Gary Schwartz "Jam Master Gary Schwartz"

Gary Schwartz
"Jam Master Gary Schwartz"

Tuesday @ Lucy's 914-747-4740
446 Bedford Rd. Pleasantville, NY 10570
Wednesday @ Katie Mac's 914-864-1676
30 E. Main St. Mt. Kisco, NY 10549
Thursday @ Gordo's 914-769-9814
415 Commerce St. Hawthorne, NY 10532

Interview by Roger-Z (07/11/11)

Roger-Z: How do your three jams differ?
Gary Schwartz:

  • The "People's Jam" on Tuesday night at Lucy's (9:00p - ?) is hosted by Will Van Sise & The Wolf Pack (Will Van Sise on vocals, guitar; Damian Petta on guitar; Anthony "Toothpick" Candullo on bass, and myself on drums). Though not the leader, I run the tip jar and echo publicity. Combining forces with our mutual jam experience and loyal crowd propelled this jam to over-the-top success! We've opened it up to a wide variety of musical styles. The talents, energy, and over-all great vibe of Bartender Andrew Murphy (aka "Murph") contribute in a huge way to the quality and success of this jam. Particular to this endeavor, musicians may post interest on Facebook in playing particular tunes, even those not so easily learned. Interested players will then actually learn details of these songs and perform them in a special Showcase Set. All the top musicians, including those who run or are the "house band" at other jams, will often attend this excellent Tuesday night event.

  • The "Bring It On Home" Blues jam on Wednesday night at Katie Macs (8:30p - ?) features Pat O'Shea filling in for "Little Marty" Schechter on vocals and guitar, Rich Kelly on bass, vocals, and myself on drums and MC duty. This jam caters to those who love and are passionate about all eras and styles of Blues music -- Post-War Chicago Blues, Texas Blues, West Coast, Jump Blues, New Orleans Blues, Funky Blues, Blues-Rock. We play Shuffles, Swing, Flat Tires, Rumbas, 12/8 Slow Blues, Country Blues, Jazz Blues, Blues based Rock 'n' Roll, 2 Beat, Train Time, even Piedmont and Delta Blues. We even accommodate some Soul and Classic R&B.

  • The "Back On The Track" Blues Jam on Thursday night at Gordo's (9p - 1a) runs similarly to the Wednesday night jam.
  • Roger-Z: How do you pick your co-hosts for the jams?
    Gary Schwartz: I choose my co-hosts or house band members based upon their desire and ability to both lead and accompany in the styles of music performed at the session. For example, in a worst case scenario, no jammers have shown up yet. The house band must provide quality entertainment to the customers until the jammers arrive to join in the music-making. The house band must be willing and able to assist and encourage any musician/vocalist who desires to improve their musical performance and interaction with other players. Band members must posses a myriad of skills, including verbal communication, comprehension of musical terms (form, rhythm feel, tempo, etc.), ability to lead a band as well as to blend with the ensemble, finding a quality tone on the instrument, and generally accepted jam etiquette. I have said for years to the co-hosts that I hire, that "jam duty" is 50% gig, 50% community service, and as long as we all are aware of and accept that going in, we'll be good shape. The co-hosts share in the responsibility of running a smooth, high quality, enjoyable session.

    Roger-Z: Do you rotate your co-hosts?
    Gary Schwartz: When I first began hosting jam sessions in 1995, I originally wanted to hire the musicians in my band, The Blue Rays, to give them some additional off-night work. Family responsibilities did not allow group members to serve on a regular basis, so I began a rotation. I did not begin this initially to introduce variety, but rather to share the wealth among musician-friends who I respected, loved to play with, and who worked well with me as a team. The by-products of this rotation, though, were not only the variety of talents and individual energies, but also reciprocal calls to play drums with their groups, thus widening my professional circle. Rich Kelly, the top-notch bassist who was in that rotation, took a tip from the success of Geoff Hartwell's jam, and suggested I try a steady house band. Both Rich Kelly (bass and vocals) and "Little" Marty Schechter (guitar and vocals) have been the steady house band at my Wednesday and Thursday blues jams ever since. Marty is currently fighting a battle with cancer, so our friends Pat O'Shea, Chris "V." Vitarello, Pete Hopkinson, and Andrew Bordeaux have been filling in for him until he is again healthy enough to return to the fold.

    Roger-Z: How do you put together your jammers?
    Gary Schwartz: When building a line-up for a set, one needs to consider who is leading (calling or singing) the songs. This may be one or more people in each set. One needs to have a strong rhythm section, so I try to have the bassist or drummer be experienced -- if not both. I usually aim to have no more than two chordal instruments (guitars, keyboards) play simultaneously. Unless the players are all experienced and versatile, the mid-range can get muddy. Of these chordal players, I like at least one, if not both, to be strong, experienced soloists. At my jams, sign-up order does not determine when you will play. If an individual has a hard cut-off time when they must leave, I ask that they let me know and I do my best to accommodate. If someone has a particular player (or players) that they wish to work with, I ask that they let me know and I do my best to arrange it.

    Roger-Z: How do you balance bringing in the maximum amount of players with eliminating the sub-par?
    Gary Schwartz: Advertise! Advertise! Advertise! Have the club Advertise! Advertise! Advertise! Use all the FREE sources: Facebook, maintain and grow e-mail list,,, etc. Post fliers at the club and in music stores. Treat customers and musicians, club-owners with respect. Be cool, it ain't that hard!

    All levels are welcome. I mix in the less experienced players with the more-so, to raise the level of the players who clearly are interested in improving. As long as an individual treats me and the other jammers/customers/proprietors with respect, they are encouraged to perform at the jam. Players who disrespect others, are overly pushy, or won't follow rules of the jam (adjusting volume when asked, tuning before stepping on-stage, acting with common human courtesies) will wait longer to play, if they do at all. Above all, encourage the feeling of "community" among those who support the scene and continue to make live music viable. Don't take the existence of an active, vibrant, music scene for granted. The world becomes an emptier, more silent place without it.

    2011 Roger-Z