Legendary as it is, the Bronx has never been known for its jazz scene. That is, until now. Over the past two months, local singer Tamuz Nissim and guitarist Giorgos Nazos have taken the reins of the fledgling movement and created the one and only “Jazz Jam In The Bronx,” right here in Riverdale.
After several years of enduring the stigma of the Bronx being relatively devoid of live music and musical venues, they had finally had all they could take.
Jazz used to happen here and there, but virtually everything ended with the pandemic, and afterward next to nothing emerged”, recalled Nissim. “When Giorgos was awarded the BRIO award — Bronx Recognizes Its Own — from the Bronx Council of the Arts in 2022, we took up an idea that we had started months before.
“We made a list of all the talented musicians we knew from the area. There were so many of them! So we pushed for the idea of a weekly jam and a concert series.”
Nissim and Nazos chose the Bronx Burger House as their venue, with help from its manager Laura Levine-Pinedo, founder of the local outreach organization 4BronxProject.
“Laura is great,” said Nissim. “She was very interested in having weekly music in the venue, and she has given us the creative freedom to lead the space every Sunday from 6 to 9 pm when the focus is on the music itself.”
With the additional financial weekly support of the non-profit Keyed Up and a grant from the KRVC, the Jazz Jam at the Bronx Burger House became a reality.
“Every Sunday we have a guest musician”, said Nazos. “We try to play each other’s original music, and also jazz tunes. The jam begins at 7 and anyone can come and participate.”
Once again, the Bronx has carved a spot on the Hot House Jazz Guide calendar, in contrast to the plentiful options in Brooklyn, Queens, and Manhattan.
“The music we offer is honest, it is a ticketless event and we want people from the neighborhood to be able to enjoy high-level Jazz in a local place, instead of having to drive to the city,” said Nazos.
Instead, people from Harlem, Washington Heights, and Manhattan are beginning to attend the Bronx Jazz Jam on Sundays.
Jazz musicians and BRIO-award-winning Bronx residents violinist Meg Okura and saxophonist Sam Newsome expressed their gratitude and excitement for this new chapter for the genre in the Bronx.
“To make something happen, you only need a few people to get started. If it catches up, word will spread and by the time you know it, you’ll have a scene going on,” said Newsome, who came to New York City from Virginia back in 1989.
With a full house at the Bronx Burger House, in between sets, Nissim and Nazos say they are satisfied so far: “We will keep the jam as long as it continues rolling. The idea is that, even if we are not here, other people would take over.
“The main thing is that people rediscover the charm of getting together, sharing, and enjoying music.”