Thursday, June 11, 2009

Jazz Jam Sessions Booming in Tampa

Jazz jam sessions can be a win-win, particularly for young musicians looking to get more experience playing with others; all musicians (experienced and not) looking to connect with new players and play and hang out with old friends; and jazz listeners, who get the opportunity to check out a bunch of musicians at once, without having to pay a steep concert-ticket price.

Club owners, too, generally pay little -- or, to their discredit, nothing -- for jam-session host musicians and house bands. But the bars and restaurants stand to benefit greatly if owners and managers a)make an effort to spread the word, and b)agree to stick with the concept for at least three months, about the bare minimum it takes for word to really begin to get out to all the musicians and listeners likely to attend. Any venue SERIOUS about trying to build an audience for jam-session nights won't do it for less than six months.

An unusually large number of jazz jam sessions have begun in the Tampa Bay area in recent months. Below is a list, based on info I've received lately. If you have any additional details or info about other jazz jam sessions, please make a comment, and I'll most likely add that info to this blog post.

As a rule, and as an incentive for getting folks in the door, musicians don't pay to play, and musicians wishing to sit in aren't required to contact the hosting musicians in advance. But sometimes circumstances -- including the costs to rent a venue that doesn't operate as a bar or restaurant, and a desire for a certain "quality control" -- dictate otherwise (see below, on both counts).

A suggestion to musicians and others who'd like to see these jam sessions survive: Club owners don't do these things for their own good. So spend more than the cost of a $2 soft drink, in order to help motivate owners to keep the music going.

And a note to club owners: If you want to offer quality music to your customers, some of whom may only frequent your place when jazz is on the menu, then respect your musicians by paying them fairly. After all, your bartenders, wait staff and other employees don't provide their talents and work "just for exposure."

USF jazz students (see the USF Oracle story) lead the session at Café Kili, 5731 E. Fowler Ave., Tampa, 7 to 9 p.m.; (813) 988-2879

USF jazz grad student Matthew Zettlemoyer leads the session at Karma Bar & Cafe, 206 N. Morgan St., (downtown) Tampa, 8 to 11 p.m.; (813) 228-0870

Don Capone (drums) leads the session at Lenny's Latin Café, 1908 56th St., Temple Terrace (Tampa), 7 to 10 p.m.; Info: (813) 984-7884 or 984-7874

Geoffrey Jacob (guitar) and Jam de Jure lead the session at Springs Theatre, 8209 N Nebraska Ave., Sulphur Springs (Tampa), 5:30 to 8:30 p.m.; (813)915-0074; Note from Geoff: "Admission is $5, and exact change is much appreciated, as this is a venue that is not a restaurant or bar which handles large volumes of cash in order to make change. If you wish for more information Feel free to contact me, or Gary Grey, the engineer for the Springs who is overseeing this:, or John Stephan, the proprietor:"

And one more (UPDATE: Chappy's is holding jazz jam sessions the first and third Mondays of the month during the summer):

Monday, June 15, a free-admission session hosted by the Al Downing Tampa Bay Jazz Association, Chappy's Louisiana Kitchen, 247 Central Avenue, St. Petersburg, 8 to 10 p.m.


Nick said...

Thanks for the list!
Made it to the session at Chappy's this week--great players, a really well-organized session.

Your points are right on--sessions are vital to a jazz scene. Good to see the Bay area thriving with these.

Philip Booth said...

Thanks for reading and commenting.
I need to get out to Chappy's soon.

...e... said...

googling chuck berlin eventualy landed me here; chuck is on wwoz with bob french right now, and just mentioned he was going back to tampa for his regular gig, but said nothing else about it. so this Latin Cafe one in temple terrace must be it? i'll check it out.

...e... said...

googling chuck berlin eventualy landed me here; chuck is on wwoz with bob french right now, and just mentioned he was going back to tampa for his regular gig, but said nothing else about it. so this Latin Cafe one in temple terrace must be it? i'll have to check it out.

Philip Booth said...

E - Chuck has been involved in that session at Lenny's Latin Cafe, but I don't if he's still playing over there. I haven't been in a while.

Anonymous said...

Thanks for the great Blog, Philip! I am supporting Jazz here in my home town because I love the music. As Springs Theatre is not a bar or restaurant, our only income is from people that would like a nice place to listen to Jazz. We have had Larry Camp and Kenny Drew, Jr. and hope to host John Abercrombie and Steve Gadd in the near future. Springs Theatre has a world class acoustic environment with a 9ft Steinway. Please come out and show your support for Jazz!
John Zumwalt Stephan,
Springs Theatre

Philip Booth said...

John: You're right - the Springs is a first-class acoustic environment. Having recorded there on several occasions, I can attest to that fact.

I keep hoping to get out there for the sessions, but I've just not been able to make it, for one reason or another. This weekend, I'm out of town again.

Thanks for supporting jazz in the Tampa Bay area. And please let me know if/when you firm up plans for John Abercrombie or Steve Gadd - I'll help spread the word.

Anonymous said...

Phillip...I went to the Springs Theatre last Sunday to hear some jazz. What a great place to hear music...and the musicians were the BEST! Thank you

Carole Sunday