Since restarting in November 2021, The First Sunday Jazz Jam at The Parlour (Providence) has been steadily growing a dedicated following of musicians and listeners who have helped transform the monthly series into a community-focused evening of musical dialogue and celebration of jazz. I’ve had the good fortune to watch it all blossom first-hand as the house band leader, and feel it’s important to shine a light on all the folks who make this night special. So I asked a couple of them about their experiences at the jam.
Pre-pandemic, there used to be multiple sessions that an up-and-comer might be able to sit-in on, but since everything has reopened, few of those nights came back and of the ones that did, few remain. However, due to the unwavering support of Parlour owner Gregory Rourke, the First Sunday Jazz Jam was allowed to get its feet under it and has begun to flourish because of the support of a loyal base of fans and musicians who have been consistently packing the room.
That includes saxophonist and jam stalwart Bill Scavotto who summed up his experience by saying, “The jazz jam at The Parlour has been a major factor in my progress as a musician as well as helping me gain the confidence to play on stage in front of a live audience and become a better musician.” Though in the beginning we did have our share of stumbles, as is true with any music series, the mission has remained consistent: to foster deeper connections in the music community, forge new relationships, and help musicians develop themselves and their art.
One great example of this at work is Sydney Mecca, a local saxophonist who, before going away to college, was a constant fixture at the jam. When I asked what makes the jam so important to her, she said, “It has given me the opportunity and experience to play with those in my community. I have always felt welcomed by the Parlour, from being a younger, more inexperienced player, to now as I’m trying to pursue music professionally. Without the Parlour opening its doors to me, I don’t think I would be pursuing jazz the way that I am today or have the courage to jam at the New York City jazz clubs, like smalls. I owe the Parlour a huge thank you for encouraging me to follow my passion for jazz!”
Going between the stage and audience, I’ve been able to witness so many beautiful moments. I’ve seen musicians play astounding music together who otherwise may never have met, watched friendships form over discussions of Dexter Gordon albums, and cheered on as someone takes the best solo of their lives and heard the crowd erupt in applause when they finished. When talking about this article with Daniel Hill, who plays keyboard for the house band, he reflected on a similar moment he experienced: “One time at the jam the house band wanted to challenge all the jammers to try playing more simplistic ideas when improvising. To give the audience an example, we played a simple tune in the key of C and I remember when it was my turn I was excited because I already had an idea where I wanted to go in my solo. As I was playing, it had a strong reaction from the crowd. It feels good when the crowd loves what you’re playing, but it was so special because it was one of those rare times where I felt 100% happy with what I played.”
What makes this jam great is that we have a wide spectrum of people – from older folks learning their first instruments, to high schoolers who can play circles around seasoned musicians – who come to play and support each other, not to show-off or get a gig, but for the simple love of playing this music with other people. We are so thankful for all those people who come out to play and grateful to folks who just come by to listen and enjoy the spirit we all share. Because of their support we are able to keep this thing going and let everyone partake in this beautiful, life-giving music we all love.
We are at The Parlour on the first Sunday of every month and will always be all-ages and all-abilities. For more information visit The Parlour on Facebook, and of course, come by the jam to see for yourself and sit in!
Ben Shaw is a local composer, performer, and writer. Find him at benjaminshawmusic.com and on Instagram at @benjaminshawmusic.
Happening Around Town:
The Autocrats; 1st Thursday monthly @ Askew (Providence), 8-11pm
First Sunday Jazz Jam at The Parlour; 1st Sunday monthly @ The Parlour (Providence), 6-8pm
Evening Sky; 2nd Saturday monthly @ The Parlour, 5-8pm
Clear Audience; 2nd Sunday monthly @ The Parlour, 6-8pm
Leland Baker Trio; Sundays @ Courtland Club (Providence) 8pm