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By : Steve B

8 min read

Some shows don’t make any business sense. Some of the best, most memorable events are financial flops. But a key indicator of a vibrant, healthy, and sustainable music scene are these small (sometimes underground) shows. They exist through sheer force of will of the dedicated few. They exist to give talented musicians an opportunity to be heard and develop an audience. They exist to give local enthusiasts the chance to hear something new. They exist to create and sustain a local scene. They exist because even if some shows fall flat, sometimes the stars align and a special kind of magic happens that can only occur in the cracks and the periphery. 

 A few years ago, I was interviewing the amazing pianist Martin Gohary for a Compass article, and we were reflecting on the lack of such a scene for experimental jazz in Boston. Martin had recently moved to Boston from New York, and I am a transplant from Chicago, and we were reminiscing about the great leaders and venues in those cities holding together a collective of stellar fringe jazz musicians. 

But here’s the thing—Martin actually did something about it. In 2023, Martin and Phil Morimoto, with help from Alex Lemski who runs Creative Music Series, created the This Music Series. The manifesto of This Music is “to recognize the creativity of many who haven’t been given the stage as leaders, often younger than the Jazz scene veterans; those with acknowledgment who can create a new project and musical ideas; and the unsung ‘gems’ who aren’t in the public eye and deserve to be.” The emphasis of This Music is “on the freer forms, the adventurous (to help find a ‘home’).”

 As Martin noted to me recently, once a Boston musician obtains a certain level of success, it is easy to run away to cities like New York or Chicago with already established scenes. If we want to keep young talented jazz musicians in Boston, there needs to be opportunities and an audience here. 

Last year, This Music put on 14 experimental jazz shows in Boston, mainly at the Lilypad. Most of the music was completely improvised, and the talents, sensibilities, and headspace of the musicians, combined with how they interact and play off of each other from one moment to the next, made each show a unique and unexpected experience. 

In 2024, This Music is expanding into new venues, and they are also planning a dedicated series for composers to showcase new works. This March, they have two shows that you should definitely check out. On March 11th, The Founder’s Quintet is playing at the Jungle in Somerville at 9:45 PM. On March 21st, the Bookers Trio is playing at the Lilypad in Cambridge at 7:30 PM. And keep an eye out for other great shows from This Music by following them on Instagram @this_music_series. 

—Steve B

Originally published in-print in Boston Compass Newspaper #167 March 2024


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