Classical jam session at the Local 802

October 5, 2007

During a recent interview, freelance trombonist Nathan Mayland invited me to check out one of his trombone octet’s weekly rehearsals. The two-hour sessions, he told me, give him and his friends a chance to chat about future gigs and improvise to their heart’s content outside of the city’s noise-regulated apartments. Not to mention, a trombone-dominated group warrant playing around with songs that showcase their instrument of choice.

This week I sat in on the rehearsal, held in a worn performance space at the Musicians’ Union building on 48th Street. The group of seven trombones and one tuba sat in a semicircle in front of a modest stage that now appeared to primarily serve a storage function. Rows of chairs in front of the group, perhaps left from a prior performance or class, gave the rehearsal a performance-like quality and seemed to invite passersby to drop in. The selection of music was mostly classical (the likes of Brahms, Bach and Rachmaninoff made appearances), but most of these musicians routinely play around with genres from jazz to Broadway.

Even the unfamiliar pieces rang beautifully, of course, but as a non-musician I was most impressed by the fact that this rehearsal (despite the term) wasn’t held in preparation for a concert. This group schedules regular meeting times for the sheer love of playing.

Considering that we were situated only a few steps away from chronically hectic midtown, it felt surprisingly therapeutic to know the existence of these jam sessions. Because the building security is reasonably lax–I walked right in without formal ID exchange or paperwork–I recommend music lovers to pop their head inside the first floor space in case another mini-concert like this one is taking place.

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