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Jamming with Jazz at Sugar House Coffee

Apr 08, 2016 09:54AM ● Published by Elizabeth Suggs

By Elizabeth Suggs | elizabeth.s@mycityjournals.com

Sugar House - Every Thursday for the past 10 years, Jazz Jam has played at Sugar House Coffee. 

Sugar House Coffee Manager Emily Potts says the jam sessions are a way to support local musicians by enabling a place for people to play. The group usually sticks with the same core people, but other musicians are more than welcome to join the group. According to Jim Guss, guitarist, it’s not uncommon to cycle through different musicians. 

“When I started I was the newcomer,” Guss said. “Things were handed off to me and now we have a new crop.” 

Guss started three years ago and like Jake Bills, bassist, and Chris Petty, drummer, who were present at the jam session, has no plans to stop. 

Currently, Guss is chief executive officer of Consonus Music Institute, director of the Salt Lake Jazz Festival and general partner of Next Stage Partners. 

Like Guss, Bills has a continued interest in the music industry through his work outside of his performances. Bills started at Sugar House Coffee because it was one of the only places he could play that allowed in people under 21 years of age. The pair have played together in various activities, including the nationwide program called School of Rock.

Similar to but not quite the movie, School of Rock is a place where students are encouraged in a “high level of achievement as artists and become leaders in their community.” The program is available to anyone through classes or tutor sessions that will help them perform on and off the stage.

In 2008, Petty joined School of Rock after seeing a friend do a performance for the program. With the help of weekly private lessons and a weekly rehearsal for a themed show, Petty worked with School of Rock, where he and Bills became close.

Petty chose drums because, according to him, it was difficult. He had to put everything into it to be at the success level he currently holds. 

“[Petty] is probably the up-and-coming drummer who plays in lots of groups,” Guss said. “Everybody loves him.” 

Bills said he and Petty have had many situations to play together, and that happened again at the start of 2016, thanks to the community in Utah.

“The jazz community in SLC is pretty small and familiar,” Bills said. “I may not know everyone’s name, but I might know their face or their reputation.” 

Other parts of the Jazz community are found through groups like Meetup.com or through Salt Lake performance businesses, especially throughout downtown. But Meetup.com and downtown aside, Petty, Guss and Bills continue to jazz it up at Sugar House Coffee, even when they are the only jazz performers present. 

But sometimes, others contribute to the jazz community by standing in for the usual jazz group. One stand-in, Jordan Reihman, played the drums near the end of the night on March 4 as Petty relaxed. With the same passion and fun, Reihman drummed away for the rest of the night. 

Even as a stand-in, Reihman, is part of the community. Usually the group is around seven people, but only a few are the core and with these core members the jam sessions stay alive. 

“It’s a good time for us,” Bills said. “We can play what we want here every Thursday.”  

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