Karen Rauh (keyboards) and Mark Fraser (bass) got into the music at the first jazz jam of 2013 at Pressed. ©Brett Delmage, 2013
Karen Rauh (keyboards) and Mark Fraser (bass) got into the music at the first jazz jam of 2013 at Pressed. ©Brett Delmage, 2013

Pressed, a gourmet sandwich bar and coffee house on Gladstone Avenue, was literally filled with musicians making music and listeners making silence on the afternoon of January 19. It was the first jam of the second season of Saturday Afternoon Jazz Jams.

“It was fabulous,” said pianist Karen Rauh, leader of the quartet that is the new house band for the jams. Her quartet also includes Adrian Matte on saxophone, Mark Fraser on bass, and Allyson Rogers on drums.

“It was great to see familiar faces, new faces, and to have so many people involved with the jam. It was good energy.”

The Pressed jazz jams were started last May by a quartet led by Renée Yoxon and Craig Pedersen, who were the house band until the end of 2012, when they relinquished the chair to Rauh's group.

Seven or so guest musicians of a wide range of ages participated in this first jam of the season, playing everything from jazz standards to boogie woogie to samba, on piano, double bass, guitar, vocals and drums. But no woodwind or brass players sat in, keeping house band saxophonist Adrian Matte busy for much of the afternoon.

Amateur guitarist Jim Mattson came in from Carleton Place to play. He has been studying in Tim Bedner's Jazz Jam workshops and was looking for actual experience. It was his first time at Pressed and third time playing publicly.

Mattson had concluded that the monthly JazzWorks jams at the Carleton Tavern were “too noisy, crazy” for him.

But he found Pressed to his liking. 

“Really nice energy in this place, people feel comfortable getting out and playing. As a participant I found it a very relaxing environment. I felt very comfortable playing in it,” he said.

“The sound in the room was very good and the band is wonderful to play with.”

Although he traveled 50 km from Carleton Place to Pressed, Mattson did not travel the farthest distance. “Mr. Big Hand Tom” Vandermeyden and his wife were visiting from Arnhem in the Netherlands (5700 km away). Vandermeyden found out about the jam and dropped in for the afternoon to listen and play, clearly enjoying the experience.

At the end of the afternoon, after other beverage containers had been emptied, the beer pitcher at the front had substantially filled with bills from donations. I asked Rauh if she was happy with the collection.

“The donation can was good for this venue and gig,” she told me.

“There's a lack of lucrative gigs in Ottawa. 'Pass the hat' is OK but it's not an ideal situation. But in terms of what it was, we're happy.”

Happy too were players and listeners throughout the afternoon. (I was personally very happy with my marble brownie, having to restrain myself from eating a second one.)

The Saturday Afternoon Jazz Jams continue at Pressed (750 Gladstone Avenue, just west of Bronson Avenue) on the first and third Saturday of each month, from 2 p.m. to 5 p.m. Listeners and jammers are welcome.

    – Brett Delmage

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All photos ©Brett Delmage 2013. Click on the thumbnails for a larger version.