artists & venues

Ed Ivey on the Art of the Jam
(he hosts them regularly at the new Swig, on Geary)

Bay Area Booking

290 Napoleon Street - Suite B
San Francisco, CA 94124-1017
866.439.6483 toll-free

bands should e-mail
before sending material!

From: Ed Ivey, Bay Area Booking
Date: August 14, 2004 9:11:00 AM PDT
To: Rich Piellisch <peach@sfblues.net>
Subject: Re: SF's best blues jam every Sunday at Swig
Reply-To: info@bayareabooking.com

...the Lamp was arguably the most recognized music room in the city, particularly among tourists (of course, I mean notable within the "dive bar" category). This jam session started at the Lamp in the late 1940s, mutating from jazz to blues, back to fusion jazz, then back to blues again by the late 1980s. I've been hosting the jam since 1996 or so.

But the Lamp closed for retrofit and the former owners departed. The bar was totally renovated and has new owners now, but one of the things they wanted to carry over from the old lounge was the Sunday jam session. I had written it off after the closing but was very pleased to hear from the new folks asking to get the jam back again.

Blues jams are an integral part of any city's musical life; everyone from pros to weekend warriors can get up and play the blues in a supportive atmosphere on real gear for real listeners. I have always tried to make our session user-friendly, by not having sign-up sheets (often used to exclude lesser players) and by really emphasizing the stage rights of younger, less-experienced players.

When I was a kid, jam sessions were stressful because if you didn't cut it, you got axed. I hated that. At my session, if a young player gets up and really makes a mess of it, we don't run them off, we make them stay on stage to get even more experience. Two of my best sidemen musicians for my wedding and event bands are former jammers who came up through the system and became excellent musicians.

So do we have train-wrecks and bad notes? For sure, lots of them. Do we care? Not a bit, that's why we're here, to grow and learn together. I am 42 now and still learning great stuff every session from my peers on and off the stage. I am a solid emcee and bandleader now because of what I learned at the sesh.

I have a varied musical upbringing; trumpet in school, mandolin at home with pops, punk rock in my 20s, country gigs in my 30s, and then the blues jam brought it all together for me. I had a gig writing for Blues Revue magazine for a quite a while, that really got me stoked on the blues; I ended up with a massive collection of blues CDs that I reviewed for BR and just got hooked on the blues. However, the session became like my practice lab, an indispensable part of my personal musical equation.

Anyway, thanks for listing us, Rich, and come out to be with us as we work to get the blues right.



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