Baker's Keyboard Lounge, at 20510 Livernois, in Detroit, is the oldest continuously running jazz club in the United States. A few years ago, it was listed as one of the top three jazz clubs in the U.S., the other two being in San Francisco and in New York. On Wednesday evenings, Baker's hosts an open jam night with a house trio of veteran jazz musicians led by Dr. Teddy Harris at the piano. For the past few months, Dr. Harris has been ill and the capable Kenneth Cox has filled in at the keys. Bassist Don Mayberry and Drummer George Davidson complete the trio. It is not uncommon to see nationally recognized musicians drop in on a Wednesday evening for a little impromptu fun. Recently, James Carter, Don Waldron, and Martha Reeves have graced the Baker's stage with their presence.
Every other Wednesday, I make the trip to Baker's with a horn or two and participate in the open jam session. The use of Fake books during the jam is frowned upon so I've been focusing on memorizing the most-requested standards in my practice sessions. The likes of On Green Dolphin Street, Autumn Leaves, Have You Met Miss Jones, There Will Never Be Another You, and Just Friends get called quite often at Baker's. Every time a tune is called that I don't know, I add it to my "to learn" list. Some nights, there are quite a few vocalists who want to sing a couple of tunes and these are usually easy enough to blow through a chorus or two whithout having to know the head. After having spent a few years honing my improvisation skills with Jamey Aebersold play-alongs, I thought I was ready to mix with the "big boys" at Baker's. I've been visiting the jam sessions for about nine months now and have gotten some favorable compliments on my sound and style from listeners and musicians alike.