Best jazz club
If you like listening to jazz in comfort, check out what's on the CD player at your nearest Starbucks. But
if the music is more important, suck in your gut and fight for a spot at Wally's, a fixture for more than
50 years on Mass Ave in the South End - and our readers' favorite for wailing sax solos. Some of Boston's
best combos play at this tiny, barely lit club, and you might also catch a rising star from the nearby
Berklee College of Music. There's no cover, but there is a one-drink minimum (this isn't ginger-ale jazz),
and don't expect free parking within a mile of the place. The rules of the club, which offers live music
every night of the year, were set in stone by founder Joseph L. Walcott, who died three years ago. But Wally's
isn't totally resistant to change: it finally has a Web site (www.wallyscafe.com), with photos of the bar in
all its cramped splendor.
Ryles, our north-of-the-Charles winner, doesn't try to beat Wally's in the field of traditional American
jazz. Like its Inman Square neighborhood, the club has an international feel, and upcoming acts include
Spajazzy ("electric jazz with an Italian flair") and the Black Sea Salsa Band ("jazz with a Middle Eastern
flavor"). Ryles is also the best place in the Boston area for Brazilian jazz, and the club recently hosted
a 60th-birthday tribute to keyboardist and fusion pioneer Chick Corea. Jazz purists might not groove to
the upstairs dance parties on Saturday nights ("Latin/swing/tango/anything goes"), but there are plenty
of takers here.
Wally's Café, 427 Mass Ave, Boston, (617) 424-1408; Ryles, 212 Hampshire Street, Inman Square, Cambridge, (617) 876-9330.