Pioneer Valley Soundscapes

Building Community Through Improvisation: Northampton Jazz Workshop and Jam Session

The Green Street Trio is dedicated to the tradition of jazz apprenticeship.  Now in its second year and second location, the Northampton Jazz Workshop and Jam Session provides up and coming jazz players a place to perform and practice in a friendly environment.  Every Tuesday at the Loft of the Clarion Hotel in Northampton, the Green Street Trio performs an hour long opening set with a well-known guest artist.  This is followed by a jam session open to musicians of all levels.  The session is not limited to instrumentalists, but also embraces dance performers and vocalists.

The Northampton Jazz Workshop is part of a long history of jazz in the Pioneer Valley and has created an important context for fostering community around jazz performance.  Its genesis was the brainchild of pianist Paul Arslanian, a lecturer and dance accompanist at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst and member of the Green Street Trio.  Arslanian wished for a space to gather musicians, share music through jazz improvisation, and teach younger players.  With the late bassist Dave Shapiro, they turned this idea into the Jazz Workshop featuring the Green Street Trio.  The name of the trio references Green Street Cafe, the now-closed original venue for the Jazz Workshop.  Today, the trio is comprised of Arslanian, bassist George Kaye, and drummer Jonathan Fisher.

Kaye explains that the workshop and jam session is much like a house party—everybody knows each other and is there to relax and have a good time.  This is nowhere more evident than in the devoted following that has developed around the workshop.  Audience member Kathryn Service explains that the Tuesday night performances make her feel welcome and that listeners have value.  One such avid listener, Bruce Niemczyk, captures this: “come listen to the music and bring your friends!”

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