Claes Brondal


web convo Claes Brondal

The musician and organizer of the November 10 All That Jazz benefit concert at Bay Street Theatre on Sag Harbor’s music scene, jamming on Thursdays and musicians who crash and burn.

How did the benefit concert come about?

It actually came about in April of this year, and we were initially shooting for a May benefit. In its original form it was to promote live music in Sag Harbor and the East End. Bay Street Theatre has been a big help to us in the past. By giving us a platform they are directly helping to promote our music.

They need all the help they can get. It makes a statement there is culture and life in Sag Harbor outside the season and helping to sustain Bay Street Theatre makes sense.

It seems there has become quite a vibrant music culture here.

Humans as species need arts and music in their lives. Unfortunately, live performances have become more absent, and people need that stimulation.

There’s also that social aspect, social interaction. To go and listen to live music, rather than a movie, encourages conversation. As a performer, I don’t mind people conversing.

There’s been a void for some time. You can always find live music at The Talkhouse, but finding consistent live music in Sag Harbor is a bit challenging.

I think the desire for live performances is also a reaction to so much time spent on social media online. There’s a place for that, but there’s also a need for real live social interaction.

The jam session at Bay Burger started nearly two years ago; how has it evolved?

Jam sessions started out as an experiment, as an after concert performance. We took that concept to Bay Burger.

We had the concept of a jam, with a house band as a core. It was not an open mic, which encourages anyone to come in and do their own act. The jam welcomes everyone, but the music is done as a group.

Content each night is determined by those who show up. You have to trust the process. If you keep it steady and consistent it will act as a magnet for local talent.

We originally took musicians of all ability, I was curious to see what pool of musicians existed out here. More and more people came down,

We kicked it up with Morris Goldberg when he sat in. He had worked with Paul Simon and a lot of others. He’s just a nice unassuming gentleman who sat in for a couple songs and everyone asked what was that? What happened?

Were you surprised by the talent that has shown up?

Very surprised. Still surprised by plenty of local professional musicians who come down or want to come down. We now have a pool of about 50 to 80 musicians.

You’re getting some big names, what is their attraction to the jam and playing at Bay Street?

I’m amazed by their generosity. They’re not just nice and doing me a favor; they’re doing it for the common good. Jazz musicians play their instrument to work their craft. It’s a need they have, whether they’re getting paid or not.

The jam session provides a venue for musicians to ply their craft. Why would someone like Randy Brecker come down after touring for nine months, had barely been home, but comes down the next day to play?

Is the jam session a laboratory of sorts, allowing musicians an opportunity to do what they might not be able to in concerts or other performances?

The nuts and bolts of the jam is a lab, an unrehearsed rehearsal open to the public. It’s not a performance in the traditional sense, and the musicians enter the room knowing this is open ended.

It’s a reflection of life itself: you’re given cues from others, you can take them or not. You may crash and burn. Audience members love to see a musician sweat and get themselves out of a pinch; but we have the trust in each other knowing we can get back.

Jam sessions afford you the opportunity to create, to make mistakes, to be part of that laboratory.

What can people expect at the concert?

The benefit concert is not a jam session. But it’s a celebration of 140 plus jam sessions we’ve done. It’ll feature past special guests, Ada Rovatti, Randy Brecker, Jim Campagnola, Morris Goldberg, Max Feldschuh, Rashid Lanie, Bill Smith, Jim Turner.

Partially the whole band will be playing at the same time, and then fragments of the band playing: a tentet, a quintet, a quartet.

We’ll do some familiar jazz pieces, to Latin, to Funk. My intention is to showcase the different styles of jazz.

How important is Bay Street Theatre to the community?

I think it’s very important. I think going forward it’ll be even more important. There’s a growing year-round community and it’ll be great if they can operate year-round.

There is a mutual relationship between Sag Harbor and the Bay Street Theater, and it’s known nationwide. It’s role as a cultural center for Sag Harbor is extremely worthwhile.

The venue itself is wonderful. It has such a creative vibe. The whole package, lobby, stage, it’s as good as any live music venue in the world.

Putting this all-star lineup in there Thursday night can be just as good as any jazz club in the world. I’m billing it as one of the most serious live jazz performances east of the East River.

Anything else?

We’re talking about styles of musicians and the vibrancy of the music scene, but all of this is kept alive by the wonderful audience that keeps showing up. There wouldn’t be live music without a faithful audience.