The Jammers Bit: The last Tango and looking ahead

Fin de Siecle moment 22nd March – who but the Good Captain Chaos (aka Col Garrett) would organise a Saturday morning freebie outside a cafe in Challis Street – the back end of Newport – for no particular reason that I might be aware of.

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Started at the ungodly hour of 10.30 am, with one coffee drinker and her dog.. but strangely warmed up into a rather spiffin’ little local event, with people dancing in the street, eyeballing the quartet from a passing bus, drinking coffee and generally being nice to each other. By midday it was swinging hard – seemed like most people knew this would be the last hurrah for a while and loved every minute of it. Props to Katerina Myskova for singing her little heart out, to Steve Martin on double bass (we borrowed him from The Newport Gypsy Djangos), The Good Captain playing some easy saxophone, and to meself for turning up and having a ball…

The shop was shut a few days later…

Doom and Gloom … which brings me neatly to the next bit. 99% of the jammers are doing the same number of gigs and earning the same coin as they were before it all went t*ts up and pear shaped. The optimists among us (there are 3) will be looking forward to doing the same number of gigs and earning the same coin some time in the future.

Shutting down the Jazz Festival. We are actually getting so good at this that we might keep doing it year after year…

Support for Professional Musicians

I have received several earnest e-mails asking us all to support a submission to Government seeking special treatment for the Arts sector, because everyone has lost their gigs. Everyone being, in this case, musicians who are so professional they feel entitled… and not idle jammers. Unless people start leaning out of windows and applauding musicians, we probably won’t contribute to this…If we continually plead jazz as a special case, we will only emphasise how non-essential it might have become.

Looking Ahead: Party Party Party!

There is a real risk that any number of music venues will not survive.. We have been in touch with Gina at the Tower, planning a re-opening party even if we don’t know when. And we will go back to the Challis Street cafe to do it all over again. Maybe throw in a few recovery parties for other venues as well. See the bit on the Newport Jazz Festival 2021 below.

Venues we have closed, and other bits of gossip..

Some bright spark suggested a review of all the different venues whose standards we have lowered over the years:

The “old” Dizzy’s: The Friday night sessions featured (amongst others) the Curtis, Hirsh, Marg in the audience, and Bob Vinard on the chardy all night long. Adam Rudegair was a regular, and Celestine terrified us all with her instructions. The POETS day promenade saw some great crowds, particularly when driven by Steve Sedergreen. The musical standard was often high, and this was a great jazz venue for quite a while, punctuated by noisy trains out the back. It closed because the management apparently received an offer they could not refuse. Roger was moving the venue to Burnley Street, aiming to be open in a couple of months – it took over two tears… so we went to:

The Night Cat. This one didn’t last long as a jammers venue, but this was where Margaret the newly named POCKOTL took us. Princess of Cool and Keeper of the List, she had the bright idea of getting everybody’s email address so we could stay in touch. The Johnson Street venue was a barn of a place that needed a huge crowd to make it work, which it never did for us. Sam Cheevers ran a great latin band there on Saturday nights, long gone, but the POCKOTL email list survives – it is now the Newsletter email list for around 550 people who have been associated with the jams over the years.

Scarlette Bar/Onederland. The scruffiest venue (by quite a margin) that the jammers ever played in. Had some great nights there, even if it was a little cold. Memorable rendition of Georgia by Henry Manetta was a highlight. Eventually the bar got taken over and ‘refurbished” with mouldy armchairs; the management probably thought it had potential as a great venue for drug dealers but was too seedy even for them. We left this one just before it went broke…

The Glasshouse, Fitzroy. This pub was a hangout for unsuspecting Lesbians, who took to the jammers like ducks to a crocheting class. What were we thinking? Regular jammers at the time included Bob from South Melbourne. Depending on who you believed, Bob studied philosophy at University, played classical piano, had a severe mental illness, came from a middle class background (his words), had a non-specific performing arts grant and a heart of gold.

Other jammers at the time included the Debster on debut, Julie Stewart, Bronwyn an audience regular, Miriam (from the Dizzy’s days) Anton on bass, and John Dent playing the sweetest clarinet. Jane Elvy on New York State of Mind was a standout. And this was the venue for the famous mass rendition of Watermelon Man.

“Can we borrow the Technics P30 keyboard for a couple of weeks?” Sure, got it back 8 years later.

There were times we struggled to get a quorum, as many of the original jammers faded away, but the chronically underlit Glasshouse had its Byzantine charms. Can’t remember the barmaid’s name, but she could really sing. So could Sarah Maclaine who dropped in several times…

Ramage, South Melbourne. Dreamt up this one as a pretext for not having to pack up the PA after our regular Saturday night gigs at this South Melbourne bar. The first of the Sunday sessions. Harry the manager grew to love the jams as they became his busiest session of the week; and drew in some fine musicians (the seven sax line-up one week was a treat.) Once persuaded Taariq to let someone else have a go by politely standing on his guitar case. Louise (Rogers) was a regular and a good singer. Captain Chaos started with the jammers at this venue.

Ramage folded after 48 weeks.

La Pena This West Melbourne spanish tapas bar worked well for a while. Highlights included putting a speaker out on the pavement for the Errol Street Festival and pulling a fine crowd. Lost count of how many Local Government regulations that one broke…, before we all turned up one Sunday to find the shelves bare and the locks changed. Never did find out what happened, but I think the manager did a runner. The Spanish beer was ghastly.

The Royal Standard North Melbourne. Ah, Dom and Cheryl! Dropped in here to ask the way to another pub, but thought this might do, (it did -for two years) High points included packing the side bar, then running a whole session off the Roland 30w Cube we used as a foldback, when Dom’s expensive PA system failed for the umpteenth time. Eventually we were asked to leave – by Dom, who then pleaded with us to come back. He sold the lease to Frank about two weeks later.

We have been back to the Royal Standard several times – Friday night sessions, and more recently as a stand-by when the Junk folded.

And so to…

The Leinster Arms Hotel, Collingwood Where we stayed for 8 years, without ever failing to get in landlord Glen’s way (he had a vision of punters in droves coming through the door) or keeping the noise down to Glen’s desired level which only went up when Glen was playing. He was a magnificent supporter of jazz…. Cracked the all time record with 7 saxes one week. Memorable contributions from Adam Rudegeair, Rory Clarke, Ade Ish, and even Chelsea Allen came down and played drums once. My personal favourites were Jason Chalmers (sax), Andy Moon and Doug Kuhn on bass, some of the Ruby Rogers sessions, and Amy Jaulin who sang so loud she stopped the pool competition in the front bar. This was the starting point for current jam session regulars Malcolm Hornby, Jack Morris, Alan West, Jeff Harris, Kay Young, Frank , Kevin Roffe and Brian amongst others; and the last gigs for Alan, the 3,473rd worst drummer in the world , nearly, and Bob Vinard.

The Leinster was way too small a venue (there was room for an audience of about 8), but was almost everyone’s favourite at the time.

The pub used to win Pub of the Year awards every year, until 2010, (which was the year we started)…and closed in 2018 – so off to search again.

The Junktion Hotel, Kew: We promised landlord Dave we would get up to 25 musos in every Sunday. In truth, we rarely dropped below 50 people at each session. Started in the corner Bar and moved to the Bistro after a while. Home of the Featured Singer series, and was a high point of Ray Hood‘s occasional world tour (he used to drop in after a La Niche session). First sessions for Carol, and Jane, Fermin (who found the place) hit his straps as a guitarist. Ivan Sultanoff and Pete Micevski became regular bassists. In fact, everyone was good, except perhaps Dave as a venue manager..

Eventually got a phone call on a Friday – would we get our gear out pronto as they were changing the locks. Never heard from Dave again…

The Post , St Kilda If this wasn’t your favourite venue, you should get out more. In the 11 months we were there, we saw over 140 musicians, and despite the most complicated/worn out PA system we ever used, there were some great sessions. Amongst the regulars, Alan West, Laurie Savage, Roger Clarke and Jeff Harris held up the sax department, Alan Richards, Mike Hirsh, and Michael Findlay drummed admirably, John Bell (trumpet) was as good as Peter Dann, and nearly as good as Julian (Leinster) and Jane, Jess, Carol, Yuko, Kay, Annie, and Aimee all had their moments.

We left because they wanted to move the Jammers to an unviable time, and then capture our considerable audiences for a new band in the evenings. Their treatment of the jammers was lousy, their timing was awful, but they effectively got three weeks of an expensive band front of 8 people (we counted) in place of the 50 – 90 folks who used to frequent the Jam Sessions. And so…

The Tower – a work in progress. We have only played here once, great acoustics, posh venue and Gina the Bistro manager as keen as mustard, (she used to manage Dizzy’s) More to come…

Next newsletter – a trot through the archives going back to 2011 – you may be surprised at who did what and with what and to whom…

Stay in touch, stay healthy, and toodlepip!
TW

2 Comments

  1. Hey Ted…while we often seemed to clash when playing together (our musical styles are just incompatible) I did have a good laugh (& we all need some of that at the moment) when reading this latest newsletter…I really do like your sense of humour when writing about all the musical goings-on at the jam session…keep up the good work…cheers Russ Wood…

    Reply

    1. Russ
      Really appreciate the feedback. This last newsletter took longer than any I have written before (well over 300 editions in the archives) – it is quite difficult to write about nothing going on. I remain optimistic that we will have a few things happening, but not quite sure when. I am not sure whether our musical styles are incompatible – I get to play with a lot of drummers and find it takes time to dial in to what they are about. Of course the converse is true also.If you get the chance, have a listen to Dave McKenna

      Stay well

      Cheers

      Ted

      Reply

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