The new venue was the Yamawaki Art and Cultural Center at Lasell College in the Auburndale village of Newton. I had visited a number of venues and this one came out on top for several reasons – the hall had a grand piano, comfortable seating, a raised stage and good sight lines. It could accommodate a larger audience than Pine Manor, although I didn’t expect to fill the house for every event. Although the performance hall was on the second floor, a small elevator was available and in theory it was handicap accessible- a major advantage over the Founders Room.
I worried that the new location would result in smaller crowds. The Yamawaki Center was not an easy venue to find – located in a residential area where the street lighting at night was not bright. The one small sign for the hall was barely visible from the road. It was not until after 2000 that some car manufacturers even offered gps systems in their cars. In 1997 a person new to a neighborhood could easily get lost especially after sundown.
Another negative was that during intermission there was really no place for people to gather. The narrow passage outside the concert hall was barely wide enough to set up tables for the soda and ticket sales. As a result people many people stood on the stairs leading to the ground floor or during nice weather went outside.
On the lighter side I had a great deal of difficulty figuring out the lighting system. There were multiple switches in various parts of the room. Some controlled the stage lights, others the lights in the hall itself. There seemed to be no clear logic to explain how they worked; in some cases turning them up made the lights go down. That mystery remained during our stay at Lasell.
Because of my concern about finding the location I scheduled the first concert at 3pm on a Sunday afternoon. We opened the season in March with the third annual presentation of “Women in Jazz Know the score…” again under the direction of Henrietta Robinson. Here is the program from the event.
Three weeks later we featured the Donna Byrne Quartet with her usual band: Tim Ray on keyboards, Jim Gwin on drums and bassist Marshall Wood.
April brought the return of Paul Broadnax in a concert entitled “Spring is Here.” He was joined by vocalist Carol Akerson, Peter Kontrimas on bass and John Connelly on drums.
One of the newcomers that season was a group called RESQ, the Really Eclectic String Quartet, (pronounced rescue”). Although classically trained they had a varied repertoire – jazz standards, gospel, R&B, Latin and European folk music. No less an authority than Yehudi Menuhin once called them “truly original and marvelous…”
The fall opened with another new group- an evening of Dixieland Jazz featuring the Riverboat Stompers. Their instrumentation included trumpet, trombone, clarinet, piano, drums, tuba, two banjos and often a Klaxon horn and kazoo. They were clearly not the most polished group I had ever hired but the audience appreciated their flamboyance and enthusiasm, especially when the two banjo players began to trade solos, clearly competing with each other to see who could play faster.
Lynne Jackson and Mike Palter returned in October. We ended the year with the Jazz Professors- five professors from the Berklee College of Music. Technically there were only 4 professors: Joe Hunt on drums, Paul Fontaine on trumpet, Ray Santisi on piano and Richard Evans on bass. The saxophonist Tony Corelli was a Berklee graduate (class of ’79) but he was promoted in rank for the concert.
The transition to a new venue seemed to occur without too much disruption. Little did I know that our stay at Lasell would end in just two years.
Where are they now?
The Riverboat Stompers’ website (http://www.riverboatstompers.com/) has information about the band’s current activities and a clip of their rendition of “Limehouse Blues.”