Photos- Top: Norm Nathan, from the collection of Arthur Levine. Bottom: McCoy Tyner, courtesy of Regattabar.
Getting Jazzed in Boston
Thursday, April 4, 2013 11:39 PM by Arthur Levine
I'm a rock 'n' roller at heart and something of a wannabe musician. For years, I played bass guitar and did a bit of singing in a rock covers band. Rock and roll may never die, but it's often not a pretty sight (or sound) when middle-aged dudes like me keep on rockin'. (Although septuagenarians ?Paul McCartney?, who will be performing at Fenway Park on July 9, and the Rolling Stones, who will be rolling into the TD Garden on June 12, defy the odds.) So now I play in a more genteel jazz quintet, for which I'm even less qualified. But hey, it's close enough for jazz. Now that you know I'm a (sorta) musician, here's another tidbit from my bio that you may find surprising: For a few years before he passed away, I worked with Norm Nathan. A legendary radio and television personality in Boston, Norm was known as much for hosting a beloved and longstanding jazz program as he was for being irreverent and wildly funny. We used to travel around New England together presenting live shows about old-time radio. I treasured the time we spent together, having the man whom legions of fans adored all to myself as we talked about many things, including our mutual love of jazz. Partly thanks to Norm, who brought such greats as Dizzy Gillespie and Buddy Rich into his studio and kept listeners tuned into his "Sounds in the Night" for years, Boston has a great reputation as a jazz town. (It also doesn’t hurt that the world's preeminent school devoted to jazz, Berklee College of Music, is located here.) Norm may be gone, but his musical spirit loves on. Some of the best places to catch live jazz in the area are the Cambridge hotspots, Ryles in Inman Square and Regattabar at the Charles Hotel in Harvard Square, and Scullers Jazz Club at the Doubletree Suites by Hilton Hotel in Boston. Some upcoming shows include Roy Haynes at Scullers on May 23 and 24, and McCoy Tyner at Regattabar on April 5 and 6. If you make it to the performances and are able to talk to either gentleman, mention Norm Nathan's name. My guess is that their eyes will light up, and they will regale you with stories about the wonderful and greatly missed maestro of Boston's jazz scene.