The local jazz community in DC, Maryland and Virginia (DMV) remains vibrant in spite of our recent pandemic restrictions. Most folks within the DMV jazz community are very familiar with guitarist William "Bill" Freed, who has been instrumental in putting jam sessions together for years now. Bill also happens to be a proficient musician and band leader in the DMV area.
Bill and I met at a local establishment in Maryland called the Corner Lounge, while I was attending a Thursday night jam session a few years ago. After COVID-19 blew threw the DMV and shut things down in 2020, Bill came up with a creative idea to start playing outdoors with a few musicians. Others agreed with the concept and the COVID band was formed. We, as the COVID Band, would play in a secret location each week and carry just enough equipment to perform outdoors. Of course Bill also required us to follow CDC guidelines. Our main concerns at the time were to be able to leave swiftly if the cops told us to move on, not to ever form a crowd and not to get sick.
Now that things have become a bit more relaxed in the county (temporarily), Bill has established a new venue for a weekly jam session. Last Thursday was our first session at our new spot, the Balkonie, which is in Berwyn Heights, MD, near the intersection of Kenilworth Avenue and Greenbelt Road. I have included a few photos of our initial outing below and we're looking forward to having several more sessions there. Bill continues to work with the management at Balkonie to ensure musicians, patrons and the owners are satisfied with our arrangement.
We also have to commend Magic Ray as the leader of a weekly video chat collaboration for local musicians throughout the dark days of COVID-19. I met Ray at a typical jam session as well. He has done much as a silent partner to Bill to keep our jam sessions and music collaboration vibrant. Ray experimented with a few social media platforms before he eventually came up with a weekly Magic Ray Jazz Facebook forum as an online presence for musicians during the pandemic. Ray would hold two virtual meetings each week to facilitate weekly virtual gatherings for musicians to chat about jazz legends, music, current events, trivia games or have general conversation among musicians. Ray, also a jazz bassist, continues to meet with his bassist counterparts and others for an occasional jazz jam meal - becuase he's a nice guy 😁.
We offer a HUGE thanks to Ray and Bill for their leadership, initiative and dedication to our local jazz community. Together and in their respective roles they have kept the lines of communication open for our local musicians, supported weekly chat sessions, identified/brokered the Balkonie as another location for local DMV musicians to play/dine and for everything else they've done!
If you're a musician or a jazz fan within the DMV, swing by on any Thursday between 7PM and 10PM to listen or to play.
This is the new spot for the Thursday evening jam session in the DMV! The exact address is: 6323 Greenbelt Road, Berwyn Heights, MD (behind the Shell gas station).