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Saxtrum Club
Stephen Campiglio

In 1938, trumpeter Barney Price founded the “Saxtrum Club” along with six other Worcester musicians: Howie Jefferson, Dick Murray, Ralph Briscott, Jaki Byard, Ed Shamgochian, and Harold Black. (In a 1998 interview with Chet Williamson of Worcester Magazine, Jaki Byard claimed to have named this club using the first letters from the instruments of the two prime movers, Howie Jefferson, SAXophone and Barney Price, TRUMpet.) The Saxtrum Club was first located on the corner of Glenn and Clayton Streets in Worcester, but was soon relocated to the corner of Laurel and Clayton Streets. Price was the secretary and treasurer for the club. For nearly ten years this cooperative hosted nightly jam sessions and was a magnet for regional players and visiting national artists as an after-hours jam venue. Worcester natives Barbara Carroll, Don Asher, Don Fagerquist, Don Byas and Jaki Byard (who reportedly often played through the night) were regulars at the Saxtrum Club.

After their performances in high profile downtown Worcester venues like the Plymouth Theater (late 1930s and the early 1940s) and the Warren Hotel (after 1945), many jazz artists of national stature performed with locals at the Saxtrum Club in late night jam sessions. According to Worcester Telegram and Gazette columnist Ev Skehan, Gene Krupa, Roy Eldridge, Chu Berry, Anita O’Day, Cozy Cole, Cab Calloway, Charlie Ventura, Don Byas, Luckey Millander, Fats Waller, Joe Venuti and Frank Sinatra all visited the Saxtrum Club. While stationed at Fort Devens, Al Hirt came regularly for two years to play at the Saxtrum club. Here, Barney Price and other members of the club were able to play with some of the major national jazz figures. Unfortunately, no recordings were ever made at the club.

PHOTO: SaxTrum Club (1938) Judy Wade (top left), Barney Price (top center), Howie Jefferson (bottom left) Jaki Byard (bottom right, age 18)