On the waterfront of the IJ River, hidden away on the old navy yard, is Pension Homeland, where the elegantly decorated bar has been the scene of a gem of a jam by drummer Sem van der Peet (28) for a few years now. I was there in November, along with a few dozen excellent musicians. An unforgettable evening, I can say. The place was packed and it seemed like the entire audience was made up of amazing musicians.
The styles varied, but had one thing in common: Groove. With a hard core of well-known jam session musicians in the house band and Sem on the drums, there was a sustained pulse throughout the evening that made it nearly impossible to keep the hips from moving.
An unprecedented amount of horns showed up this evening. At one point there were six (!) trombonists on stage… Perhaps the most exuberant energy of any jam session I’ve been to. Just a crazy party, but with good music.
One month the jam is organised by singer Madeleine Ruijter (under the name Beer ‘n Rhythm), the other by Sem (Bradu) and, recently, Afrogrooves (led by Mark Oomen). I was curious to know how Sem had put this jam together. How did you come to set up such a jam? Sem: “I had been around the jam scene for years, especially at Amsterjam and also Afrogrooves. The jam session became my school, even when traveling. I spent time with friends in Lisbon. Making music every day and improvising with different artists. When I came back I was asked once to lead the jam at Homeland and I liked it. I wanted to provide people a place to play.”
But quality is high on the priority list. “You have to get the right people in the right places. You have your hard core that you know you can count on, but it’s always a surprise who else shows up. If people know each other, they’re more likely to click on stage. So you have to find the balance between new talent and a tight base. If the musicians are experienced, they listen well. There is high-level communication, conversations.”
And that attitude is paying off. The jam attracts top musicians, both local artists and musicians, passing through. When suddenly, for example, Thundercat’s little brother, drummer Ronald Bruner Jr. joins the jam, you know you’re doing something right.
On January 25, Sem and the Afrogrooves Collective organized the jam at Homeland. I played the support act with Sem and our new band Tokyo Afrogroove Connection. We had met at an Afrogrooves session a few months back, so it was incredible to now show the result of all that creative exchange on stage. We had already hoped that the necessary soloists would jump in, and with the Afrogrooves house band, we had the right crowd in the house. Several horn players stepped forward to fill the musical dinner table our rhythm section had set for them, with great sax and trumpet solos. At one point, a four-piece wind section came marching up from the wings to color our song with a perfectly harmonized melody. What an experience.
What else is on the program for Sem?; “I’ve been doing mostly improvisation for the past few years. Now I want to focus more on recording and performing with my various projects.”
Bradu is one such project. He is also secretly working on an online jam project, where they “build a beautiful set in an empty building and invite top musicians to improvise live. And of course Tokyo Afrogrooves Connection”.
More on that soon. Until then, don’t mug yourself. Check out the monthly jam sessions at Pension Homeland, one of the very best in Amsterdam, to listen and, if you got what it takes, to add your own ingredients to the bubbling pot of fufu brewed by Afrogrooves collective and other talent.
The next sesh at Homeland will be on the 29th of February.
Bradu on Instagram
Afrogrooves on Instagram
Website of Pension Homeland