Scottsdale, AZ Sunday jam sessions fuel the Phoenix live music scene, By Elizabeth Vaughan-Williams |
Ah, Live music in the Valley. The ever-changing live music scene can present a challenge for fans and the musicians that entertain them. Nightclubs occasionally tweak their entertainment formats to boost earnings. Live venues lose their liquor licenses or close their doors for unknown reasons. In an effort to cut expenses, rookie bar managers opt for karaoke instead of hiring a good band. It’s not easy to make a living as a professional musician in the Valley these days.
There is, however, one constant that local musicians have come to rely on. When the rest of the world is in limbo, music lovers and professionals can always count on Chuck E. Baby’s Sunday Menagerie. It’s been a weekly free-for-all jam session for musical types since 1987 and it’s still going strong. According to the affable host, “The Sunday night menagerie is the friendliest jam in town–where musicians feel a sense of musical community rather than competition.” This difference makes the Sunday Jam a unique environment to network, promote and get to know some of the Valley’s most talented players.
The Sunday jam runs from 9 PM til 1:30 AM every week at Prankster’s Too in South Scottsdale. The Jester Room features a large, well-lit stage that can accommodate as many as 8 players – something that happens frequently. The PA system, drum set, amplifiers and microphones are all provided – players need only bring their instrument and expect to play 2 – 4 songs followed by a change in musician lineup. “You never know who will show up”, says Bobbi Babcock, an avid supporter of live music, “but there’s always a high level of talent.”.
And that’s what the jam is famous for. Well-known names like Jerry Riopelle and Briggs Ashman have made appearances at Jam nights over the years. Motown Hall of Fame member Jerome Teasley and world-renowned electric violinist Tracy Silverman are among a wide variety of major label acts who stop by while in town on tour. Big artists seem to enjoy a brief nightclub respite, and this is the event they choose, joining whoever happens to be onstage to the delight of the audience. Not knowing what to expect has become a hallmark of the event and keeps things interesting. “It’s my favorite night of the week.” club manager Jeff Mehl says, laughing. “More than once I’ve had to kick the band off stage at 2AM so we could close.”
One doesn’t, however, need an impressive musical pedigree to participate. Chuck encourages musicians at all levels by pairing newer players with seasoned veterans. Occasionally, the result is a minor train wreck. Other times, pure magic. Depending on the night, audiences might hear ska players with a saxophonist or a metal lineup featuring a harmonica phenom like Jimmy Zapp, a regular at the jam. There’s a feeling of genuine camaraderie onstage and off, giving rise to newly formed projects and opportunities that never would have materialized organically.
As if this wasn’t reason enough to check out the Sunday Jam, Chuck E’s a committed supporter of breast cancer research and donates proceeds from CD sales and tips to the cause.
The Sunday night jam is always a fantastic night of entertainment for any audience. However, if you’ve ever wanted to try your hand at live performance, ‘bring a guitar and a friend’ is the Sunday night motto. Rest assured, you’ll discover immediately that you are among some truly talented new friends.
Every Sunday 9PM-close
‘the Hall’ inside Prankster’s Too
7919 E Thomas Rd. Suite #101
Scottsdale, AZ 85251
(Embedded video contains some adult language*)