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The Boston Music Scene: Wally’s Heritage Jazz Cafe

By Bradley Jay, WBZ NewsRadio 1030 October 24, 2014 3:00 AM
 

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In the final piece of our ten-part series The Boston Music Scene, Bradley Jay pays a visit to historic local jazz club Wally’s Cafe.

BOSTON (CBS) – Boston is a music laboratory that provides young talent with everything they need to grow. One standout component is the iconic jazz venue Wally’s Cafe, located near Berklee College of Music.

Promoter Lydia Liebman and Berklee department head Ron Savage believe that the relationship between the school and the club fine-tunes Boston’s best players.

“Wally’s is kind of a third jazz conservatory here,” says Liebman. “Wally’s is the place to put what you learned at Berklee into practice.”

“Wally’s has always been the testing ground for young musicians in Boston,” added Savage. “You have to  test yourself against your peers— the other up-and-coming musicians— who are a very discerning audience of hard-core jazz fans.”

The jazz hot-spot is so integrated into the musical community that owner Paul Walcott even denies being in charge. However, he is the guy to talk to get a little background on the club.

“Wally’s Cafe was started in 1940, and it was incorporated in 1947,” says Walcott. “My grandfather started this club so people from all over can come and enjoy music. It was one of the first (if not the first) integrated nightclubs in the state of Massachusetts.”

Wally’s provides a bit of old-school reality in the world of mp3s, Bandcamp and Spotify.

“Everyone loves to lament the days when there were little jazz clubs on every corner, and the real way to learn to play jazz was being in the clubs seven nights a week,” Berklee’s president Roger Brown muses. “Well, we have that, and it’s called Wally’s. It’s an extraordinary place. You go there and you watch fine young musicians sharpening their skills by listening to and coaching one another.”

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