lights for him. We didn't make it 'till Christmas, it folded. But the place was packed! You know, to a musician it looks like the place is, we're doing great, but they were getting so much money by that time. Some of the big stars were working, you know, Symphony Hall and working the festivals. So if they didn't do like 99% capacity, even if they did that, they probably couldn't break even. So that was the end of it. It's a shame, because they kept us working, the local trios, once in awhile or whatever, but that was a great venue for the names.