Wanna know a secret? ( – who doesn’t want to know a secret??)
Some of the best musician anywhere are to be found in the old town of Stockholm known as Gamla Stan.
Since moving to Sweden in 2004, I periodically take the 25 min subway ride straight into the nearly thousand-year-old heart of Stockholm, Gamla Stan. There, medieval dungeons are now home to some of the best blues jams you’ll find anywhere on the globe. And the secret is…the real, live bluesmen of course! The house bands have at their core folks who were born and bred on blues: Derrick “Big” Walker from California (sax, harmonica, vocals) who has hosted Wirströms Tuesday night jam for years; Brian Kramer from NYC (blues guitarist extraordinaire and jam-leader at Stampen for the last 16 yrs!); Chuck Anthony from Philly (electric guitar – his official job description when he was recruited to play in Sweden was “ambassador of funk”!! he toured for a year with the legendary Fela Kuti and has cooperated extensively with Dr. Alban the Afro-Swedish musical dentist); Derek January from Detroit (bass, also a Dr. Alban veteran along with a long list of international artists); Jair-Rohm Parker Wells from NJ (electric bass guitar and el. upright; world-renowned and known from Downbeat magazine); James Bradley Jr. from LA (drums – JBJ was the world’s youngest drummer at 4 years old and appeared on the Jack Benny Show playing with Nat King Cole – JBJ & Nat King Cole – and even played alongside Paul Newman as a child actor in Cool Hand Luke! James has played with Beastie Boys, Slash, Crazy Town, Chuck Mangione, Ace of Base, Lenny Kravitz and many many more artists).
On top of all the amazing musicians in the house-bands, there are the regulars who come out religiously to sharpen their skills, fuel inspiration and see what happens in the new meetings – inevitably, something new always arises – such is the nature of the jam!
Occasionally a tourist will come in and dazzle everyone with a killer harmonica solo, or maybe even Eric Clapton’s drummer will swing by before or after a gig! Once Stevie Wonder stopped by a renouned jazz venue called Fasching before a concert in Stockholm – they were closed! Too bad he didn’t know about the joints in Gamla Stan…
Every once in a while, a spontaneous jam will break out in another part of town – last night I had the chance to jam with Jair-Rohm and a pianist Doru at Noel’s, another expat from Brooklyn who continues his family’s tradition of Lebanese food (his family apparently were the first to bring Lebanese food to NYC!) at a very hip and tasty bar on Stockholm’s answer to Brooklyn, Södermalm, and on a street that rivals the New York’s Lower East Side called Skånegatan (well, OK, not exactly LES, but pretty close). In fact, that part of town is even called SOFO – South of Folkkungagatan!
For those interested here’s a little “jamming in Gamla Stan guide” for ya! Fun even for non-players – an audience is always welcome and it’s always FREE!
Sankta Clara – blues jam on Fri and Sat, open jam on Sun, and jazz jam on Wed (all jams from 9 PM-midnight)
Stampen – blues jam on Sat from 2-6 PM
Wirströms – blues jam on Tues 9 PM-midnight
There’s also plenty of Irish music happening in the old town with some serious fiddlers, tin-whistlers, guitarists, button accordionists and bodhrán spoon and bone players (and the occasional harpist).
Wirströms – Mon session 7-10 PM; Wed Irish nights with Loughy, fantastic troubador from Ireland.
O’Connell’s – Wed session 8-11 PM
The Bishop’s Arms (in Mariatorget) – last Sunday of the month 6-10 PM
HAPPY JAMMING!!! 😀