Century Old Mansion Has New Swing

The Blair Mansion in Silver Spring, Md. jams with featured, popular artists

The romantic beat of “Sweet Thing” by Chaka Khan sounds almost betterthan the original at the three-hour Monday night live jam sessionhosted by the 120-year-old Blair Mansion.

Local artists get to perform with noted jazz musician Gary Graingerin front of packed audiences during weekly jam sessions in the120-seat auditorium. The 19th century 13-bedroom mansion in SilverSpring, Md. opens its doors every Monday at 6:30 p.m. featuringGrainger, a professionally polished performer who has playedwith distinguished musicians such as Dennis Chambers, George Duke andNelson Rangell, on bass.

Jam sessions are open to the public; musicians simply bring theirinstruments, sign-up on a hand written list and wait for their name tobe called.

No time is allotted to practice with other musicians beforehand, thisallows for a creative musical process to naturally evolve — producingraw, live, un-rehearsed music.

Ramon Zeender, co-owner of the mansion, was excited to introduce a newaspect to the historic venue.

“The music is concert quality,” Zeender said. “We have people here who play for Prince and Stevie Wonder.”

He continued, “The whole philosophy is that its about the music; Gary Grainger is our magnet.”

Diane Grainger, 24, is the niece of Gary Grainger and an expertpercussionist. She has been playing the drums for over 10years and is a regular at the jam session, performing since it wasintroduced last April.

And she is back by popular demand every Monday night, never failing toreceive a cheerful round of applause at the end of each set.

“Playing is not about getting recognition as a drummer, its about being able toshare my talent with people who appreciate it,” Grainger said.

Reggie Johnson, 21, is also a celebrated drummer who was encouraged toplay on Monday nights by the younger Grainger after forming a friendshipthrough the music education program at Howard University. Johnson frequents the jam sessions and has been playing the drums since he wastwo-years-old; he’s also a band member of the Howard University GospelChoir, Sean Chyun and the Deceivers, as well as a drummer for hischurch choir (Ark of Safety) in Upper Marlboro, Md.

“I get to play with older people, those who have played before me, [and] Iget to play different styles of music,” Johnson said of the diversemusical collaborations.

Jazz enthusiast, Lydia Samuels enjoys coming to the jam session for abeer and an appetizer after a long day, saying, The mansion is literally thebest kept secret. The talent here is amazing.”

The mansion was originally built in the 1890s by Stanford White, a NewYork City socialite and architect of the Madison Square Garden.Through the years, the historic Mansion has been host to PresidentsRoosevelt and Truman.

Since 1959 the Zeender family has taken ownership of the historical landmark which began as a 350-seat finedining restaurant. For the past 20 years, the mansion has transformedits services and is now home to interactive murder mystery dinners,weddings, business luncheons and private parties.

The mansion is open Monday through Saturday for lunch and dinner,offering a full menu and bar to jam session patrons with a $10 entryfee (this does not include a food or drink minimum).

The Blair Mansion Inn is located at 7711 Eastern Ave, Silver Spring,Md 20912. Doors open at 6:30 p.m. and the music begins at 8:00 p.m.For more information please visit their website www.blairmansion.com.