Jam sessions have long been a cornerstone of jazz communities in cities around the world. In addition to offering playing and networking opportunities for the participants, they also act as a chance for anyone who shows up to celebrate the music they love.
In Montreal, there were three main jams for many years – Monday’s session at Upstairs Jazz Bar & Grill, Diese Onze on Tuesday nights, and Grumpy’s Bar on Wednesdays. These events mostly took place around downtown Montreal, so there was an opportunity for a jam to open up in another of the city’s neighbourhoods.
Upon graduating from Schulich, guitarist Sam Kirmayer (B.Mus 2016) sought to establish such a session in his neighbourhood of St. Henri. After finding a home at Pub Epoxy every Sunday night, the jam soon established a reputation as one of the city’s not-to-miss sessions, attracting a crowd of Montreal students as well as Canadian jazz icons like Kevin Dean and Christine Jensen, and international greats such as Peter Bernstein and Ben Paterson when they were passing through town.
Now entering its second consecutive year as of this Sunday, August 12, Kirmayer explained that the session has been a highly rewarding project on both personal and professional levels.
“Running the jam session at Pub Epoxy has really been a powerful experience. The bar is a few blocks from my apartment and playing there every week has given me an opportunity to get involved with my local community in a way I hadn’t anticipated. I’ve met a lot of musicians through the jam, but also neighbours and residents of the area from all sorts of different cultural and socio-economic backgrounds, some of whom have become good friends. There’s no cover charge at Epoxy, which has made the music accessible to an audience that would probably never make it into a jazz club. Being a musician can sometimes feel like a pretty isolated and self-centered lifestyle, so I’m really grateful that we’ve been able to build such strong sense of community around the jam.”
In typical jam session format, each jazz night at Epoxy begins with a set of music by the house band, which has consistently featured fellow Schulich alumni Valérie Lacombe on drums (B.Mus 2018) and bassist Jonathan Chapman (M.Mus 2018) over the course of the past while. However, the two-year anniversary announcement came with more exciting news that’s sure to build the jam’s momentum – Schulich jazz professor André White will be joining the group on Epoxy’s brand-new piano each week.
With a group like this leading the proceedings and such a positive atmosphere for the development of Montreal’s jazz community, let’s hope there’s many more years of jazz in St. Henri to come.
Come celebrate Jazz Night in Saint Henri’s two-year anniversary this Sunday, August 12 from 8:30pm onwards at Pub Epoxy (4210 Rue St. Jacques).