by Damian Petta
As you thumb through the weekly entertainment guide in your local paper looking for a music event, maybe you have come across a listing for an “open mic or jam.” If you don’t know what one is, or if you just haven’t checked one out, I recommend that you do. As much as you might enjoy seeing a specific band, “open jams” offer some of the best alternatives on the music scene.
Most open jams take place at a bar or restaurant, usually during the week. While this might make attending difficult, don’t forget about babysitters or holidays. Typically, a jam starts with the “house” band, consisting of professional or semiprofessional musicians who start the evening with a short set of about five songs. Other musicians sign up to play and specify their talent(s). After the “house” set, a new band is put together with players off the list. If needed, some of the house musicians will remain on stage and sit in.
Going to an open jam is a great way for people to get out and feel like they are doing something other than just drinking or looking for a mate, if you are single. There is a reason to be there–the music!
Pete “Hop” Hopkinson runs an acoustic open mic at Lucy’s Lounge–446 Bedford Road, Pleasantville (lucys-lounge.com) It’s a great night for singer/songwriters who want to showcase original songs and often has many surprises. In my opinion, Pete is one of best all-around musicians in Westchester I have seen. Pete just recently played at Carnegie Hall and many of his original songs can be found on YouTube and iTunes. The jam is unique in that most people play solo with just a guitar or keyboard and much of the material is original. This jam is an extension of who Petey Hop is, a great singer song writer who’s jam gives others like him a chance to hone their talents on his stage.
The Bayou Restaurant, 580 Gramatan Avenue, Mt. Vernon (bayourestaurantny.com), a famous music and food venue, has featured many amazing musicians. The jam is mostly blues and is run by Johnny Feds and Da Blues Boyz, a well-known band which plays at many local venues. With John “Elmo” Lawson on bass, Dave Schimansky on drums, and Fred Lind on keyboards. Johnny Feds is an exceptional blues guitar player and runs a very organized jam. If you like Cajun cuisine, the food is is a huge plus.
“The People’s Jam” with WVS and the Wolf Pack. This jam was started by Will Van Sise and Andrew Murphy of Lucys and is one of the best jams in the area. The house band consists of Will on guitar and vocals, Anthony Candullo on bass, Gary Schwartz on drums and myself on second guitar. Will is a super talented guitar player proficient in many different genres of music from rock to soul to country. There are dozens of pros who roll into jam on any given night; the degree of talent is astounding. Many come as groups with new unrehearsed material to try out. The music can be heard until the early hours.
You can stay local and enjoy the “Bring It On Home” Blues Jam at Katie Mac’s–30 East Main Street, Mount Kisco (katiemacspub.com). The band consists of “Little Marty” Schechter on guitar and vocals, Gary Schwartz on drums and the multi-talented Rich Kelly on bass, vocals or any instrument you need him to play. Gary is a wonderful host and really caters to the players and that makes for a warm, friendly atmosphere. If you happen to miss this particular jam, they do an encore “Back on Track” Blues Jam on Thursdays at Gordo’s – 415 Commerce St., Hawthorne.
Your other option is The Lazy Lounge–154 Mamaroneck Avenue, White Plains (lazyloungeny.com). Blues, Rhythm and Soul Jam” hosted by Gil Parris and Curtis Winchester. It draws a great crowd, especially in the summer when the sidewalk is open for outside dining. The house band consists of jazz guitarist Gil Parris and the incredible voice of Curtis Winchester with Kip Sophos or Anthony Candullo on bass, and Joe Piteo or Rudy Feinauer on drums and Dave Pressel on keyboards. This is pretty much an all-star lineup. This is definitely a house set worth seeing. The band covers artists like Marvin Gaye, B.B. King and Al Green. After a great house set of R&B, the jam is off and running with drink and food specials all night long.
The jam which started just a few months ago at J.C. Fogarty’s, 60 Kraft Avenue, Bronxville (jcfogartys.com) has become an interesting evening with the John James Trio, John Piteo on guitar/vocals, Phil Rosenstock on bass, and Joe Piteo on drums. The house trio plays quality funk/jazz and blues. It’s a fun atmosphere with a good local crowd and draws many good musicians. This jam attracts a lot of new talent and it’s amazing how accomplished some of these young players are.
Jams seem to take a reprieve on the weekends, but there are plenty of bands who fill the void like, Buried in Blue, The Geoff Hartwell Band and The Worst just to name a few, who all play locally.
Sunday, however, is the exception. Once the quietest night of the week, it’s now a night filled with plenty of noise. “The Sunday Night Jam Sessions” at Elements, 161 Mamaroneck Avenue, White Plains (elementswhiteplains.com) created by Dan Carillo is extremely successful, with Dan on drums and a rotating cast that changes every week. The house musicians are some of the best you can find. There are also food and drink specials throughout the night and John Whelan behind the bar.
A Real Community
Over time, the jam community has grown and become a forum where people come together for music on many different nights of the week. Some come to network, some to play and some just come to listen. Others, like John Apicelli, enhance the experience by photographing each event he attends and Amy Kerwin bringing “Diesel Deserts” to the Sunday Night Jam Sessions.
Of course, there are the fans that follow the music almost seven nights a week and who wholeheartedly support the local scene. The community is very tight and growing and extremely supportive of one another. You can truly feel the love at the numerous benefits for those in need, including persons within the music community. It gives real meaning to the gift of music that the multi-talented musicians share to appreciative fans week in and week out.
Jazz/Funk/Brazilian with Thierry Arpino, Jay Azzolina, Robert Aries, Kip Sophos
Wicked Wolf Tuesday night Jam sessions
Dan Carillo, “Big Jim Pope”, Rich Kelly
Duck Inn Bar and Grill, Mamoreneck
Duck Inn Jam, Dave Schimansky
3rd Thursday of the month
12 Grapes Restaurant Rock Jam with Andrew Bordeaux, Rich Kelly, and Christopher Burke.
Damian Petta is a financial advisor and avid guitarist.