The question was tossed out in a tone of total skepticism: Is it possible to do a different kind of night devoted to creative music in Philadelphia? The conversation was about jam sessions, because there’s always a jam session somewhere in Philly, and my friend who’s been in the live music business here forever began ticking off a laundry list of aesthetic challenges associated with the time-honored ritual of the jam session: Songs that go on forever; a line of eager horn players waiting to play; no sense of a band sound – just one standard after another, with bebop classics thrown in for good measure. At some jams, it’s not even about the whole band, it’s just about the “look at me, look how fast I can play!” experience.
Then came the challenge: Does it have to be this way? Can it be done differently? Is it possible to “build” an evening of jazz that has a different feel to it? Might we create an open, inviting atmosphere, a listening vibe? What would go into such an evening?
We’re about to find out. Starting on September 27, the new Milkboy downtown will feature a weekly jazz-related happening hosted by yours truly. It’ll be anchored by the quintet I’ve been playing with and it will showcase many of the city’s engaging singers and fast-rising instrumentalists.
This blog begins as the shaping of this evening begins. Over the next few weeks, in this space, I hope to engage in some open brainstorming on the theme of “What Makes a Night?” When you think about it, the subject is surprisingly squishy: We all know what a cool vibe in a club feels like, but it’s not always obvious what goes into said vibe, all the little things like what happens between sets. Are we building an open cattle-call jam or something more curated, with a few carefully selected invited guests? Please jump into this conversation with ideas of all kinds, from abstract notions on the theme of “what makes a night?” to specific thoughts about what might help accelerate the growth and development of creative music in Philadelphia to catchy names that instantly let people know what to expect.
PS: check out the coolness! Milkboy in Philadelphia: http://www.milkboyphilly.com