A blues convergence

By Laurie Heuston

Ashland Daily Tidings

There's a new stir at Roscoe's BBQ. It began earlier this year when the Ashland Blues Society moved its jam sessions to the Phoenix restaurant and nightclub.

"We weren't getting many audience members when the jams were held at the Ashland Community Center," says Mark Howard, president of the blues society. "When people go out to hear music, they want to eat and drink."

The blues society made arrangements with owners Nikola and Will Moore to hold jams once a month at Roscoe's, which is known for live music on weekends and some of the best barbecue in the valley.

"The first two jams packed the place to the rafters," Howard says. "The Moores asked if we'd like to hold jams every Tuesday night."

Howard and other members of the blues society are volunteers who have day jobs, so they compromised with the Moores to hold jams twice a month.

Blues artists of all sorts converge at Roscoe's on the first and third Tuesday of every month. The jams start at 6:30 p.m.

"We aim to give musicians who aren't professionals an opportunity to perform with those who are," Howard says. "That is not to say there are a bunch of amateurs at the jams. Folks are amazed at the quality of the musicians who show up."

Local bands, such as David Pinsky and his Rhythm Kings, Rogue Rage, Broadway Phil and the Shouters and others, lead off each jam session with a set of music, followed by musicians who sit in to jam with them.

"Sometimes we'll let a second band play a set," Howard says.

Artists such as trumpet player Paul Jenny, formerly of Rogue Valley band PJQ, guitarist Brent Norton of Smoky Red and trombone player Gary Nelson of the Southern Oregon Jazz Orchestra are among the musicians who sign up to jam, along with guitarist Robert Ogle, drummer Michael Ruiz, harpist and guitarist Paul Brodsky and guitarist Michael South, to name a few. Pinsky coordinates the players.

The sessions have attracted members of the Siskiyou Blues Society based in Northern California and the Klamath Blues Society.

Teri Cote and the Randalz, a trio featuring drummer Cote (formerly of the Karen Lovely Band), bassist David Clayton and guitarist Rob Gunderson, will lead an ABS jam session Tuesday, May 17.

"Stylistically, we play pop and rock-oriented blues," Cote says. "It's a fun mix of grooves and harmonies, with stuff from ZZ Top and Arc Angels thrown in."

Cote played drums for songwriter and guitarist David Cassidy (The Partridge Family) for eight years, and she teaches private lessons at her studio in Talent.

The Ashland Blues Society was founded in 2009 by bluesman Pinsky and 10 other board members whose intention is to support blues artists in Southern Oregon.

The ABS also holds its Beacon Hill Blues Festival every summer outside of Ashland. Blues artist Lloyd Jones of Portland will headline this year's festival on July 10. The lineup will include Broadway Phil and the Shouters, Pinsky and his Rhythm Kings and acoustic blues guitarist Pete Herzog. Visit www.ashlandblues.org for more about the festival.

Howard is a regular performer at the ABS jam sessions.

"I've played harmonica for 40 years," he says. "I've never performed on a steady basis because I work nights," adds Howard, a copy editor at the Mail Tribune. "So this is a lot of fun for me."

There is no cover for the jam sessions at Roscoe's. Call 541-512-1046.

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