For more than three hours Wednesday night, jazzy tunes and genre standards bounced off the walls of the Mt. Airy Art Garage.
MAAG’s first-ever “Jazz Jam Session” welcomed several jazz enthusiasts to its space on West Mt. Airy Avenue for an informal concert where musicians took turns playing with one another from tune to tune.
Charlie Parker’s “Billie’s Bounce,” Etta James’ “At Last,” and Billie Holiday’s “The End of Love Affair,” were just some of the songs played during the event.
Tank Kitt, drummer and leader of the evening’s “house band,” Passage, helped come up with idea hold a series of jam sessions at MAAG.
“Jam sessions are from back in the 1940s, when guys used to all just get together and get it – just jam. No specifics,” said Kitt. “If you got your axe, bring it down. You get up on the stage. If you play keys, you play our keys. If you play drums, you play my drums. And that’s how the old jam sessions used to be.”
“Ain’t nothing rehearsed, they just playing,” he added in between thanking a friend for coming to the show and inviting a young percussionist to jam with him in the future.
Tank worked alongside Linda Slodki, the co-founder of MAAG, to bring the event to life. It’s the exact kind of outreach Slodki hopes to get from more community artists.
“When artists step up to the plate and they say, ‘I’d like to do something’ and we talk about what that is, and how they can lead it and run with it, that’s how we can make more dreams,” said Slodki. “The event is just another event in a line of a bunch of dreamers coming up with new ways to collaborate in the northwest around art.”
Arleen Olshan, Slodki’s counterpart and organization’s treasurer, was on hand for the night’s event as well. For her, the event was another reminder of why she wanted to start MAAG in the first place.
“I wanted to do my art in a public space with other artists collaborating. To have a gallery, and to have classes, and to celebrate all the arts.”
Tank, for his part, appreciated the opportunity to mingle and network with other jazz musicians. New ensembles, he said, can often be forged from jam sessions.
“Guitar player may meet a sax player, may meet a drummer, may meet a keyboard player. Next thing you know, on the next jam session, they walk in through the door, ‘Oh we’re a group now’ and they may jam,” he said.
Events like the MAAG’s “Jazz Jam Session”, Tank continued, are essential for the Philadelphia jazz scene to thrive. It’s a scene that, in his estimation, has faded some over the years.
“We’ve got to get Philly back on the map. It was just as much of a jazz town as New York was,” Tank noted.
He said they’re also essential to keep jazz thriving. ” This is America’s art form, we can’t let it die.”