Fresh hot jazz in the Underground

Alex Schaaf

Every Monday night, the Underground Coffeehouse hosts the “Jazz Open Jam,” a tremendous display of student musical talent that is open to everyone.
Anyone who feels the urge can get up on stage and contribute their sound to any of a variety of jazz standards. This past Monday night was an amazing night of improvisation that lasted from 10 until just after midnight, but never once became stale or boring thanks to the constant change in musicians.
Organizer Greg Woodard, a junior piano major with an emphasis in jazz, was part of the first group. “We usually start off with a set group, then anyone who wants to can come up and sit in on a song or two,” said Woodard.
The night started off with Woodard on piano and John Merritt on upright bass. The two were soon joined by senior Derek Dreier on drums. But before the night was over, the original trio was completely replaced and the stage had seen 14 different players.
Several different saxophonists and trumpet players, along with a guitarist and a trombonist, added to the flavor. Freshmen and upperclassmen alike improvised over the solid foundation laid by the rhythm section.
“This kind of thing keeps us closer as a jazz community here at Lawrence,” said Woodard. “It also gives the younger students a chance to play with more experienced musicians and receive positive feedback and encouragement.”
While this kind of freedom may seem like it could generate sloppy and unpolished music, the quality of music coming from the basement of the Union was unrivaled.
“We want to have a high enough quality where we could play this music at clubs,” said Woodard, “Because this is the kind of thing that happens at real clubs.”
Throughout the night, it was hard to believe that the group of musicians on the stage had not been rehearsing for weeks.