What started as a creative outlet for Harlem musicians has now become the most well attended and musically creative jam session in New York City. Every Tuesday night from 11.30 pm, the Zinc Bar, on West 3rd Street, features The Evolution Jam Session. Presented by Revive Music, the night commences with a set by Philadelphia Pianist Orrin Evans, who now runs the jam session while founder, Igmar Thomas, is on tour. As the band plays, musicians young and old file in and sign their names on the list located next to the stage. This list is their ticket to playing the session that night.
Trumpeter, Igmar Thomas, first began the session in 2009 at Creole, a small club on 118th Street. The club later closed and the session was without a home until September of 2011 when it moved to Tuesday nights at Zinc Bar. The greatest aspect of the Zinc Bar session is that it gives young musicians who go to school in the West Village the opportunity to play and learn outside of the classroom. There are several music schools in the neighborhood and the students from different schools often do not get the chance to play or even meet one another. A jam session setting allows for these students to meet and form bonds as friends and as musicians. In the times when Bob Dylan and Thelonious Monk were living in the Village, they learned exclusively from sessions in which they interacted with other musicians in both musical and non-musical ways. Zinc Bar is continuing the musical tradition by opening its doors to young and up and coming musicians, giving them a place to explore their creativity.
Aside from playing with their contemporaries, students can also play and listen to many of their idols and in some cases, teachers. On any given week, there will be a number of well-known professional jazz musicians also involved in the jam session. The relaxed atmosphere allows for professional musicians to try new things and play music that they otherwise might not have the chance play in their own performances.
There are certain aspects of musicianship that can only be learned on the bandstand. With such interaction, the students learn by being thrown into a musical situation with players who have significantly more experience. On stage, a young musician must figure out a way to make the music both fun for themselves and enjoyable to the audience. Unlike many jam sessions, Zinc Bar has a large audience of non-musicians that are simply there to enjoy the creativity and hear some of the new musicians on the scene.
Young bassist and student at The New School for Jazz and Contemporary Music, Alex Claffy commented on the “homey and respectful” nature of the session that keeps him coming back every week. As a Philadelphia native, Claffy particularly feels comfortable as many musicians from Philadelphia come out to the session, now that it’s run by a Philadelphia native.
In a time when it is particularly difficult for young musicians to find playing opportunities in New York, the Zinc Bar offers everyone a place to go. Innovation. Exploration. Competition. Revolution, the tag line for The Evolution Jam Session, delivers everything that it promises week after week.
The Evolution jam session happens every Tuesday night from 11:00 pm until close. Zinc Bar is located at 82 w. 3rd St. New York, NY. Cover: $5 for musicians $10 for spectators