Photograph by Justin Cramer
Louis Valenzuela found a venue for his weekly Jam Session.
Guitarist Louis Valenzuela was looking for a specific type of vibe when he was considering setting up a new jam session for local players. “I remember there was another Monday night session back in the day,” recalls Valenzuela. “I really enjoyed that one, but unfortunately it kind of died out. I kept hoping that someone else would pick it up — finally, I realized that I was going to have to do it myself.”
Initially he set up shop in Hillcrest.
“We started out at this restaurant called Busalacchi’s, and we did that for about a year, but they went out of business. It was always kind of sketchy anyway and I didn’t think the vibe was really right.”
So Valenzuela set out in search of a new home for the Monday session using a combination of high and low tech methods. “I searched on the internet, looking for places that I’d go to myself as a customer to hang and have a drink. Finally I just drove over to Adams Avenue, parked, and just sort of hoofed it. I talked to a few bar owners, but they weren’t really feeling it. I would always go around 9pm on Mondays to see what each place felt like.”
Eventually the footwork paid off.
“One night I wandered into Rosie O’ Grady’s and talked with Jason, the owner. Right away he was receptive to the idea. Turns out his dad is a jazz musician and they actually used to have a jam session back in the day. So he was immediately all about it, and we’ve been doing it every Monday night for almost a year and a half.”
So has the jam been a success?
“Yeah, it’s packed,” says Valenzuela. “It’s always slammed and everyone says it’s a fun hang. The management is really cool and I sat down with Jason over the New Year and he’s totally down for the cause. We usually start after Monday Night Football during the NFL season. A lot of sports league type people come in with their jerseys on, and I’ve gotten to know them all. Many of them continue to hang out and enjoy the music.”
When he’s not playing at Rosie O’Grady’s or doing a Tuesday night R&B session at the Riviera Supper Club & Turquoise Room, Valenzuela teaches guitar at Avant Garde Music Company in Chula Vista. “We’re hitting it right now. We have like a 170 students and we’re looking to hire more teachers.”