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Cuesta Cats Be Jammin Jazzily

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San Luis Obispo’s original coffeehouse, Linnaea’s Cafe, has served for decades as a refuge for countless SLOHS students choosing to plunge their heads deep into their textbook(s), ostrich style. A little known function of this establishment is an occurrence every other Tuesday, in which numerous local musicians congregate to respectively blow, slap, tap, and paradiddle.

The San Luis Obispo Jazz Federation sponsors the previously alluded to jam, originally started years ago by local drummaster and former Linnaea’s employee Sean Sullivan in collaboration with fellow musically inclined Cuesta College students at the time. The current house band boasts bassist and master of ceremonies Matthew J. Evans, guitarist Taylor Hatch, both hailing from Cuesta College,and myself on the trap kit.

Expressions recently caught Evans in passing, deciding to quickly pose a few questions regarding his involvement with the jam.

Expressions: How did you get involved with the jazz jams at Linnaea’s Cafe?

Evans: I started by playing at the jams. I was just out of high school and doing OK on bass. I was in a weird zone of being kind of cocky but also very easily intimidated by more senior players. But the jams were very humanizing. The jam used to be a little more “cutting” than it is now, and I got cut a few times. It sucked but it was a good learning experience. I started hosting my own jazz jam at Unity of San Luis Obispo about a year ago, on alternate weeks as the Linnaea’s jam. I didn’t want to compete, I just wanted to provide a weekly venue for jazz jams in SLO. When former hosts Tom Brown and James Gallardo graduated from Cuesta and Cal Poly, respectively, they felt their tenure hosting had come to a close and the Jazz Fed board decided to pass the reigns to me. I’ll probably host it till I graduate from Cuesta and then I’ll pass it on to the next host.

Expressions: Why do you enjoy playing at Linnaea’s in particular?

Evans: Linnaea’s is nice. It’s a really intimate venue and they never tell us something is too avant-garde or too old-fashioned. They let us explore both ends of the spectrum. That shows they understand the point of a jazz jam session. It’s about running the spectrum of jazz music and testing your chops with fellow explorers.

Expressions: What is the most rewarding aspect about being a member of the house band?

Evans: Having the opportunity to share music with other musicians. The thing about forming a band is that it’s always going to be with people you know who possess a relatively similar skill level, that kind of thing. But at a jam, you never know who’s going to arrive. It’s like a jazz lottery. Sometimes some really killer players come in.

Expressions: Why would attendance of one of these jam sessions be a worthwhile experience for SLOHS students?

Evans: It’s an opportunity to see other students and peers of theirs exploring art, creativity, and personal expression. Some of the best student players in the county come out to the jam. Jazz is truly America’s music. It was invented here, and has permeated our culture in so many ways. From Glenn Miller to Kendrick Lamar, jazz (in one form or another) influences our pop culture. To go to a jam session is to go to the creative cauldron that has spawned some of America’s greatest musical achievements.

Be sure to stop in between 7pm-9pm the Tuesday following Thanksgiving break, November 28, at Linnaea’s Cafe to catch the unofficially named “Russian Dragon” house band and jamming accompanists in action.

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