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Interplay Jazz Sessions Bring Musicians Together

  • Jason Pettus, of Hanover, reads his piano part off the phone of Sabrina Brown, of Hartland, as she sings "Come Fly With Me" during the monthly Interplay Jazz jam session at the Briggs Opera House in White River Junction, Vt., Thursday, Oct. 19, 2017. Every third Thursday of the month the organization, founded by Brown and her husband Fred Haas in 1996, holds the loosely structured jams at a different location. (Valley News - James M. Patterson) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com.

  • Jason Pettus, of Hanover, left, looks over a piece of music with David Westphalen, of Taftsville, before playing "What a Wonderful World" behind the singing of Patricia Norton, of Thetford, in White River Junction, Vt., Thursday, Oct. 19, 2017. (Valley News - James M. Patterson) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com.

  • The Interplay Jazz jams provide a social environment for musicians to gather and experiment with new music and improvisation, and the jams are free for listeners to enjoy. DeWitt Mallary takes a solo on flute while drummer Tom MacMillan, left, bassist David Westphalen, middle, and pianist Norm Yanofsky, right, provide a beat and background during the jam at the Briggs Opera House in White River Junction, Vt., Thursday, Oct. 19, 2017. (Valley News - James M. Patterson) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com.

  • Eric Bronstein descends the stairs of the Briggs Opera House in White River Junction, Vt., after an evening playing jazz with friends and new acquaintances Thursday, Oct. 19, 2017. Bronstein, a family doctor at Alice Peck Day, plays with two bands and jams informally with other musicians weekly. (Valley News - James M. Patterson) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com.

  • Laura Byrne, of Hanover, breaks from singing "Violets For Your Furs" as Interplay Jazz founder Fred Haas, of Hartland, plays a saxophone solo and bassist Eric Bronstein, background, keeps up the bass line at the Briggs Opera House in White River Junction, Vt., Thursday, Oct., 19, 2017. (Valley News - James M. Patterson) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com.

  • Eric Bronstein descends the stairs of the Briggs Opera House in White River Junction, Vt., after an evening playing jazz with friends and new acquaintances Thursday, Oct. 19, 2017. Bronstein, a family doctor at Alice Peck Day, plays with two bands and jams informally with other musicians weekly. (Valley News - James M. Patterson) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com.



Saturday, October 28, 2017

Hartford — On the third Thursday in October, Sabrina Brown, of Hartland, and Tom MacMillan, of West Lebanon, were busy preparing the dark interior of the Briggs Opera House in White River Junction.

MacMillan set up drums and played a melody on the piano. Brown wired up microphones and checked the levels on speakers before setting a table with snacks and a few bottles of wine.

Though the venue changes month to month for the Interplay Jazz and Arts jam session, Brown tries to set a consistent and welcoming mood and have a tune going as musicians begin to arrive.

The jams are free and open to anyone wanting to play with a group, try out new arrangements or just listen. Brown insists on only a few rules: “Listen first, share, be respectful, be supportive and have fun.” Brown founded Interplay Jazz and Arts, a music education nonprofit, with her husband, Fred Haas, a lecturer in music at Dartmouth College, in 1996. Jam sessions have always been a part of the organization, but about five years ago they started organizing the monthly sessions.

Haas remembers attending his first jam session with his dad and a group of his friends. “It gave me the opportunity to try a couple of tunes that I’d been practicing in a supportive atmosphere with musicians who were much more experienced than me. I was about 15 years old at the time,” he said.

Informal and relaxed, the gatherings are designed to give everyone opportunities to play with more experienced musicians and take chances.

“It’s a wonderful opportunity to interact with other players, some familiar and some not, and to track your progress,” Haas said.

Patricia Norton, of Thetford, directs the Juneberry Community Chorus and came to the jam session to try something new. After taking in a few songs and instrumentals, Norton stepped confidently up to the mic to sing What a Wonderful World, showing her inexperience only when she tried to break into a verse as the musicians around her traded solos. “I do choral, so this is play, this is fun,” said Norton afterward. “Something totally different.”

“Historically, jam sessions were not always this friendly,” said Haas. “Often called ‘cutting sessions,’ the jam session can also be an opportunity to demonstrate your prowess and outdo other players. We have chosen to keep the competition friendly with the idea that it will inspire people to practice and return to the next jam even better prepared.”

The next jam will be on Nov. 16 at the home of Norm and Cathy Yanofsky in Hanover. Interplay asks those interested in attending to register on the group’s website (https://interplayjazzandarts.org) so organizers know how many people to expect.

James M. Patterson can be reached at jpatterson@vnews.com or 603-727-3230.