Image 1. Left to right: Jeff Sipe, Ryan Reardon and Preston Cate.
Image 2. Preston Cate (left) and Tyler Householder.
Photos by Sam Katz
what: Soul Jazz Jam
where: One Stop
when: Wednesdays (10 p.m., free. http://ashevillemusichall.com)
“Inevitably, when there’s an opportunity like this, relationships are formed,” says drummer Jeff Sipe. Though he’s performed just about everywhere with just about everyone (Aquarium Rescue Unit, Leftover Salmon, Jeff Coffin & the Mu’tet and the Jimmy Herring Band), Sipe calls Brevard home and often contributes his talents to local projects. When he’s not on tour, Sipe has lately been serving as the house drummer at One Stop’s Soul Jazz Jam.
The jam, hosted by Preston Cate (guitarist for local outfit Vertigo Jazz Project), offers up the opportunities Sipe is talking about. The chance for musicians to meet, exchange ideas and share a stage. “It’s music for music’s sake,” says Sipe, which is also how he views the local landscape.
“It’s a vibrant scene,” he says. “There are a lot of creative folks. It’s not really motivated by commercialism as much as it is by artistic statement. In some of the bigger cities there’s so much competition and dumbing down of music for the masses. It seems like Asheville is one of those places where there’s original music.”
Sipe is also quick to note that his role in the jam is “supporting Preston and his desire to bring people out who have something to say musically. It's a noble and beautiful thing he's doing.”
Soul jazz is a jazz genre associated with hard bop, according to ’94 reference book, All Music Guide to Jazz, with "an earthy, bluesy melodic concept.” Cates and his Vertigo Jazz Project band members first came up with the idea for a jam around that musical style. With the help of Sam Katz and Katherine "KP" Powell, he started a regular session at now-closed Mo Daddys.
“What we did with that was we had a big-name special guest, ideally once a month,” says Katz. He and Powell opened One Stop Deli and Asheville Music Hall in 2011 and, in the fall of 2012, decided to reintroduce Soul Jazz Jam to the local music scene. While they have yet to add the big-name guests (other than Sipe), Katz points out that the jam attracts “most of the jazz players in town.” Grant Cuthbertson (The Funknastics), Ryan Reardon (Zansa) and Tyler Householder (The Broadcast) are a few.
Cate says that the jam is more than just a freeform showcase of local talent. “It challenges me,” he says. “When you play with the same people all the time, you know their strengths and their weaknesses.”
He continues, “When you play with different people, it makes you listen harder, it makes you pay attention, it makes you communicate in the language of music.”
The Asheville Soul Jazz Jam is the first jam of that genre that Cate has been a part of, but when he lived in Colorado he joined a bluegrass jam. Jack of the Wood hosts such an event for bluegrass players. There are Celtic jams, a ukulele jam and the popular Tuesday Night Funk Jam. That music gathering heads into its fifth year and, this past summer, moved from the 180-person capacity One Stop to Asheville Music Hall upstairs, with twice the capacity.
The Funk Jam, which started at the Emerald Lounge, has been wildly successful, attracting nationally touring musicians like Gift of Gab and Zach Deputy. But the Soul Jazz Jam is not without its celebrity moments: “When it used to be at Mo Daddy’s, we’d have people come by before their shows at the Orange Peel,” says Katz. “Members of Soulive came by. G. Love came by one night.”
The current jam, held on Wednesdays, takes place late-night, after the jazz session at Tressa’s — players and fans can make both. Cate says that, at the One Stop jam, “The first set is the house band, which changes every week. The second set is open to whoever wants to play.” The guitarist does point out that this is not a freeform session, and while he always has a few songs on reserve, would-be players should know a song when they get up on stage.”
He adds, “The word ‘jazz’ can intimidate some people, but I try to encourage musicians to come. Everyone’s welcome.”
Alli Marshall can be reached at email@example.com.