Natasha Dawsen chats with the musicians behind Granny’s Blue-Mers and Rev. Mary’s Blues Jam.
Sunday night is the new hot night and the Upper West Side is the new hot spot thanks to Mary Elizabeth Micari and Rev. Mary’s Blues Jam at the The West End Lounge, 955 West End Avenue (at 107th Street), NYC. Starting Sunday, February 18, Rev. Mary will host a monthly jam session with singers and musicians at the famed cabaret spot near Manhattan School of Music and Columbia University. All acoustic musicians and singers are invited to come down and take to the stage and join singers Rev. Mary and Papa Sugar-Cane (singer/actor Mario Claudio) for a three hour jam session. Audiences are invited to come and hear and even sing-along. Sign-up starts at 7:30 p.m. The event is 8:00 – 11:00 p.m. Pianist Dan Furman and drummer Adam Weingarten will also be on hand.
We’ve had Mary speak with us innumerable on being a singer and actress, let’s hear from her and her two colleagues on this new adventure … about what it means to be a musician.
Mary, why a “jam;” and what is a “jam.”
Musicians “jam” all the time. It is a way for them to learn from each other, network and even as has been done over and again, create a new art form. The Blues has a long tradition of people getting together to just play and sing all sorts of songs and ideas. I had been away singing last summer at a Blues week at August Heritage in West Virginia. I had been part of “jams” before but not like these! We would play for hours starting the moment we woke up and some of us it seemed never slept. I would go to sleep at 4 or 5 AM listening to blues coming from all corners of the place and wake up at 9 hearing it still going on. I loved it so much that I wanted to find a way to recreate that here a little in NYC. Granny’s Blue-Mers is set to perform on a monthly basis now and I wanted to not only allow folks to come up and hear our funny, dirty songs but also to bring an instrument or their voice and play! Dan Furman is on piano and Adam Weingarten on Drums (that’s a loose term with The Blue-Mers, more like he’s playing washbasin, boxes and metal objects like would have been in the old days) and Mario Claudio on back up vocals. I am hoping that some amazing artists show up and bring their ideas, music and instruments!
OK, got it. Y’know, I used to play the clarinet. What if I stopped by? What happens?
You and all musicians can expect to sign up to perform as a leader of a song if they wish or they can just play along with the crowd! I will be emcee and singing my songs all through the night.
Great. So, it’s monthly… super. What are your hopes for this?
I think its going to be great and a wonderful new tradition for NYC blues artists. If I can help to bring people together the way I experienced it in WV, I will be so very happy.
Adam, you’re the newest member of the troupe, I know the PR info says you just graduated school. What does it mean to you to be a musician in NYC?
Being a musician is more than a career choice, it is a way of life. Being able to create sounds from an instrument benefits not only the musician, but everyone he shares it with. That is the true story of a musician.
Well-said. Let’s go deeper. What’s inside of you when you take to the stage?
Musicianship is about expressing ones passions through a form of entertainment everyone can enjoy. From producing original music, to learning and borrowing others works, it is truly an art form that speaks to everyone.
Is art for everyone, do you think?
Even the most “normal” still enjoy their own forms of the art.
Being a musician is, spreading peace, joy, and creative expression through sound.
Dan, you were there at the beginning of Granny’s Blue-Mers and even before that, working with Mary at the M Center in Brooklyn as well as on other musician projects. Is life as tough being a musician as actors claim life is?
I have worked a lot of jobs in my life—from working at Kroger in Nashville as a teenager to making mattresses in Maryland and running a punch press in Bessemer, AL. I was loading trucks at UPS 20 years ago when we went on strike. At the time, I had been spending all my energy practicing jazz, and my wife suggested I simply not go back to UPS.
Bless her! So now, what is being a musician to YOU?
One thing being a musician means is that you’re never going to make a lot of money. You’re lucky if you can find steady work in the field. A few get lucky and get rich; most of us (like other professions in the arts) don’t.
OK, so what’s the pay-off?
What we do get, though, is the opportunity to spend most of our time doing something that we love and that is meaningful to us. And furthermore, what we do is not just a job that needs to be done, like the plumbing that needs to get fixed, or the food that has to be cooked. In the more creative moments, it can be an exploration of something that we’ve always dreamed of; a question we’ve wanted to ask; or the chance to be part of people all creating something together. It’s easy to forget what a special thing this is in capitalist society. Musicians are not (usually) alienated from our labor—we tend to believe in what we do. (Or else, we would find a better job!)
LOL! Music horror stories?
There is plenty of bad music in the world, and have to admit that I’ve played some of it. There have been bad moments where I was not enjoying what I was doing. But I can still look forward to the good ones.
And in the end?
Our job is to be inspired and to inspire others. You can’t beat that!
You all convinced me. I am bringing my clarinet! Dan, speaking of bad music!
Join me and other musicians and music-aficionados February 18 at The West End Lounge. Contact JMAE.firstname.lastname@example.org for more info.