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Jazz Jam! To Bring A Newark-Style Jam Session To Ramapo College’s Jazz At The Berrie Center Series

(PDF) (DOC) (JPG)November 16, 2001

(Mahwah) – Three of the former members of the Original Peppermint Lounge Trio will host Jazz Jam!, an old-fashioned Newark-style jam session, in a Jazz at the Berrie Center presentation at Ramapo College of New Jersey Friday, November 30 at 8 p.m.. Led by the Don Williams Quartet, the session will feature young artists and established musicians from around the state and beyond. Drummer Don Williams, guitarist Geary Moore and organist/pianist Dave Brahm will be joined by reed man James Stewart, who currently works with Frank Foster’s band and who was a regular at the Peppermint. Stan Meyers, Jazz at the Berrie Center’s own emcee, will again do the honors.

The Berrie Center jam will display the characteristics of the classic jam session in all of its permutations. It will feature established jazz musicians who live in New Jersey, local jazz professionals and newer players. Drummer Don Williams, like another great drummer, Buddy Rich, started his career as a tap dancer. It wasn’t until he was in secondary school that he seriously turned to the drums. He gratefully remembers Newark percussionist Walter Caldwell for recognizing his commitment and providing him with free instruction and suggestions. Williams recalls jam sessions at such Newark establishments as Pitts’ Rendezvous and the People’s Choice, as well as the more frequently mentioned Sparky J’s, the Key Club and the Cadillac Club. Williams’ excitement becomes evident when he discusses seeing Houston Person, Grachen Moncour III, Big John Patton, Lou Donalson and Eddie Galdden at many of these venues. Sometimes, if the patrons and musicians were fortunate, Sarah Vaughn, Carmen Mc.Crae, Dionne Warwick, Gloria Lynne or Etta Jones would show up and sing from a seat at the bar.

Originally, Williams explains, the Peppermint session was hosted by a trio consisting of pianist Bill Harris, bassist Calvin Ridley and drummer Rudy Walker, who is still active. Later, when the group was organ-based, Corky Caldwell held down the keyboard spot before giving way to Dave Brahm and later, Radam Schwartz. Williams and Geary Moore have been involved since Corky Caldwell’s days as organist. The hosts of a jam session, in addition to being excellent musicians, must have an encyclopedic knowledge of the tunes that may be called by the participants.

The jam session has a unique and almost mystical story. With the rise of the big swing bands in the 1930s, jazz became a highly organized and formalized music. Most of the music was to be found in the form of arrangements or charts that were written down like the music played by classical orchestras, concert bands and marching bands. Improvisation was reduced to brief segments consisting of anywhere from four to 32 bars. Even then, the most popular soloists of the best-known bands were often times compelled to memorize their own solos to satisfy knowledgeable fans who themselves had learned to sing or whistle them note for note.

The jazz musicians’ only forum in which they could display their virtuosity was the informal jazz session in which musicians from one or more bands participated after they finished playing in clubs, and only the best players were welcome. The musicians-only jam sessions may still be found at international jazz festivals where the musicians jam with each other. Admission to these sessions is limited, and they are often sold out.

Jazz impresario, record producer and manager Norman Granz, having witnessed the jam session decided to present the greatest musicians in the context of the jam session format in a series of concerts which became known as Jazz at the Philharmonic. These sessions presented such luminaries as Coleman Hawkins, Charlie Parker, Lester Young, Roy Eldridge, Buddy Rich, Ray Brown, Dizzy Gillespie and Ella Fitzgerald. Granz recorded the JATP concerts for his highly successful record label, Verve.

Tickets to Jazz Jam! are $15, $12 for seniors, and $7 for students with a valid I.D. Musicians who come to jam will be admitted free. For more information, call (201) 684- 7844.


About Ramapo College

Ramapo College of New Jersey is the state’s premier public liberal arts college and is committed to academic excellence through interdisciplinary and experiential learning, and international and intercultural understanding. The comprehensive college is situated among the beautiful Ramapo Mountains, is within commuting distance to New York City, was named one of the 50 Most Beautiful College Campuses in America by CondeNast Traveler, and boasts the best on-campus housing in New Jersey per Established in 1969, Ramapo College offers bachelor’s degrees in the arts, business, data science, humanities, social sciences and the sciences, as well as in professional studies, which include business, education, nursing and social work. In addition, the College offers courses leading to teacher certification at the elementary and secondary levels, and offers graduate programs leading to master’s degrees in Accounting, Applied Mathematics, Business Administration, Contemporary Instructional Design, Computer Science, Creative Music Technology, Data Science, Educational Leadership, Nursing, Social Work and Special Education, as well as a Doctor of Nursing Practice.


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