Jamming @ The Spring A Good Vibe
"The great thing about The Jam, is that you just don't know who will show up."
These were the words of Jeremy Ashbourne, as he laid out pedals and stands on a rug put down for the drum set.
Jam sessions are popular events overseas, and over the past few years, a group of dedicated musicians have consistently tried to develop a culture of jamming in Kingston, Jamaica.
Jamming @ the Spring, referred to on social media as #thejam, happens every week at the Constant Spring Golf Club, and it appears to be one of the most successful attempts at a long-running live music series in Kingston. Every Thursday, at about 9 p.m., musicians gather and form a stage on the patio area beside the Fairway Tavern.
Clacks and bops from the drums rang out, as Jeremy tested and adjusted. Wayne McGregor joined Jeremy in arranging the equipment and soon his guitar joined in on the sound check, twanging and hitching in the air - while he jibed with fellow musicians as they waited for things to be ready.
"Last week was fantastic", recalls Jeremy, as he takes a seat behind the drum set. "It's been going on for about 20 weeks now - about five months. The Jam is nothing new." Here, he refers more to the history of a jam session, rather than its current run.
On Chelsea Avenue in New Kingston, there was once a place called Tony's Bar. There was a stage, some equipment and the open invitation of the owner to interested musicians to come and hold weekly jam sessions. After Tony's Bar closed down, the musicians migrated to the holistic community and art centre, Nanook - but this accommodation was also for a limited time.
"Something seems to click here," Jeremy said, taking a moment to cast a glance around the sparse, dimly lit patio, lawn and bar house. "Things really get going around 11 p.m. It's still early."
At 9:24 p.m., the full band was ready. Lead, rhythm and bass guitars, keyboard and the drum set, were all occupied. After they caught onto each other's key and timing, the crowd entered in groups and pairs, drawn in like children to the pied piper. At 10 p.m., the first voice rang out over a bass-heavy reggae groove. Throughout the evening, other musicians trickled in, carrying their personal amps and instruments. Because of this, no one act or player is allowed to dominate the stage.
"It's a musical environment and it's artist-based. Musicians are quite marginalized here. They have to do what pays. We're just here to express ourselves," explained Jeremy.
Anyone interested is given the chance to add their own sound to the performance, or begin a performance of their own. Tobi-Ann Brown, crooned Maroon 5 and Corrine Bailey Rae covers to great revelry from the audience.
Gawaine Campbell rasped like Peter Tosh, while shooting rock riffs through his guitar. Genres like rock, reggae and rap, ebbed from the speakers with no display of inexperience and no indication of any hiccups. It becomes very easy to forget that the entire performance is live improvisation. The jam session ended at about 12:30 a.m.
Close to 100 persons visited Jamming @ the Spring last Thursday, and most lingered and socialised for almost an hour after the instruments were all packed up.
"I think that people just capitalise on the fact that they can come somewhere to drink, eat and listen to some good songs," said first-timer Naja Blackstock, as her head bopped along with the music.