A List of Jazz Jam Sessions at Clubs in the Philadelphia Area

Guitarists are welcome at jazz jams.
Guitarists are welcome at jazz jams. | Source

Keeping Track of Open Jam Sessions

Keeping track of open jam sessions that feature jazz is about as easy as nailing Jello to a tree. In other words, it’s a challenge. A session will start up at a place and then, before you know it, the club owner cancels it.

I have all the respect in the world for restaurant and club owners willing to give live entertainment and jam sessions a try. They have the overhead of the building and staffing expenses to bear whether five people come out or fifty. Plus, the owner usually must pay the two to four musicians who constitute the “base” band (also known as the house band or the rhythm section.) Since these cats are talented enough to improvise and transpose to any key, they demand a respectable fee. Therefore, the owner undertakes this to get a good reputation and at least break even – and always hopes to make a profit – through sales of food and drink, and sometimes through a cover charge.

Reasons Jam Sessions Fade Away

A jam session needs a solid paying audience. Usually that is why they happen at bars, clubs, and restaurants. As a result of the risks in the restaurant business, if the restaurant starts losing money due to fickle fashion, or competition, the cost of paying a jazz jam house band will be one of the first frills to go. Another unfortunate possibility is that the house band misbehaves (examples are members coming to perform under the influence, showing up late, taking too long breaks, and other offensive behavior.) If the jam session brings out a big crowd, that looks good on the face of it. However, if the people who come to the session to play or listen do not buy enough food and drink to make it worthwhile, a club owner will re-think hosting a jam. Furthermore, if a non-profitable jam session interferes with successful dining operations in other rooms (such as by being too loud), the jam session will soon be history. Sometimes this occurs without notice. I have been at a session that seemed swinging, and when I returned two weeks later, it was as if it had never existed.

A Partial List of Philly Jazz Jams

Below is a partial, and possibly ephemeral, list of some of the jazz jam sessions in Philadelphia and the greater Philly area (in Pennsylvania only.)

The rhythm sections' keyboard players are willing to share.
The rhythm sections' keyboard players are willing to share. | Source

SUNDAY

Sunday – usually the first Sunday of the month only from 2:30 to 6:00 PM at The Reading Ukrainian-American Social Club (known as “the Yooks”), 542 South Seventh Street, Reading, PA 19602. 610-373-2560. Skip Moyer, bass, leads the house band. $5 cover

Sunday – every Sunday from 8:00 to 11 PM at Dowling's Palace, 1310 N. Broad Street, Phila, PA 19121 in the Avenue of the Arts North neighborhood. 215-236-9888. House band features the Budesa Brothers, guitar/keyboard, with Lucky Thompson, drums.

MONDAY

Monday – every Monday evening 6:00 to 9 PM at LaRose Supper Club, 5531 Germantown Avenue, Phila, PA 19144 in the Germantown section of Philly. 267-231-6779 or 215-844-5818. Tony Williams, alto sax, leads the house band. $8 cover

Monday - almost every Monday from 5:30 to 7 PM in the Upstairs Live area at World Café Live, 3025 Walnut Street, Philadelphia, PA 19104 near 30th Street Station and University City section of Philly. 215-222-1400. Orrin Evans, piano, leads the session. NO cover. [Sometimes Jazz Jams are replaced by a private event or other show, so check before you go.]

Monday - every Monday night from 8 pm till Midnight, Open Jam at Chris' Jazz Café, 1421 Sansom Street, Philadelphia, PA 19102 in Center City. 215-568-3131. The jam session is $10 cover if you are coming to listen, $5 if you are playing. Thank you, Herman D., for hipping me to this. amount.

TUESDAY

Tuesday - every Tuesday from 8 PM until midnight at the VuDu Lounge and High Street Caffe, 322 S. High Street, West Chester, PA 19382. 610-696-7435. Very fast Coltrane style playing. No cover.

Tuesday – ENDING DURING THE SUMMER OF 2015 - every Tuesday 7:30 to 11:30 PM at 23rd Street Café , 233 N. 23rd Street, Phila, PA 19103 near the Art Museum section of Philly. 215-561-2488. House band features Jim Dofton, and Kenny Davis. No cover. Thank you, Herman D., for informing me about corrections for this listing.

Tuesday - first Tuesday of the month from 8:30 to 11:30 PM at Elena’s Showcase Lounge, 4912 Baltimore Avenue, Philadelphia, PA 19143in the University City section of Philly. 215-724-3043. Jam session features the Budesa Brothers with Lucky Thompson. NO cover

WEDNESDAY

There had been 2 venues for Wednesday -- but they have both faded away. Club owners - this night is ripe for starting something.

THURSDAY

Thursday - first Thursday of the month only from 7:00 to 10 PM at Hard Bean Café, Ste 2, 128 East Philadelphia Avenue, Boyertown, PA 19512. 610-367-1788 $3 cover.

Thursday – every Thursday night, 9:30PM to 1 AM at Bookspace, 1113 Frankford Ave, Phila, PA 19125 in the Fishtown section of Philly. 215- 291-5880 BYOB.

Thursday – often the third Thursday of the month only from 7:00 to 11 PM at PUCK, Printer's Alley, 14 East Court Street, Doylestown, PA 18901. 215-348-9000. Larry Tamanini, guitar, leads the session. NO cover.

Philly Joe Jones

FRIDAY

Friday – every Friday late-night from 11:30 PM until 2 AM at Chris’ Jazz Café, 1421 Sansom Street, Philadelphia, PA 19102 in Center City. (215) 568-3131. The jam is led by Luke O’Reilly, piano. Cover is either $10 in the dining room or $5 at the bar.

On Fridays and Saturdays because we hope all you musicians are gigging for pay. That’s why the session at Chris’ starts after you’re done performing.

Caveat: This is a partial list (I am already looking at it and thinking, “HOW could I have left out “xxx?”) and could have errors even as I go to press. If you are employed by one of these jazz joints, and I have incorrect information, please let me know.

A Quiz for Jazz Cats

What is the most important thing for a jazz VOCALIST to know when going to a jam session?

See results without voting
Drummers rule.
Drummers rule. | Source

Photos and text copyright 2011 Maren E. Morgan

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Comments 20 comments

Pax Riddle 4 years ago

Thanks, Maren, but a couple changes.

1.The Weds jazz jam at The Nail has been gone for several months.

2. The Weds. jam at Relish is now 7 - 10 pm (Warren says it's an early crowd there).


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Maren Morgan M-T 4 years ago from Pennsylvania Author

Thank you, Pax Riddle. They come and they go, don't they?


Nice and Informative. No more Weds. 4 years ago

Toni Washingtin. No more Wed @ Relish since late Oct


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Maren Morgan M-T 4 years ago from Pennsylvania Author

Thanks, Toni. Maybe Wednesday nights will become either the day of rest for jazz cats or rehearsal night.


Herman DeJong 3 years ago

Wednesdays has no longer Jazz Jams led by Richard Harner at the Rusty Nail. I think they have no Jazz at this time any day of the week.

I will check and let you know in a couple days.

Good information on your site, Thanks,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,Herman


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Maren Morgan M-T 3 years ago from Pennsylvania Author

Thanks, Herman. I'm sorry to hear that, but you know how it goes. Maybe something will start (hint, hint) at another club nearby.


Herman DeJong 2 years ago

We are sorry to have lost our "23rd Street Café" house pianist "Father John" D'Amico last month. He was a beacon of grace and hospitality. We miss him greatly.

Herman


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Maren Morgan M-T 2 years ago from Pennsylvania Author

Yes. His passing is a loss to us and a gain for the jam session in Heaven.


Herman DeJong 2 years ago

Tuesday Jazz Jams are ending at Ortlieb's Lounge. January 21, 2014 will be the last Jam.


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Maren Morgan M-T 2 years ago from Pennsylvania Author

Yes, the public learned this yesterday. Ortlieb's is going the way of the Showboat and other notable venues.


Chris' open Jam 2 years ago

It looks like Chris' moved their open Jam to Monday nights, 8pm till Midnight, $10/5. So no more $2 Tuesday Jams at Chris' Jazz Café.

Herman DeJong


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Maren Morgan M-T 2 years ago from Pennsylvania Author

Thanks, Herman. Is anything happening on Wednesdays?


Herman DeJong 2 years ago

I can not think of any Wednesday open Jams at this time.

However, Rumors of the end of Tuesdays At the 23rd Street Café are greatly exaggerated. We are now in our 25th year and working hard to assure continuation of this amazing event.


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Maren Morgan M-T 2 years ago from Pennsylvania Author

Thank you, Herman DeJong.


Matt McCarrin 20 months ago

Matt McCarrin Jazz and Blues night featuring Local Artists at The Cove Steakhouse and Raw bar starting 6-10 pm on Thursdays later extending to other dates and times. See MattMcCarrin.com to pre-register or just show up and enjoy the 7 dollar small plates, wine, and cocktails on the new lounge menu. Looking forward to including some great acts and features and will be checking out some of these other Jam Sessions to find great Philly Talent!


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Maren Morgan M-T 20 months ago from Pennsylvania Author

Matt McCarrin says that this is a JAM at the Philadelphia Harrah's in Chester, PA. Someone let me know if it really is a jam.


Matt McCarrin 19 months ago

Okay - You can disregard that I said its a Jam - however, professional musicians are welcome to join in on portable instruments. Also if you would like to play/sing you can pre-register on my website. As of no I am looking to include all the great talents of Philadelphia. On the other hand I am lobbying to get a REAL jam to happen on Wednesday night in the same location - I can see it happening in the foreseeable future.


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Maren Morgan M-T 19 months ago from Pennsylvania Author

Matt McCartrin, Best Wishes on all that. Definitely look for Luke Carlos O'Reilly and Nimrod Speaks as some great local up-and-coming cats.


Herman DeJong 17 months ago

Mondays are back at La Rose, with the great Tony Williams admission is now $10.

Tuesdays at the 23rd Street Cafe: last Jam, July 28. The building was sold and demolition is proposed.


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Maren Morgan M-T 17 months ago from Pennsylvania Author

Thanks, Herman. Too bad about 23rd St, but I have faith that something will replace it, somewhere - maybe not as centrally located, but somewhere. I never thought of the Tony Williams night as being quite as "open" to newbies as Rob Henderson's jam. Is everyone encouraged to step in with Tony and the true giants of Philly jazz?

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