A new kind of jam session begins on Sunday, Jan. 11. JazzWorks is experimenting with a different approach to the jam session and hoping that this will work.
As JazzWorks artistic director John Geggie notes, the Sunday jams began a couple of years ago, inspired and organized by Janet Hofstetter, a JazzWorks board member, not to mention fine singer. The Sunday jams quickly became popular for their laid-back vibe, part of which came from the fact that they were less populated, and therefore less noisy than their Thursday counterparts at the Carleton Tavern.
Unfortunately, the Sunday jams became maybe too laid-back, which is to say, too unpopulated. Which led to a decision — would we ditch them, or would we try something else?
An answer of sorts came from this summer’s jazz camp and the beginner jam session introduced there. As at the camp, the Sunday jams will feature a coach or mentor — “to help folks through those beginning jamming steps,” as Geggie puts it.
Geggie himself will be the coach for our first session. On Sunday, Feb. 8, the mentor/coach will be Ottawa saxophonist and teacher Mike Tremblay and on Sunday, March 8, the coach will be pianist and teacher Steve Boudreau.
With the new approach comes a new venue — a rehearsal space in Festival House, a reconstituted church at 451 Churchill Avenue in Westboro, owned by Ottawa Bluesfest.
Some details are still to be worked out and what’s worked out will undoubtedly evolve. Here’s what John Geggie is thinking right now:
“In the coming weeks, I will be making some suggestions on some tunes we could play, so that everyone will have had a chance to familiarize themselves with the material. I will be picking some tunes that are good jam tunes and that can easily be found in various fakebooks here and there (in various transposed keys). I think it might be wise to shoot for no more than perhaps three tunes so that as many people as possible can get a chance to play on the tunes”
Geggie will get the names of the tunes posted on this site, so watch it, as well as Ottawa Jazz Happenings. ”I am hoping,” he adds, “that we can have some fun on the tunes while at the same time trying to get inside those tunes a bit and feel more comfortable. By having a coach there, I think questions and concerns on the spur of the moment can be addressed. I think it is important to demystify the jam experience and truly make it a communal learning experience for everyone taking part.”
As always, the efforts of volunteers make this possible. Sheila Green and Ryszard Kowalski are doing the heavy lifting as co-ordinators and Peggy Cameron is the board member overseeing the operation.
She gets the last word: “The Sunday jams are an easy and safe way to ease into playing with others a great opportunity for young musicians to get their feet wet and for older musicians to start in a positive and supportive atmosphere. They are fun!! And the coaches we have lined up are among the top musicians Ottawa has to offer.”
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Meanwhile . . .
Don’t forget the regular jam session, this coming Thursday, Dec. 18 at the Carleton Tavern. For the 14th consecutive December, vocalist Gaby Warren will be hosting the jam with an A-list group of musicians. The group:
Gaby Warren, vocals
Rob Frayne, piano, tenor sax
Linsey Wellman, alto sax
Garry Elliott, guitar
Alrick Huebener, bass
Mike Essoudry, drums
Gaby’s opening set, beginning at 8 p.m., songs by pianist Horace Silver, one of the greateset of modern jazz composers. Silver died last June. The only piece not written by him will be Homage To Horace written by Gaby several years ago. A couple of the tunes to be featured December 18 have never been recorded by other vocalists. In lieu of their usual jazzy Christmas carol, Gaby and Friends will perform Silver's beautiful composition, Peace.
Silver wrote the lyrics for some of his tunes, and not all were completely correct, politically speaking. At jazz camp a decade or so ago, Gaby sang some cringe-worthy lines to Silver’s Strollin’. I dared him to do that again at the jam and he has accepted.
After Gaby’s 45-minute set, jamming will begin.
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About this blog
Tune Up won't be a calendar of events — Ottawa Jazz Happenings takes care of that. But it will discuss events and issues of interest to the JazzWorks community. Journalist, author, trumpet player and a jazz camper since 1999, Charley Gordon is a former vice-president of JazzWorks.