Ed Skirtich: Jazz Jam at James Street Gastropub & Speakeasy

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By Ed Skirtich

A reunion with jazz musicians, collaboration with new musicians, and a chance to renew relationships with patrons from past jazz performances happened to me during Tony Campbell’s Jazz Jam Session at James Street Gasotropub and Speakeasy.

To play with bandleader and alto saxophonist Tony Campbell is awesome because of his way of making us play at the next level. Campbell and I go back to the early 2000s when we performed and taught music at Jazz Workshop, Inc. at Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh in Homewood.

The next musician I reunited with was electric bass player Miles Jackson. Miles and I performed in the pit orchestra of Kuntu Repertory Theater’s musical “Clean Drums” in 2009. During this show we handled every adversity that came our way during rehearsals. We always adapted to the singers during the musical.

At Campbell’s jam session we heard and enjoyed how Jackson really matured as a bass player. He was able to rapidly move his fingers up and down the fretboard.

A new musician I met was guitarist Ben Sherman. He’s in Campbell’s quartet and previously studied music at Duquesne University. He played with much excitement and gave brilliant innovative riffs.

“It’s exciting to keep the audience engaged and energetic,” Sherman said during the intermission.

On the next set, Campbell gave a brief history to the tune I would perform, “Now’s The Time.” He told the audience how Charlie Parker, the composer and musician on this tune, learned and refined this over three years.

When I played my solo on my trumpet during the performance of “Now’s The Time” I used the sounds and spontaneous melodies of Miles Davis, Dizzy Gillespie, Freddie Hubbard, John Coltrane, and Parker.

The audience clapped loudly and with enthusiasm after my improv choruses and trading 12 bars with the other band members. It felt great to be welcomed back so warmly. My return to the jazz scene felt great too.

Campbell’s jazz jam is every Saturday from 5 p.m. to 7 p.m. at James Street Gastropub and Speakeasy. Click here for a list of events.

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