A jam session can tell you a lot about a local scene, both the players and the community around it. Finding myself in Manchester serendipitously on the evening of Matt and Phreds monthly jazz jam it would have been criminal to forgo the opportunity to check out both the jam and the club. Had I perused twitter before I struck out for the funky and self declared trendy Northern Quarter of central Manchester, I would have seen that Sam Healey was planning to play ballads with the house band. Alto player Sam has been spotted ranging far and wide with the extraordinary Beats and Pieces big band so it would have prepared me a little for the blistering start to the evening the house band delivered as they ripped through a couple of standards to warm up, played Impressions possibly as fast as its possible to before delivering on the promise of ballad with a sumptuous reading of The Nearness of You. MD and Jam session orchestrator Johnny Hunter on the drums lined up the sitters in and as another Beats and Pieces man, Kyron Matthews popped up and played it might have over awed any shrinking violets wanting to play. The warm response from a cheerful crowd with an age range from youthful to grizzled was encouraging however and there were plenty of candidates to play, including a very youthful bass player who gave Seth Bennet a rest and lit a fire under the rhythm section with his driving swing feel. A magic jam session moment. Matt and Phreds, an unpretentious bar with welcoming smile on its face, giving space to a dynamic local scene to stretch out on a Monday night. What a treasure. I hope Manchester appreciates them. Judging by the healthy crowd on the evening, there’s plenty of folk that do.