In May, 2012, Pete Chakos, a long time member of Olympia Jazz Central, visited Shelton, Washington, in hopes of finding a local venue for live jazz. Owners Jeff and Tessie Thompson provided the venue in their Grove Street Brewhouse. According to Pete, who has been playing drums for 58 years,
"The inspiration for the Shelton Jam was Ron Smith, who hosts the Vitamin J sessions at the Traditions Cafe in Olympia the first Sunday of each month. I asked him, ’What about starting a session in Shelton?’ He said it was a good idea and that I should do it. Not exactly the response anticipated, but was the motivation I needed. Ron was very supportive and gave me great advice.
I then asked several Olympia musicians if they were willing to come to Shelton. Since the response was positive, I booked our first Jam on Fathers Day, 2012. Charlie Saibel and Bill Duris were the keyboard and bass player at our first Jam. They are highly respected and sought after musicians. My thinking was that quality musicians would attract more players."
Tessie and Jeff provided a great venue for the Jam: the Brewhouse has a family-friendly, coffeehouse-like ambience, has a great menu, serves ales from its own on-site brewery, has over 40 different loose-leaf teas for tea Aficionados—and has an excellent and customer-friendly staff. Pete and the other musicians have felt at home at the Brewhouse from the very first Jam.
From the first, Pete's vision was to use the Jam as a platform for passing on the jazz tradition to future performers and for helping and supporting jazz musicians of all skill levels. The Shelton Jazz Jam features an open mike. Both novice and experienced musicians can participate in the JAM. As Pete says,
"The philosophy of the Jam is to provide a professional platform on which players at all levels may perform. We audition no one. Whoever shows up gets to play. We endeavor, however, to stay a JAZZ jam. (The Brewhouse has a well established Rock and Blues open mic every Thursday and a fledging Rock, Blues, and Funk Jam every other Sat)."
The quality of the original Shelton Jazz Jam core group—Pete (drums), Bill (bass), and Charlie (keyboard)—has attracted other musicians with similar professional backgrounds. According to Pete,
"We attracted several excellent local players we first met in Olympia. D.R. Phillips, for example, has worked as a professional musician for years and has become one of the essential regulars of our group. Also local is Eric Valley, who has a following here."
The musicians who participated in the Shelton Jazz Jam held on May 19, 2013, and who are featured in this article were
Deb Chakos served as the "Ringmaster," managing the flow of the individual performances.
The music included many well-known jazz standards. Some of the memorable performances were
A special appearance was made by Just Gene, who sang his own composition. As Just Gene sang, Dave wrote the notation for the song. Dave presented the hand-written notation to Just Gene after the performance.
There is so much talent among the musicians now attending the Jam that a musician's roll can shift from session to session. Each Jam is different from every other. The composition of the rhythm section can, for example, vary, and feature different professional-level musicians at almost every session. The choice of music that will be played or sung will also be different. That is why every future Jam will be fresh and dynamic—and this is the reason I will be attending the next Shelton Jazz Jam.
On June 16, 2013, the Shelton Jazz Jam celebrated its one-year anniversary groovin' at at the Brewhouse. Congratulations to Pete and all of the participants.
Special thanks to Pete Chakos for the historical background on the Shelton Jazz Jam. Also, special thanks to D.R. Phillips for tuning me into the Brewhouse and the Jam in the first place and for his sharp editor's eye that has made this a much better article. Finally, thanks to the Thompsons—Tessie, Jeff, and Leah—for allowing me to get in the way at the Brewhouse while capturing the images.
The images were taken with a Canon Rebel T3i. My primary lens is the Canon EFS 60mm f/2.8 MACRO USM. A few of the images, like the Brewery, were taken with the standard Canon EFS 18-55mm lens for wide angle shots. In all cases, I used a Canon Speedlite 580EXII external flash.
Mostly, I used simple Photoshop image processing: a little shadow/highlight tweaking, a little sharpening, and a minor level or curves adjustment. For close-up people shots, I softened the image slightly by using the despeckle filter, which tended to smooth out small facial details. I sized all final images to a width of 800 pixels and optimized them for the Web. Since my site is now mobile friendly (but not all content is yet), the images will resize automatically for phones, tablets, and desktops.
I hope you enjoyed this article.