Winnipeg's Jazz Magazine


Jammin’ at The Hang

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Jam sessions—where musicians spontaneously create one-off groupings and perform repertoire they have not rehearsed—are among the most important occurrences in the jazz community. They can be responsible for some of the most creative and beautiful musical moments musicians will ever experience.

Historically, jam sessions have been instrumental in the evolution of jazz music. Minton’s Playhouse and Monroe’s Uptown House were famous Harlem, NY clubs that provided the backdrop for sessions that shaped the bebop movement. More recently, venues like The Up Over Jazz Cafe, Cleopatra’s Needle and the Zinc Bar have hosted some of New York’s most important jams.

For young musicians jam sessions are a crucial part of their musical development. They set the stage for many tough lessons and lots of musical victories. They provide the opportunity to leave the practice room behind and focus on the essence of the music—spontaneity. So many of a musician’s most important lessons come on the bandstand. Jam sessions provide the means for these lessons to be learned.

The Cool Wednesday Night Hang is as good as it gets when it comes to jams. All of us pack into the Orbit Room on Pembina Highway to hear a set by the University of Manitoba’s world-class faculty. They set up the vibe and fill the room with inspiration. The students then take the stage and not only do they have the opportunity to play with their peers but they get the chance to play in front of an audience! Students frequently play with faculty members too—this gives them tangible experience playing with masters of the music!

As a patron and jammer at The Hang for the last two years, I can honestly say that it has had a huge impact on my playing. I remember one particular evening at The Hang last fall. I got up to jam with Luke Sellick, Derrick Gardner and Niall Bakkestad-Legare, musicians I really looked up to. That was the first time that I had played with those guys and felt like I could really hang with them and make real music! I have such a fond memory of that night and still remember the joy I felt on the bandstand!

The mentorship I have received at The Hang has played a big role in my musical and personal development. I’m not alone in that. I’ve watched lots of other students, from those a few years ahead of me to a new crop of high school students, develop their skills and find their nerve in these weekly gatherings. All of us are being invited to do our part to explore this music and contribute to the musical community here in the Jazz Capital of Canada!

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