Jam sessions have become a staple for many musicians all over the world. Any musician to ever be a part of one knows well that feeling of being able to zone out and play whatever moves them or the crowd. But what happens when you combine music and visual arts into an artistic free-for-all? That is precisely what one man is doing at the historic Pierce Arrow building in Buffalo, New York. Don Jackson is working to create a tradition that is sure to help spark creativity in artists all across western New York.
This teacher, and multi-talented visual and performing artist is building a following that could very well be the new pastime for those who want to let their creative juices flow to more than just the radio. Jackson has taken the concept of art clubs and added his own spin into what would become ART JAM.
While it hasn’t been in the works for long, you can certainly see the potential brewing behind the event that began early this year. Jackson was kind enough to speak with us about Art Jam and elaborate on the future of the event, and his band.
Can you tell us a little about how Art Jam got started?
“As a comic book illustrator and teacher since 2003, I have been aware of art club events called “Drink and Draw” that are usually held at pubs. I simply transferred this idea to the Green Screen room. We normally sell coffee and other refreshments.”
When the first Art jam was and what it was like?
“We only started in March, but it is picking up momentum rapidly. I am advertising mainly to college art departments but hope that everyone will pitch in with some word-of-mouth marketing. It’s definitely a cool scene for artists but everyone can enjoy the vibe. The attendance is difficult to gauge as people come and go throughout the event but we normally have a good showing.”
What is the overall premise?
“Drawing to live music with coffee! It is also a promotion for my art classes. The space has very high ceilings so the acoustics lend themselves better to acoustic acts, however my band BEAT SUTRA has played at the previous 2 shows.”
How many have you had since your start and how often will they be held?
“Our 3rd Draw Jam is on Sunday, May24 from 1pm to 4pm.
- We are featuring the amazing talents of Sharon Mok of TINY RHYMES. She is an up-in-coming national talent.
- We are also extremely pleased to present Jess Chizuk, a local talent.
- A 3rd act is to be announced.
We are scheduling this event each month, we post the date on our Facebook page“
What can attendees expect to experience?
“Ultimately, it’s up to the audience to bring what they have to the experience. It is very casual and open in terms of drawing, doodling or whatever. People bring laptops, one guy even brought acrylics and canvas. I could see people working on poetry here as well. It’s a comfortable, creative space, we even have huge couches. We aim to inspire people with the music and give everyone a positive creative experience. People who come just to watch love it because they never get to see people draw and, I think, to them that is a new and interesting experience. Additionally, it’s a great place to network in the Arts. I’ve seen some great collaborative relationships grow out of meet ups at Draw Jam.”
Will Draw Jam always be held in the same location or are you looking to open them up to other venues as well?
“I was recently asked to hold this at Iron Works downtown, still have to follow up on that. The sky is the limit!”
Is there anything attendees should bring with them to Art Jam?
“An open mind, a desire to enjoy some good music, drawing materials, & a smile. “
You mentioned your band Beat Sutra, and we had the pleasure of hearing you play at the April event. Your sound is absolutely unique. Can you tell us a little about the chemistry that ignites you three?
“There is Tim O’Connell on drums and Octopad, Joel Graham on vocals, guitar, electronica programming and loops, Donald Jackson (moi) on vocals and bass. I’ve played with Tim and Joel separately for a few years but have only started working with them together a few months ago, the chemistry is absolute MAGIC. Our approach to cover tunes is to rearrange them and make space for improvisation.
For example, we do a Reggae version of ‘Voodoo Child’ by Jimmy Hendrix, we do a jazz improve during Marvin Gaye’s ‘What’s Going On’, we do a psychedelic jam on the classic Ska tune ‘Mirror in the Bathroom’ by the English Beat. One of our best musical mash-ups is that we open and end The Beatles ‘Tomorrow Never Knows’ with East Indian traditional sitar and tabla music. Our main rule is to imbue the music with a positive spiritual vibe and allow for the unexpected in a live setting.
We are working on a lot of original music now but mostly do covers for the time being. You can catch a few video clips of us HERE . More music is forthcoming.”
You play such a large variety of music! We heard everything from U2 to Marvin Gaye – a real treat to those enjoying a variety of music. What inspires the music selections you choose to cover?
“We’ve had some pretty deep discussions about this. On one level we really want to differentiate our band from others and even lead a new music movement as an antithesis for the overly processed, canned and commercialized music that is ubiquitous today. On the other hand, music is a lifestyle that is a choice of the kind of reality you want to create and share. Joel and I have been through some serious traumas in our lives and we are at a place now where we choose Joy, living fully in the Spirit and our music is the practice of that philosophy. What differentiates BEAT SUTRA is that we are post-pluralistic, we are not slaves to our cultural script, we don’t buy the illusion of ego.
Each of us in the band has embraced a vast array of musical genres and this is all thrown into the creative crucible. The human spirit can take any form for expression, so we play among forms instead of getting locked into one. The guiding principle in all this is mainly positivity. Yes, we do emote some painful feelings sometimes but even that is couched in cool vibes. It’s certainly not candy-coated; there is an underlying mischief, a dry humor, an irony that threads the whole thing together.”
Do you welcome others to perform?
“Absolutely. Anyone can reach out to me via either my Pierce Arrow Art Classes or Facebook page. I’m really happy to connect with StreetPoetz.com to explore potentials. I think with the wealth of talent we have in Western New York alone, there is a lot of room for growth. The only thing I ask is that participants lend a hand in marketing these events.”
If you are a visual artist or looking to find your muse, be sure to stop down at the next art jam, bring a friend or two and relax among other creative minds. Be sure to continue to follow their progress, check out the Pierce Arrow Art Classes for updates as well as future performances for Beat Sutra! To book them for one of your performances, you can reach Don directly at donaldjackson06 [at] gmail.com
“Draw Jam is really all about the people who attend it. WNY is bustling with talent and people who enjoy and support the arts. We urge you to join our community and bring your friends.” – Don Jackson