Locals Only: Open Jam Nights

Staff Writer
Columbus Alive

Most musicians long to get on stage with some compatriots and make some noise, but not everyone can assemble a band, much less find a good gig. Open jam nights offer a chance to scratch that itch for beginners, basement savants and seasoned session players alike.

Improv-heavy blues and jazz dominate the open jam circuit, though everyone who seeks it can find a creative outlet somewhere. For instance, recent Ohio State music school grad Evan Oberla is moving his genre-jumping improv night from Rumba Cafe to Ruby Tuesday this January. Though Oberla's RFG Quintet plays jazz, "the premise was not to be just a jazz jam session," he said.

There's potential for magic every time musicians collaborate, though there's also the chance the session will run off the rails.

"It's never a train wreck," said Pete Mills, who helps run the longstanding jazz jam at Park Street Tavern, the former site of the famed 501 Jazz Club. Mills cited jazz's long tradition of sit-in sessions. "Sometimes it works out great. Other times it's different. It's never terrible."

Ultimately, that spontaneity - and the endless possibilities that come with it - makes this tradition tick.

"You never know," said Buzz Chewning of the Snake Kings, who supervises the Hey Hey's Thursday blues jam. "No two weeks are the same. And that's actually a very nice thing, really."

Thirsty Ear Tavern

Where: 1200 W. Third Ave., Grandview

When: 4 p.m. Sundays, biweekly

Web: thirstyeartavern.com; columbusblues.com

The Columbus Blues Alliance sponsors this twice-monthly Sunday afternoon showdown. A different band hosts each installment.

Vonn Jazz

When: 6 p.m. Sundays

Where: 245 E. Campus View Blvd., Worthington

Web: vonnjazz.com

Luxury Brown and A.C. Collins lead this lengthy Sunday evening session.

Park Street Tavern

When: 8:30 p.m. Tuesdays

Where: 501 Park St., Arena District

Web: parkstreettavern.com

This longstanding jazz jam with Pete Mills, Eric Augis, Andy Woodson and Reggie Jackson attracts some of the city's finest players.

Ruby Tuesday

When: 9 p.m. Tuesdays starting Jan. 5

Where: 1978 Summit St., Campus

Web: rubytuesdaylive.com

Evan Oberla's RFG Quintet ran Rumba Cafe's recently discontinued weekly jams. Starting in January, the eclectic series, open to everything from jazz to funk to spoken word, relocates to Ruby's.

Dick's Den

When: 10 p.m. Tuesdays

Where: 2417 N. High St., Campus

Web: dicksdencolumbus.com

Pull up a hay bale and have a seat as Aaron Snyder hosts Dick's weekly bluegrass jam.

Hey Hey Bar & Grill

When: 8:30 p.m. Thursdays

Where: 361 E. Whittier Ave., German Village

Phone: 614-445-9512

After a set from blues staples The King Snakes, everyone from beginning bluesmen to weathered veterans take the stage.

Tony's Bar and Grill

When: 7:30 p.m. Sundays

Where: 4625 Maize Rd., North Linden

Web: myspace.com/tonysbarandgrillcolumbus

Tony's schedule is stacked with modern rock, but the George Mobley Band breaks out the blues for Sunday open jams.

Roadhouse 66

When: 8:30 p.m. Thursdays

Where: 480 E Wilson Bridge Rd., Worthington

Web: roadhouse66.com

Hurricane Jerry and Stormfront helm a blues jam at the nostalgia-filled, Route 66-themed bar and grill

E-mail your local music news to Chris DeVille at cdeville@columbusalive.com