Pic out the jams: Photographer snaps city’s traditional jam sessions

Pic out the jams: Photographer snaps city’s traditional jam sessions
Photo by Stefano Giovannini

This guy likes to follow tradition — with a camera!

A multi-instrumentalist with a passion for photography will show off shots he took of musicians at traditional Celtic and Scots jam sessions around the city, in an exhibition at Red Hook’s Jalopy Theatre.

“I fell in love with these images, so every time I went out to play, I brought my 35 millimeter camera with me,” said Matt Diaz, who plays guitar, flute, whistle, and bouzouki at the jams.

The sessions have been happening in Brooklyn and Manhattan for at least a decade at venues including Iona in Williamsburg, Lily’s in Union Square, and Dempsey’s on the Bowery. Diaz has been a regular of the loosely-knit crew of musicians for at least 10 years.

“I love the colorful characters,” said fiddle player Suzanne Grossman, who is also a fixture in the local jam scene and is prominently featured in Diaz’s photographs. “We’re playing for a pub audience, but we are also playing for ourselves.”

Diaz started using the film camera on a whim one day after his digital camera broke, and realized that he needed to use both black and white and color film to capture the spirit of the shows.

“The grain of the black and white perfectly matches the mood of these intimate, darkly-lit pubs where we play this music,” said Diaz. “It perfectly captures what is in my mind’s eye.”

The exhibition — titled “Outside Llewyn Davis” in reference to the New York folk scene shown in the recent Coen Brothers movie “Inside Llewyn Davis” — is the first photography show for Diaz, 43.

Appropriately, the opening night of the show on April 10 will also feature traditional music, with visiting performers from Nova Scotia’s Cape Breton Island taking the stage to play music from the Scottish highlands and the Canadian maritimes.

“Outside Llewyn Davis” opening at the Jalopy Theatre [315 Columbia St. between Hamilton Avenue and Woodhull Street in Redhook, (718) 395–3214, www.jalopy.biz]. April 10 at 8 pm. $15. Exhibition will be up through April 24.

Reach reporter Danielle Furfaro at [email protected] or by calling (718) 260-2511. Follow her at twitter.com/DanielleFurfaro.