Ortlieb’s Ends Tuesday Night Jazz Jam Session After 27-Year Run

Pete Souders

Ortlieb's Tuesday jazz jam in Philadelphia started in 1987, and has become one of this town’s longest running, free-flying sessions. The bar and live venue at 847 N 3rd Street was so dedicated to jazz, its original owner (and jam leader/saxophonist) Pete Souders named the space Ortlieb’s Jazzhaus before selling it in 2007. Run by Four Corners Management since 2012, the new owners held onto the Tuesday night jazz jam session without much publicity (Facebook primarily) until it was announced last night that next week’s jam, Tuesday January 21, would be its last, according to both Souders and the jam’s pianist Luke Carlos O'Reilly.

After Tuesday, January 14's jam, O’Reilly, one of Philly jazz’s most adventurous pianists and an Ortlieb's session regular, dropped a note on his Facebook page stating “Tonight is the last night that I will be playing Ortliebs Jam Session, as they are ending music during the week starting after next week. This time around at Ortliebs has been different. No Mickey Roker (the great post-Bop drum great) and sadly no Sid Simmons. Sid was not just an amazing pianist to listen to and watch, he was a friend, and drinking buddy and a very positive energy to be around.”

Souders confirmed the night’s closing to our good friend, jazz drumming great Bruce Klauber, who states that the way Souders found out about the end of the Tuesday nights "Wasn't particularly dramatic, Pete said.  "Last week, the manager just told me that they wanted to end the Tuesday night sessions.  He gave me that night, plus two more weeks, which was reasonable and fair, which Ortlieb's has always been.  As for me?  I have mixed emotions.  The end of this is more difficult than anything, though I certainly saw it coming for quite some time."

We’ve heard several reports of listless audiences, and a lack of management concern over the fate of the night. Northern Liberties has changed from a demographic of older artist types to younger kids probably listening to Skrillex and Pavement reissues.

Without getting emotional or teary-eyed, losing Ortlieb’s jazz jam is a damned shame. Philadelphia started out to be a center of jazz, and still is home to so many great shows from players of international renown and free jam sessions where locals can let loose. Still, the number of venues in which jazz is the centerpiece are dwindling, so it’s never fun hearing how another legend  like Ortlieb’s has bitten the dust.

Pete Souders photo courtesy of Bruce Klauber

Posted on Wednesday, January 15, 2014