Tuesday Night Blues Jam

Tuesday Night Blues Jam
Trattoria Al Forno

By Georgetown Fats
March 2009

“Well they called for “Stormy Monday,” but “Mustang Sally” is just as bad.” – Tom Principato - (www.tomprincipato.com)

“You’ve gotta check out this blues jam man, it is loaded with great players with no big egos and a very supportive crowd” – Steve Pearson – Guitarist with the band Straight Out.

For a reviewer, blues jams are often a test of patience.

The jam is either designed for professional musicians only, at which each participant focuses on one-upping other people to hit the stage, or it is an amateur blues jam in which every Tom, Dick and Ernie Boch Jr. - who knows enough to lower their thirds, fifths, and sevenths - considers themselves a blues musician.

Between the cringe- inducing element of the potential talent level of the musical participants, and the fact this jam is held in an Italian restaurant, I walked into Trattoria Al Forno (87 Washington St., Haverhill) expecting the worst. But I was willing to do the review as a favor for Steve Pearson, a friend from the local Merrimac Valley music scene.

Moments after stepping through the front door, it was clear there were no excuses for taking four months to check this jam out, and that Steve has the right to never let me live this slight down.

From the initial whiff of the garlic-and-red-sauce-saturated air, to oversized leather furniture and fireplace in the lounge, to the stunning classic Wurlitzer juke box on display in the dining room

it is clear that managers Billy Griffin and Joe Young were aiming for an air of class and hipness when transforming the former River City Billiards nightclub into Trattoria Al Forno. They managed to get everything right. Their amazing attention to detail is something to behold. With the sounds of Dave Brubeck’s “Take Five” coming through the restaurant sound system Griffin and Young manage to walk a fine and delicate line between family restaurant and upscale eatery.

Any concerns about the talent level were dismissed when a 14 year old bass player on February vacation (accompanied by his uncle) managed to mingle effortlessly with Dale Stubbs, local legend, respected musical authority, and guitar player with The Coupe Deville Band.

While I was taking a few minutes of Dale’s time, in walked Mike “Fee” Fioretti, boutique amplifier manufacturer extraordinaire, carrying a guitar over his back and one of his hand crafted amps.

When chatting with Griffin later in the evening, I was not surprised to learn he was the owner of the former Boston Blues Company Club & Lounge. The passion for music matches the passion for the esthetic of this new restaurant.

Running just a few minutes behind schedule, The Stubbies started the evening with a brief set focusing on solo instrumental material from Matthew Stubbs’ Soul Bender CD. Stubbs - soon to be going back on tour as Charlie Musselwhite’s guitarist - and company blended blues, jazz and even surf music together seamlessly to the entertainment of the assembled Tuesday night jammers. With John Bunszell of The Stubbies, Coupe Deville on Bass, and Chris Anzalone of Johnny Hoy & The Bluesfish on drums The Stubbies powered through a half hour set before passing off the reins to the assembled Tuesday night jammers.

With Bunszell and Anzalone pinch hitting when appropriate, Stubbs assumed the role of professional master of ceremonies assembling bands and keeping watch on the time.

Unfortunately the night wasn’t perfect.

Sadly, due to day job commitments, I had to leave well before I was ready. It is safe to say though, I will be back.

For those so inclined, I encourage you to check out an open mic hosted by The Stubbies in Waltham, Haverhill and Quincy along with a rotating cast of special guests that has included: Racky Thomas, Ricky 'King' Russell, Chris Stovall Brown, Chris Fitz, Brian Templeton, Sam Gentile, J. Place, Jeff "JB" Berg, Timo Arthur, Cheryl Arena, Lisa Marie, Diane Blue, Big Jack Ward, Paul Fudin, Gregg Miller, Barbecue Bob, Ben Albert, John Moriconi, Bob Malone, Mr. Nick, Billy Blue, and Pete Henderson. Be sure to check out http://www.myspace.com/mondaynightbluesjam for more information.

For those in the Merrimac Valley looking for a nice night out to dinner, or as a live music venue, Trattoria Al Forno is open Tuesday through Sunday. Bring your instrument Tuesday night and make sure you allow yourself time for Trattoria Al Forno’s traditional and high end Italian cuisine, or a brick oven pizza. You will thank yourself.

myspace.com/trattoria_al_forno

myspace.com/mondaynightbluesjam

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