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Great jam at StingRay’s Bar and Grill on 8-27-13. What made this one special is not just the great players, including Joe Renda, Rich Smith, Richie Newport, and of course Jimmy Griswold, but the wonderful camaraderie all of us jammers feel at these special weekly get-togethers. More about that later.

But this first set was special. Great players like this let Jimmy go to places he can’t always go. For even us folks watching with our jaws dropping, it becomes more than a jam. It becomes a real “concert” and a special evening shared by viewers and jammers alike. Take a look at this video from the first set to see what I mean. There’s some very special moments.

It’s not often you can hear a great Jeff Beck tune like Because We Ended As Lovers, played at a jam. And played well. Not to mention some of the other great tunes that go well beyond simple blues and go to a place of pure improvisation where great players show what they can do together.

They take it all in stride. But these are the moments that make it clear what a great communication medium music is.

Watch, learn, and enjoy…

And later in the night, on this second video, it’s just some jammers having fun and helping each other have a fun time. And that’s what makes all of these blues jams in the Tampa Bay area, and all over the world, special. It’s about good people sharing a love for music and showing musical kindness to each other.

What Makes A Jam Special

OK this is a bit corny, but it’s true. The more I go to blues jams the more I appreciate it. And I must confess it’s taken me a while to realize it.

A jam is more than just a bunch of musicians, of different skill levels, getting together to play some old blues tunes that none of them really know, or can play very well.

That might be what some non-musician’s in the audience think. But there’s actually something else happening as well. And it’s what brings these musicians back week-after-week.

Jams are actually special weekly parties. But there’s more going on than just some drinking and some blues music.

Usually the same jammers show up each week. They get to know each other. They support each other by listening and watching. They begin to know when one of them is having a good night… and they let them know.

They get to know each other’s songs a little better each week. The music gets better.

In some cases it’s a chance for old friends to catch up. Maybe you haven’t seen each other in years and suddenly your old friend is there, and you guys can play together and share music and bring back some old memories… and create some new ones.

Maybe you sit together outside on the porch and talk music. Speak of old friends who are now gone. Share some of those special memories when someone did that crazy thing. Argue about why the old clubs and the old music are not around any more. We share our “war” stories like a bunch of old soldiers.

It’s Really Like Being In A Club

I always wondered what my father saw in going to the Elks Club each week, or sometimes after work. I think I get it know.

You walk in and see a bunch of friendly faces. Maybe there’s a few new ones. Or maybe some old ones you haven’t seen in a while show up. Every few minutes someone else walks in the door.

You get to know each other. You know their story. You know their musical style and level. But their musical level doesn’t matter really. You accept each other at the level each is at.

And you always get a kind word about your playing after you play.

And these “clubs” happen all over the area. Sure there’s a regular jam each week at this place or that. But when you go to the one on the other side of town on Thursday night, all the same people are there from the jam on Tuesday. So it’s the same club, just in a new meeting hall.

And The “Meeting Hall” Is Big Part Of It Too

Some bars and clubs make you feel welcome. The owner gets to know you. You get a big handshake when you show up. And they remember what you are drinking from last time.

The jam at StingRay’s Bar and Grill on Tuesday night it like that. London Phil, the owner, always makes you feel welcome, gets you your drink and the “jam” has begun.

If you’re hungry, Phil will cook up something special for you. And he comes out and takes pictures and puts them up on Facebook and thanks you for coming online.

It’s like you’re family, and Phil is your grandpa welcoming you and making you feel comfortable. You’re home… again!

This night was nothing different…

  • When I walk in there’s my old friend Jimmy “Griz” Griswold, who I’ve known for over 15 years and always makes me feel welcome at his jams, and whenever I see him. Of course, most people are here to see him play.
  • There’s great drummer Joe Renda who I played in a band with briefly 15 years ago. I really came because I knew he was the house drummer tonight. Yes he’s that good.
  • There’s new friend Rich Smith on bass, an airline pilot who only gets to play early in the week, cause he’s busy flying on weekends. He’s a monster on bass and studied with jazz great Jeff Berlin.
  • There’s new friend Richie Newport who gets to play in the first set, just because he’s such a nice guy. And each week he plays better and better.
  • There’s Tito who is there every week, and can do an amazing Santana tribute, and he plays a great ukulele too. But mostly it’s his great friendly, smiling face that greets me every week. I look forward to seeing him.
  • There’s Donny DaLee who is the young guitar-slinger at the jam. He knows every chord ever invented and can play an amazing modal lead on every song. He’s in the second video.
  • Then old buddy bassist Al Raz comes in late. He has his own jam on Thursdays that has been going for over 20 years at Finley’s Pub down in Largo. He’s like a local dignitary now.
  • Then another old buddy, Mike Delaney shows up. He plays sax and guitar and has been a part of the blues scene in the area for as long as I can remember. I haven’t seen him in many years. He’s played in many bands, and despite poor health he’s always got some new project going on.
  • We always share old stories about local blues godfather, Rockbottom, who’s shadow, some would say spectre, hangs over every blues musician in town. He laid down the law as far as the blues went for many years and all of us have some great stories about his antics. He died back in 2001 of a heart attack at the “too-young” age of 54.
  • Then there’s bassist Blake, a friend of Rich Smith, who shows up.
  • Great drummer Jeff Korth, who I keep trying to talk into playing in a band with me. He’s got a teenage daughter and runs the parts department at a Toyota dealership, so he’s a bit busy now. But I’ll keep working on him.
  • And of course new friend, Brian Rice who plays great sax was there.
  • And Mike on Washboard.
  • There’s Jeff Bible (he goes by the name of Jus’ Jeff because he does a solo act), another new friend who I play with for the first time this night. Looking forward to playing with him again.

And few other people were there, who’s names I don’t remember yet. Give me a few weeks and they’ll be old friends too.

Anyway…

Here’s the video from later in the night, with some old, and new friends of mine.

Now if you are interested in going to a blues jam, here’s a page that explains how they work. I highly recommend getting up to speed and then going to one. I bet you’ll have some fun!

Click To Watch A Free Lesson