The Jam Session at Bay Burger has become a mainstay on the East End music scene since its inception in 2011. It’s a casual, easy night of music where world-class musicians play beside up and coming locals. And from the joy on their faces and the ease in their melodies, audiences are reminded why it’s called “playing.” These men and women are having a good time.
Claes Brondal, who co-founded the Jam Session, always wanted it to be a night of improvisation, open for the community to grow and experiment. But after many years of perfecting the Jam, he decided it needed something fresh. That’s why he created the guest musician series, where he brings in a different musician every week to inspire the house band and bring in something different for the loyal crowd of listeners. This week, at 7 p.m. on Thursday, February 11, saxophonist Oscar Feldman will bring his Latin jazz prowess to the mic, undoubtedly inspiring the hips to swing.
Feldman, who has more than 50 albums to his credit and has recorded with some of the great jazz legends, grew up in Cordoba, Argentina. Raised on music, he started playing saxophone at 15. By 19, he moved to Buenos Aires, where his career really took off.
“Buenos Aires was where all the musicians I admired lived,” Feldman says. “There weren’t so many sax players at the time, so I got a lot of gigs. I was playing with some of the best musicians in Argentina, and entered into the big world of music.”
He says it was important to learn how to play with great musicians, and also how to play with not so great musicians. He spent his years practicing, performing and getting paid for music, which really gave him the confidence that he could live this life. In 1992, he got a scholarship to study at the Berklee College of Music, where he learned about the history and theory of jazz.
“Until then I wasn’t composing,” he says. “I was an interpreter and performer. At Berklee, I started to compose and play in big bands. These were experiences I didn’t have in Argentina.”
When he finished at Berklee, New York was calling to him loud and clear.
“New York is the capital of the jazz world,” he says. “It’s where all these different musicians from different communities converge.”
He found the Latin jazz scene, as well, to be alive and kicking.
“There’s an epicenter here,” he says. “I strongly believe that this city is where the crème de la crème lives, and the communities are big and numerous. You can get inspired by the environment.”
This, he says, is key to creating jazz. You have to soak in your environment, to feel it, to respond to it.
“What we are doing is environmental music,” he says. “Jazz has a very alive quality, and we need to get the energy and inspiration just by being in the environment. To be in a place where people breathe jazz—that’s the key to becoming a better musician.” Feldman has traveled all over the world, and he’s amazed by the way jazz musicians connect no matter where they’re from or where they are.
“Jazz has a miracle in it,” he says. “It’s one of the only styles where you can be in China, and go to a jazz place, and you meet the other guys and call a song and start playing. That’s magical. And that’s what’s happened in Sag Harbor.”
Feldman has played at the Bay Burger Jam Session before, and he’s enjoyed the spontaneity. He believes that, for both musicians and audience, it’s about being exposed to the unknown. It’s about not knowing what’s coming next, and the essential quality is that the music is live. It’s happening now, and it’s an exchange between the musicians and the audience.
“We are creating this circle of love,” he says, “where musicians are not only playing together, but in front of the audience. The audience can feel the energy, and they give us that love.”
The Jam Session takes place every Thursday from 7–9 p.m. at Bay Burger, 1742 Bridge-Sag Turnpike, Sag Harbor. Check out thejamsession.org.