Tuesday Jazz Jams Light Up The Grand in Grand Haven
This October roundup of West Michigan music news at Local Spins takes a peek at long-running jazz jams in Grand Haven..
Jamming at The Grand: Tuesday nights mean jazz in downtown Grand Haven.
TUESDAY JAZZ JAMS LIGHT UP THE GRAND IN GRAND HAVEN
By Mary Mattingly LocalSpins.com
27th August 2013
At first blush, it sounds like an unlikely night for a live music phenomenon.
But for five years running, The Grand Seafood & Oyster Bar in Grand Haven has turned Tuesday evenings into a jumpin’ jazz affair with a host of West Michigan musicians jamming with fellow jazz players and furthering their craft to the delight of lakeshore audiences.
“I look forward to it every week, even when I’m tired,” said bassist and guitarist Mike Drost, a Grand Valley State University jazz professor who moved to Grand Haven five years ago from Chicago. “I enjoy hanging out with the guys, talking shop. We play new tunes, it’s a great place to do that. When there are people there, they really appreciate it.”
Located in downtown Grand Haven, The Grand – with its sleek bar and intimate setting – hosts the jazz jams every Tuesday from 7:30 p.m. to 10:30 p.m.
With a menu that’s more upscale than the typical open-mic bar, the seaside theme of the restaurant keeps it cozy, with an eclectic fish tank mounted behind the bar. A dimly lit interior maintains an elegant, yet relaxed setting where diners can either tap their toes to live jazz or enjoy conversation.
OPEN TO ALL, WITH STUDENTS ENCOURAGED TO SIT IN
Since the jazz jams first began in 2008, the venue has attracted everyone from professionals to local musicians just starting out.
“(The jams) are open to all,” said Drost, who serves as house bassist for the jams. “I like to encourage everyone, especially students, to come out and play. The owner is so gracious to have people come play every week.”
Drost first got involved thanks to Kája Lill, a GVSU student and bassist. Lill, after learning that Drost was a jazz guitarist, invited him out to the jams, which debuted in the summer of 2008 with musicians Scott Pellegrom, Lee Heerspink and Seth York.
Drost said he has enjoyed watching the evolution of players such as house drummer Jonathan Swanston and Lill, who has since moved to Texas.
“I watched Kája (Lill) become a great bass player,” Drost said. “We’ve had weird people come try to sit in. (The jams are) great during the winter when there’s not a lot going on.”
Although the bar is busier in the summer due to the tourist season, the jam is now focused on encouraging high school students to come out and play, with Drost emceeing.
“I want students to get the opportunity,” Drost said. “I had it when I was young. Teachers invited me to play in real-life experiences and it only served to further my playing chops.”
FOR EVERYBODY WHO LOVES JAZZ
Dutcher Snedeker, a junior at Grand Valley State University and pianist for award-winning local jazz quartet Brad Fritcher + trois, took the position of house pianist this past July after Lill left West Michigan to pursue graduate school in Texas.
“I love the fact that we can collaborate with solid musicians every week and play a variety of tunes,” Snedeker said. “It’s a great way for all of us to improve as musicians, especially when guests sit in on different tunes. Each week has a different feel to it and keeps things interesting.”
Snedeker pointed out that a variety of musicians turn out for the sessions, including Fritcher and “some other locals from the nearby area.”
Players of all levels are welcome.
“Everybody who loves jazz, who wants to learn about it, come out and play,” Drost said. “Music is an educational experience, and it’s a nice place to hang out.”