By Steve Smith GLOBE STAFF (April 21, 2016) – Thinking about jazz, certain cities come to mind instantly: New York City, New Orleans, and Chicago, maybe Philadelphia, St. Louis, and Los Angeles. Boston, too, deserves a spot on the list, having nurtured legendary artists, bustling clubs, thriving schools, and storied personalities.
Still, even admirers can have a hard time putting together all the pieces, which is where advocacy comes in. Nat Hentoff, the Roxbury-born éminence grise of American jazz critics, wrote in a 2011 Jazz Times column about jazz advocacy groups that “there’s always been a gaping hole: no such celebratory organization in Boston, where I was deeply involved in the jazz scene throughout the 1940s and early ’50s, until I moved to New York in 1953.”
The topic of his essay was Jazz Boston, five years old and already starting to make a difference. The organization was conceived by Boston Herald critic Bob Young, who established it in 2006 with Pauline Bilsky, a communications consultant and the longtime manager of the composer and instrumentalist Henry Threadgill.
Jazz Boston’s achievements have continued apace since Hentoff’s salute. This week — a week, incidentally, in which Threadgill was awarded the Pulitzer Prize for Music — Jazz Boston celebrates its 10th anniversary in tandem with Jazz Week ’16, a 10-day festival comprising more than 200 events, including free pop-up concerts scattered around town for International Jazz Day on April 30.
A recent interview with Bilsky, jazz impresario and board member Fred Taylor, and Emmett G. Price III, the pianist, composer, and minister recently appointed Jazz Boston’s CEO and chairman of the board, began with an explanation of the impulse that prompted Young to conceive Jazz Boston. (Young, no longer active on the Jazz Boston board, continues to serve as an adviser.)
“He looked around and saw a very big, very diverse jazz scene, but none of the parts ever came together,” Bilsky said, seated with Price and Taylor around a table at Scullers, the Doubletree Suites Hotel jazz club that Taylor books, slated to move this year to a larger space on the ground floor.
“It was the connecting that was the very first thought,” she continued, “to connect all the parts of the jazz scene and make it stronger.”
Nodding in assent, Price and Taylor mentioned other organizations that had blazed a trail for Jazz Boston, including the Boston Jazz Society and the Jazz Coalition.
“They were geographically dispersed, and the venues and the journalists and the media and the musicians, they never really got together,” Bilsky said. “