By definition a jam session is an informal gathering of musicians playing strictly for their own pleasure, usually without written music. Listening to each other carefully, the players create a group synergy—a spontaneous “swing feel” that builds into a narrative of jazz solos, riffs and improvised ensembles. When it works the result is music that exists only in the moment and yet, at its best, is timeless. This week on Riverwalk Jazz it’s a late-night jam at The Landing with The Jim Cullum Jazz Band and Australian cornetist Bob Barnard.
There’s nothing like an evening stroll through Old San Antonio. Take the worn stone steps down one flight from street level and wander along the cobblestone walkway where outdoor cafes line the river and tour boats make their way through the water. Cypress and crepe myrtle trees create a lush, green canopy overhead. Soon you’ll see the sign, “Jim Cullum’s Landing, Jazz on the River.” Tables on the patio are topped with bright blue umbrellas decorated with vintage saxophones, trombones and old trumpets.
Inside cocktail tables cover the floor. At a closer look the tabletops are giant-sized reproductions of 78-rpm recordings from record labels: Brunswick, Commodore, and RCA Victor. Photographs of jazz greats including Louis Armstrong, Bix Beiderbecke and Duke Ellington cover the walls. Many are autographed by musicians who have played at The Landing: Bobby Hackett, Milt Hinton, Yank Lawson, Clark Terry and Doc Cheatham. Behind the bandstand a plate glass wall looks out at lush tropical foliage in the Hyatt Regency atrium. On the wall to the left of the band is an oversize silhouette of a piano painted in the red, white and blue of the American flag.
After the radio show is “a wrap,” the musicians unwind by playing familiar tunes that serve as vehicles for their improvisational skills. Tonight Bob Barnard and guest pianist John Sheridan join Jim and the Band for an impromptu jam session with music by Hoagy Carmichael—“One Morning in May,” “New Orleans” and “Star Dust.” And they play well-worn jam session tunes like “Ja-Da” and “Basin Street Blues.”
Photo credit for Home Page: Inside The Landing with Ron Hockett, Jim Cullum and Don Mopsick, 2005.
Text based on Riverwalk Jazz script by Margaret Moos Pick ©2005