SJM interrogates Wayne McConnell about the Wednesday night jam at The Verdict.
How did it start out?
“The Jam started as an integrated gig for Brighton Jazz School Students. My trio played each week with special guests (my friends from the local scene). Eventually more and more people kept coming down to sit in and so it made sense to turn it into a jam session. Now, some of the students are getting up and playing with us which is fantastic. Its a great chance to play in the wonderful space that is the Verdict. It's a very relaxed atmosphere where the emphasis is on fun!”
What’s the general ethos of the jam session?
“I guess the ethos of the jam is just to have fun and make some music. We also encourage beginners to get up and jump in. I learnt by sitting in with people and making mistakes… lots of mistakes. It really is the best (and quickest) way to learn. We encourage people in that position to ask questions or ask for advice so that the next time they sit in, they'll grow that bit more. Quite often, people will sit in and teach us a thing or two as well. Its a place were we all get together and share the love for this music, we are all students at the end of the day.”
How is it different from other jam sessions?
“Well for starters, the Verdict has a decent piano which very few places do. The Brunswick is also a great venue that has a decent piano. We all try to play as acoustically as possible, the sound is so great at the Verdict (except for phone signals finding their way to the bass-amp). We have had a whole host of excellent players come and sit in, I guess you never know who might turn up. Especially so as the Verdict continues to make a name for itself as one of the hippest spaces to play.”
What sorts of players do you get turning up?
“The level is generally very good but we really aren't concerned with 'level' and I speak for myself when I say, I'm not qualified to judge someone's level. We have everyone from complete beginners to professional jazz musicians. A wide variety of instruments and material from Fats Waller to Wayne Shorter. The most important thing though is that we all strive to make it enjoyable for all no matter what level or standard they are at. If people come un-prepared or don't know the etiquette then we will educate them (in a nice way) and hopefully encourage them to come back.”
What have been the best and worst moments?
“Hmm, the worst moments have to be either when people forget to turn their phones off and that annoying phone signal sound ruins the bass solo. Or perhaps it is Terry Pack's badger jokes, I don't know. There have been many great moments at the jam; I've really enjoyed playing with the trio and playing regularly means we reach some fun areas musically speaking. If I want to take the music in a particular direction, I know that Terry and Dan and now Mattia will go there with me. I will also go with them, there is a lot of freedom to be had knowing we aren't restricted. That only works if you have musicians who listen. We've also had some great moments with special guests: John Altman, Eddie Myer, Ian Price, Paul Greenwood, Jan Ponsford, Annie Whitehead and many more. It really is a wonderful night of great music and best of all, it costs the public nothing. So get down there and support live jazz!”
This article appeared in issue 3 of SJM, published on 30th September 2013.
Update: The Verdict jam session came to an end in Autumn 2015.