One of the best antidotes to the poisons of a disintegrating society is music. Jazz music, in particular, has always been about people of all skin tones and ethnic backgrounds coming together to make and enjoy unique energies, flows, rhythms and tones. Wally’s Jazz Cafe has been providing an environment which facilitates and encourages people to show respect for each other, onstage and off, for musicians, for tradition and for finding new paths forward.
Located at 428 Massachusetts Avenue, since 1947, Wally’s Paradise closed in 1979, and the club moved across the street to 427 Mass Ave, as Wally’s Cafe, to continue the traditions, and expose new generations to jazz, funk, blues music and more, with no cover charge. All they ask is that people act respectfully, and treat the space, the staff, and their fellow audience members properly. Several women that I know have identified Wally’s as a place they have always felt safe, going alone, to enjoy the music.
The owners have a close relationship with the musicians that consider this place a Training Ground, where they can hone their skills, play with other people with unique skills, and improve together. Many of the players come from Berklee School of music, just up Mass Ave. Famous jazz players have frequently graced the stage, often without any official prior promotion, so that the regulars and even strangers off the street can stumble upon stellar performances.
One highly skilled drummer friend of mine said that his first experience at Wally’s, in the late 90’s was life changing. “Wobbling in”, late at night, to meet a friend that didn’t make the scene… he was kept upright by the volume and the “crack of the snare” drum. He made his way to the stage and was mesmerized by the jazz/funk trio for the rest of their set.
“The absolutely stunning world class talent and technical ability of these dudes cut through the fog. I didn’t move...spellbound.”
He says that he was moved by this experience to start anew on his own (already significant) skills, by heading into the practice space alone, and he proceeded to “get moving on the never end road toward becoming a better drummer. And I only went there once! Thanks Wally’s, and thanks incredible drummer dude, whomever you were!”
Check out this playlist to take you through the history of Wally’s:
Finding Mr. Joy (on the founding of Wally's)
Funk at Wally's
The A-Beez at Wally's 2019
Jeff Lockhart at Wally's , 2010
- Jonah J.
Jonah Jenkins enjoys working from home in Cambridge, MA as a Scrum Master and SAFe coach. He also yells in Raw Radar War and The Northern Skulls. His former bands include Only Living Witness and Milligram. Technology humanizer by day, foodie and obscure music freak by night, he can't wait to visit your city, wherever it is in the world. https://rawradarwar.bandcamp.com/ and https://thenorthernskulls.bandcamp.com/