Interactive Jazz Fun at Rockn’ Joe Cafe

Posted by D.A. Gutierrez in Jazz Events, Recaps & Reviews

April 7th, 2013   Comments Off on Interactive Jazz Fun at Rockn’ Joe Cafe

A sandwich board in front of Rockn' Joe Cafe in Union promotes their upcoming Open Jazz Jam.

Rockn’ Joe Cafe in Union hosts an Open Jazz Jam on the First Friday of every month.

The sounds of jazz can be heard at Rock’n’ Joe Coffeehouse in Union on the first Friday of every month. As a venue without a liquor license, this comfy shop makes for an unconventional jazz venue, though BYOB is allowed and encouraged.

As the brainchild of Rock’n’ Joe owner, Ted Kwok, the jam taps into the Kean University student musician community for what’s officially known as the Friday Evening Open Jazz Jam at Rockn’ Joe, although it would be more appropriate to call it The Dan Hutchinson Show.

Upon arriving at the inaugural jam on Friday, December 7, 2012, we only found a single horn player and an equal number of audience members there. After making sure we were in the right place, we met Dan, a third-year Music Education Major at Kean University who explained that over the last few days, a total of 11 musicians had backed out on plans to accompany him.

Noticeably jittery, Dan nevertheless said he had a plan. We waited with baited breath and were incredibly curious when he pulled out an Apple laptop, explaining that it was his “band in a box.” It would provide background accompaniment over which he’d play the melody and improvise.

Dan performed like a seasoned pro, his tension easing as he fell into his musical groove. Friendly and amiable, he had an easy rapport with the crowd, which grew as the night progressed. Especially endearing were his shy grin and shrug of the shoulders as he finished each number.

After every few songs he’d ask for a request. At one point, “Lullaby of Birdland” came up. Dan hadn’t heard of it, much less played it… but when he found the sheet music, he started up the backing track and performed the tune like he’d written it himself! What a winner!

After a while, having gotten so comfortable with Dan, we suggested a game of “crowbar that tune” where audience members would call out random tunes while Dan figured out how to cram their melodies into the current tune he was playing. Jazz improv at its best!

So if you’re looking for some interactive jazz fun on a Friday night, why not head down to Rock’n’ Joe? There’s nothing better to cap off a long work week than the sweet sounds of live jazz.

Every First Friday from 6-8pm is the Open Jazz Jam at Rockn’ Joe Coffeehouse. Feel free to drop in for a listen  – and if you’re a singer or musician, be sure to bring your instrument and join in the fun.

Rockn’ Joe is located in the Union Train Station at:

900 Green Lane
Union, NJ 07083

Tel: (908) 354-0660

UPDATE: As of May 2013, this jazz jam has been canceled because of issues with live music licensing costs.

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