Eddie Boyd's “Five Long Years” tells the story of a hard-working man wronged by a woman: “She had the nerve to put me out!” But after nine years of running the best Blues jam session in Northeast Ohio, guitarist/teacher extraordinaire Michael Bay is assured of staying on at The Savannah in Westlake. (www.TheSavannah.com) Michael's house band, The Bad Boys of Blues, and the weekly guest host will just rock the joint with blues, jazzy stuff, and blues-rock for the first hour. Then Michael turns the stage over to the jammers...
If there are not enough bassists around the superb Michael Barrick will return to the stage, as will lightning-handed drummer Jim Wall, to fill out the jam bands that Michael judiciously assembles from those at hand. How did this come about? Michael says, “I wanted my students to have an opportunity to do some live playing.” And that has worked out well at The Savannah and the Parkview Inn, Cleveland jams Michael leads. “Between 2 and 5” current and former students will show up on any given night, Michael says. Asked what is the best thing about the jams Michael says, “I'm hoping we're a part of creating a Blues scene in Cleveland.”
This writer, who has played at these jams for six years, can attest to his success. Michael characterized the local blues scene as very “guitar-driven, not song-driven as in Chicago.” That is at a Cleveland-area jam expect to hear long guitar (and other instrument) solos. In Chi-town, Michael notes, it's two choruses and the singer is back up. Sometimes the music is ordinary, and sometimes there are even train wrecks... But, “Sometimes the magic happens.” It may be inspired by a local or out-of-town, part-time musician. Some of the local pros who have guest hosted and jammed – and made the magic happen – are Dave Morrison (www.HarpLessons.com), Becky Boyd, Colin Dussault (www.colindussault.com), Frankie Starr, Tony Koussa Jr. (www.tonykoussa.com), and Austin “Walkin' Cane” Charanghat (www.walkincane.com).
(Austin is the lead vocalist and other guitarist in The Walkin' Cane Band with Jim Wall and the two Michaels.) And Michael Bay clearly loves it. “When the audience is into it – that's why I play out” rather than sit at home or just teach in his studio.
When he is up there with the cream of the crop of the Cleveland Blues scene it's “a wonderful feeling…playing with players of that level…who want to say things of value” with their music.
They are “speaking eloquently,” says Michael. “I want everybody to have a good time” and be entertained by the “consistent quality of the music.”
And we are...
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