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An Update to My Abu Dhabi Open Mic Guide

December 26, 2015
bradspurgeon

abu dhabi

Abu Dhabi

Just a note to say that I have updated my Abu Dhabi open mic city guide, The Thumbnail Guide to Abu Dhabi Open Mics, Jam Sessions and other Live Music.

I have added a new open mic/jam session at the Mood Indigo bar of the Mercure City Centre hotel.

In the Mood at the Mood Indigo Bar, in Abu Dhabi

November 28, 2015
bradspurgeon

Mood Indigo jazz night at Mercure Budapest

Mood Indigo jazz night at Mercure Budapest

ABU DHABI – How many times have I said, “Don’t give up!” “Don’t despair!”? And without even probably believing in my own words? Well, I had pretty much given up on the idea of finding a place to play my guitar and sing in a bar in Abu Dhabi this year. But I had brought the guitar to play in my hotel room. So what happens? I find a very cool bar and a very cool band, in my hotel, the Mercure City Centre, and I get a chance to go up on stage in this bar with this band in my hotel … and wow, was that fun last night in Abu Dhabi.

And I encourage anyone in town to check out the Friday night jazz jam in that bar, the Mood Indigo bar. Not only are the musicians very good, but they are more welcoming than anything I’ve found so far in this place. Very much a place to be.
Here’s one at Mood Indigo bar Abu Dhabi

Oh, yes, I forgot to point out that it was indeed a night mostly devoted to jazz, and that I haven’t got a single jazz standard in my repertoire. But that did not matter at all. What I said about them being open? I got to do my Van Morrison, “Crazy Love,” my “Wicked Game,” my “Mad World,” AND my own song, “Borderline.” And the bassist, pianist and drummer backed me on all of them!
First one at Mood Indigo bar Abu Dhabi

So in this town full of hotel bars and live music, do check out this island of laid back jazz and cool sanity, a musical spirit like none other I’ve found in Abu Dhabi so far….
And a third at Mood Indigo bar in Abu Dhabi

PS. Does anyone know a jazz standard on the theme of a car? Because it was the F1 race weekend here, the MC asked the audience if anyone knew any such songs. I was the only one who came anywhere close, citing “The Surrey With the Fringe on Top.” In fact, that is a song about a horse-drawn carriage, not a car. But they kindly gave me a free drink for my effort!

From Jamming at the Ecuries du Roy to Watching Jamming at the Duc des Lombards

January 26, 2014
bradspurgeon

les ecuries du roy

les ecuries du roy

PARIS – There are times when a musician has to admit defeat and say, thus far and no further. Last night, after a fun, hang loose jam in the cellar room of a venue called Les Ecuries du Roy, we went over to the Ducs des Lombards and decided that the best policy was to sit, watch and appreciate the magical, astounding talent of the jazz masters.

I was with my friend Tonio Guegelin, whom I had met in Mannheim a couple of years ago, and who had accompanied me on his violin as we played in the central place of the town and recorded our jam for this blog – and for my challenge of 2012 of playing with local musicians in all of the 20 or so countries I visited that year. Tonio dropped by Paris this weekend looking for a jam, and I looked on my Facebook page to see if there was anything happening on a Saturday night, as there usually isn’t.

There I discovered that indeed there was a jam, an exceptional one, the ninth so-called “Concert Jam Experimental,” this time located at a bar not far from Chatelet, and called, “Les Ecuries du Roy,” located at 8 rue Bachaumont. It said that it was open to everyone and every kind of music, so that was the answer for Tonio and me. (Tonio plays everything from classical to jazz and pop.)

We went, and I soon discovered that the jam was organized and run by a friend I had met many years ago in a few other Paris open mics. I had some other Facebook friends there too. After one of the feature reggae bands of the night the stage was opened, and I took to the mic, Tonio to the violin, and soon another musician on keyboards, a woman whose name I never learned.

And Then on to the Amazing Jazz Jam of the Ducs des Lombards

We played for a while, there were other musicians, and then a kind of Latin music band. Tonio stayed up most of the jam accompanying everyone. The venue is very cool, a deep underground cave kind of place with the arched brick ceilings, and an environment that feels a little like a Gothic club – which I think it is sometimes used for.

Anyway, once that jam was finished at around 1:30 AM, it was time to pack it in – but I wanted Tonio to get a taste of the incredibly fantastic jazz jam at the Duc des Lombards, which happens every Saturday night (I think Friday too), and which has some of Paris’s hottest jazz musicians. It was also within a short walking distance of the Ecuries, and I had was pretty sure that Tonio – who is studying jazz – might love the jazz jam. When we got there, the playing was so hot, so advanced, so specifically avant garde – well, John Coltrane, Wayne Shorter, etc. – that it was clear instantly that I would not take part in, but just be there to listen and appreciate this particular style of name, and let the jazz pros do their thing.

Jamming Solo at Fermento in Milan

September 6, 2013
bradspurgeon

fermento milan

fermento milan

MILAN – Playing together with other musicians is the essence, even the definition of a jam session, and how it differs from an open mic, where individual performers may take to the stage and do their thing solo. But the one thing that an open jam and an open mic do share in common is that word “open,” and the musical freedom that it entails. Last night in Milan, the open jam session at the Fermento Art ‘n Pub proved to me once and for all that it is really, and truly open.

Last night was my fourth year in a row at which I have attended the Fermento jam during the weekend of the Italian Grand Prix in the nearby suburb of Monza. But it was the first time that I was invited by Lucio Omar Falco, the cool bass-playing MC and organizer of the jam to take to the stage all by myself with just my voice and guitar.

In fact, it was the first time I have seen any solo performance at the Fermento jam. Of course, wiser readers than I might interpret this as Lucio’s way of saying, “OK, Brad, we’ve heard enough of you in the past three years to know that we’d rather not play with you!”

In fact, no. I don’t think so, given that Lucio kept on signalling me on from the wings to do another song. In the end, I did four, two of my own and two covers. I probably chose badly the last one, “Wicked Game,” and depressed them all, and thus lost the stage. But it made my night.

No, wait. What also made my night was the level of the quality of the jam session, both with the regular musicians of Lucio’s band, and those of the participants.

I forgot to mention another thing on the “open” theme: Although this jam session is primarily blues-based, Lucio knows I don’t really play any classic blues, and he let me play anyway. And that’s another aspect of the “open” thing. There was a lot of the music that was more rock and even a little fusion jazz stuff. All in all, a fun night at a cool restaurant/bar and art space.

Jammin’ at the Classy Blues-sphere Venue in Liège, Belgium

August 24, 2013
bradspurgeon

blues-sphere

blues-sphere

Liège, Belgium – On this, my fifth year of my worldwide open mic adventure, I think no other city that I visit has the distinction of providing me with a different place to play almost every year the way Liège has. And that is not necessarily a good distinction: Unfortunately, each year that I come here a place I jammed at the previous year no longer exists.

But so far, the good thing is that each time I come here I DO find another place to play. Last night, I actually had two choices, on the same street, less than 10 minutes’ walk from my hotel. Last night, I visited both the Surlet bar and the Blues-sphere bar, both located on the rue Surlet, in downtown Liège, in Outremeuse.

I was with a work colleague after a long day at the track, and so I felt I had to decide between to the two venues and not do both of them the same night as I would otherwise have done. So we visited both of them, and I was welcomed warmly by each.

Each of these bars holds an open jam session on the Friday night in Liège. The Surlet is a little more open, from what I could tell, allowing any music anyone wishes to play. But last night I had the sense also that it was pretty much loud rock and pop oriented.

The True Open Jam Approach at the Blues-sphere

When I arrived around 10 PM, it was not particularly well attended, either, but the musicians were just warming up. I went to the Blues-sphere and found it deep in the action. The downside was it was geared specifically to jazz and blues, and I’m not adept at either. But the delightfully friendly and encouraging Jean-Paul (I think his name is!) who runs the bar and the jam, said I was welcome to play something as long as it approached the jazz blues area, rather than something purely in the pop vein.

The room has a fabulous feel to it, the stage in the corner was irresistible and the sound was excellent. The walls were decorated with photos of musicians, there were tables spotted about the place and a very well attended open jam with many spectators and musicians made it so I had an easy choice to make: I settled for the Blues-sphere.

As I said, I would have performed at both places under different circumstances. But as it was, I was really pleased with my choice, as I got to do two songs – Wicked Game and Mad World – and I had a drummer, bassist, lead guitar player and pianist (on the first song) play along with me. And a receptive, warm, audience.

Th Blues-sphere, according to Jean-Paul, has been in operation in this spot for about a year, and before that they had organized jams in two or three other spots over the last two years. The place hosts concerts at other times, mostly blues and jazz, like the jam. It has very much the look and feel of a New York jazz bar, and I was delighted to play there.

A Better Musical Scene Than Meets the Eye in Liège

The level of many of the musicians – there was a very good 15-year-old guitarist, by the way – was such that it reinforced my feeling about the musicality of Liège, and made me realize that if I could spend more time in the city and seek out more places, I’d probably find a much richer musical scene than the one I have found so far with each successive bar closing down or jam stopping. I was very sad to see on Thursday night, for instance, that the famous Bouldou bar and venue in the center of town where I had played two years ago was now boarded up and looking like a ghost house. All done. Just like the Café L’Art from 2009-2010. I am now hoping that the jam I attended at the Cuba Libré bar last year is still around and holding a jam and that I will finally be able to play in the same place twice!

Worldwide Open Mic Thumbnail Guide: Nice (& Monaco) Edition

May 24, 2013
bradspurgeon

Cote d'AzurMONACO – For my seventh city installment of my worldwide open mic guide today I am loading my Nice (& Monaco) page. As a reminder, it all started with my now very popular Thumbnail Guide to Paris Open Mics, Jam Sessions and other Live Music, and due to that guide’s success, I decided this year to do a similar guide for each of the cities I travel to during my worldwide open mic tour.

Worldwide Open Mic Guide Philosophy

The only guide I am really in a good position to update regularly is that of Paris, since I live there. But I decided to do guides to all the other 20 and more cities on my worldwide open mic tour in order to give the knowledge I have personally of each city’s open mics. The guide has links to sites I know of local guides that may be more up-to-date, but I have chosen to list the open mics or jam sessions that I have played in myself. There may be others that I know of, but if I have not played there, I will not include it on the list. That way, the user learns a little of my own impressions. But I cannot be as certain that the guide is up-to-date – so check before you go.

More Experience Than Existing Open Mics

Unfortunately, given the ephemeral nature of open mics – and bars themselves – in virtually all of the cities in the guide my own personal experience of playing open mics in the city in question usually goes way beyond the number of venues listed, since they things arise and close very frequently.

Mostly Open Mics and Jam Sessions in Nice, Not Monaco

I do not claim that this worldwide open mic directory is anything other than a quirky Brad Spurgeon centric guide, based mostly on my travel as a journalist following the Formula One series around the world. It is for that reason, in fact, that I include Monaco on this latest list: Monaco is where the race takes place, and most of the people who attend the race stay in Nice, because it’s cheaper than Monaco. It is also more conducive to open mics and open jam sessions. Over the years I have always been able to play in Monaco, but usually as an invited guest by generous musicians. So there is no real listing for Monaco!!! McCarthy’s Pub was a mainstay, but I heard it was all over now, and I have not yet confirmed if that was an illusion… I no doubt will, though, so keep posted…!

So here, now, in any case is the Thumbnail Guide to Nice (& Monaco) Open Mics, Jam Sessions and other Live Music. Please do help me whenever you have information to give me on the venues – i.e., especially if they close down!

Playing in the Jazz Jam at the Shapko Bar in Nice, and Running Out of Batteries, but not Steam

May 23, 2013
bradspurgeon

shapko jam

shapko jam

NICE, France – I mentioned in my post yesterday that one of the places I stopped off at looking for a jam was the Shapko Bar in old nice. So last night, I stopped off there again, and who should be standing in the doorway with his sax around his neck and greeting me but Mr. Dimitri Shapko himself.

“Come in! You’ve come to the right place!” he said, when I told him I was looking for music. “It’s a jam session – we’re just taking a break.”

“With that sax around your neck, I can see it’s a real break,” I said, or something like that.

Shapko is the coolest Russian sax player I know – OK, the only one too – and he lives in Nice – which if you go back a century had a lot of other Russians – and he owns and operates this extremely cool and laid back music bar. Wednesdays, it turned out, was the vocal jam night, open to anyone, but with some very fine musicians on the nice round stage to back up any singer brave enough – or with a big enough misplaced ego – to join them.

It Was an Open Jam at Shapko and Not Just Jazz

I say misplaced ego, because although it was clearly a jazz jam, I decided after at first rejecting the offer from the guitar player, to take to the stage to sing a song. And after all, Dimitri, in his career has played with people like Wynton Marsalis, Al Grey, Lionel Hampton, Clark Terry, Ali Jackson, Jeniffer Vincent, Steve Kirby, Doug Sides and Debora Carter. But in fact, I had reasoned that some of the songs – like “Route 66,” and like “Summertime” – did not necessarily have to be interpreted as jazz. So I reached into the deep well of my easily-played popular song bag, and I came up with the entirely non-jazz song of “Wicked Game.” I just knew that if I played those three chords throughout, then Dimitri, the lead guitarist, the pianist, the woman drummer, and the upright acoustic base player would be able to work magic behind my three chords, and I’d get to sing in Shapko’s with these insanely great musicians.

SO that’s what I did, and I loved it. So much fun, and so beautiful to be able to play with such talent, especially when it is NOT a pop/rock night.

And the Batteries Died on My Recording Devices for the Jam Session

AND especially when the evening had actually begun in a very inauspicious and stupid way. My batteries on my Zoom recorder ran out after I had recorded only two songs. And when I reached into my guitar bag to get the extra batteries I always carry with me, I found them gone. AND then I decided to record some stuff with my iPhone, and before I could even get to the camera on it, the iPhone ran out of battery power.

So I was left with just the two videos of a night full of fabulous performers and vocalists. But it was a great, great evening anyway. This venue is one of THE venues to visit in Nice if you happen to visit – either to play or simply to listen. There is no cover charge, and for music of this quality in most major cities, there WOULD be a cover charge.

Thanks Dimitri and the gang at Shapko, I’ll no doubt drop by again before the weekend is over, even if not to consider playing….

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