Open Air Jams: Amsterjam / Blablasounds

Traditional Dutch scene at Amsterjam

During the past month’s heat wave, I went in search of the freshest outdoor sessions. Normally I would describe one jam in this column, but we only have summer for so long and I want as many people as possible to experience these jams.

First I visited Amsterjam, a long-standing session held at the Noorderlicht near the NDSM wharf in North. I knew this joint, though I thought it was closed. Well, in fact the whole building has been demolished. But the location is still being put to good for one last summer, with a terrace , the view over the IJ river and music, including Amsterjam. At the picnic tables, patrons enjoy their drinks and the music in the sun. The jam is pure improvisation, with a nice percussion section and, this time, a hefty supply of bassists. I chuckle when I see rapper Guillermo, by now a familiar face, walk onto the grounds and, without greeting anyone, immediately step onto “the stage” (read: sand circle) and start rhyming. The general level is high, but the atmosphere is casual and playful. Fortunately, I am on time and also get the space to play. Things are going well. I spot Ben Stone, a rock-solid drummer I’ve played with before at Afrogrooves, but, unfortunately, we don’t play together. Still, I play with some drummers new to me, which is always fun too. The vibe goes in all directions, but for me it is the fusion grooves, tight and funky, that sound the best.         

A few days later, I see a lot of these faces again at another jam, Blablasounds, hidden in a courtyard between the apartment buildings behind Bos en Lommerplein. You go up an inconspicuous flight of stairs, leaving the bustle of the street behind you, and see this idyllic picture: about thirty people, chilling in small groups with drinks, a BBQ on which you can throw your own snacks, and delicious grooves coming from the greenhouse in the middle of the courtyard. Around and inside of the glass building, everyone is dancing and clapping, emboldening and energizing the musicians. Ben Stone is there to bring the fusion. A bunch of singers, just making up entire ballads on the spot. There is good listening, musical space, and the jam leader is not shy about giving directions from the sidelines. This is perhaps the most heavenly jam I have participated in. Very cool that the residents are open to this.

My advice: catch as many of these outdoor jams as you can this summer. Amsterjam will surely find a new home when Noorderlicht closes, and maybe Blabla Sounds will make a relaunch as well, but you don’t want to miss it. Keep an eye on our calendar or the instagrams of these collectives.



Helicopter Agenda

Blablasounds: Isn't this romantic?