Since April 2018 I’ve moved to Amsterdam. People have told me that the Tokyo Jam Sessions page was useful, so here’s the same information for Amsterdam and the surrounding cities!
Jam sessions in Amsterdam are quite different than Tokyo or London. They often have a lot of people coming just to watch and enjoy, so really a lot of fun to be had if you’re confident in those kinds of situations. Also, generally there will be no entry charge, and even a free beer if you play. On the other hand, usually the house band will play by themselves for most of the evening – musicians in attendance will only get to join in on one or two tracks each, as closing time approaches. If you want to play, you have to actively try and convince the host musicians to let you do so (some places are particularly bad at this and really should not be using the phrase “jam session” at all).
Style-wise, Amsterdam and it’s music conservatory are known as one of the top centres for traditional jazz in Europe, so expect a heavy focus on traditional stuff and a high level. Unfortunately, this seems to lead to many old-fashioned and cliquey sessions, with no musical goal other than to blow the other guys off the stage by calling obscure tunes at 300 BPM. There’s almost no modern jazz or funk; however there’s another completely separate scene with some fun rock / blues sessions. Sessions in other Dutch cities tend to be a lot more chilled out, and open to playing a wider variety of tunes.
Lastly make sure to call or check online to see whether or not the session is on before you head out – sessions start up & shut down frequently, so this page may be outdated. It’s also common for sessions to take days off, and from Jul. ~ Oct. almost all sessions shut down due to the summer holidays at the conservatory.
Brasserie Nel – Jazz
Like many Amsterdam sessions, high-level serious 1950s jazz stuff only.
Bourbon Street – Rock / Pop
Good energy, lots of listeners / dancers. Get ready to play crowd pleasers.
The Water Hole – Rock / Pop / Funk
Mostly rock & pop, but a pro house band that can play jazz & funk also.
Bimhuis – Free Jazz / Jazz
20:00 ~ 22:00 Free Jazz Workshop. Interesting workshop, focus on musicality. Beautiful venue, experienced and helpful (if strict!) host.
22:00 ~ Jazz Concert and Jam. Mega fast bebop nonsense, nothing else allowed.
Cafe De Pianist – Jazz
20:00 ~ 23:00. Just about the only casual, all-levels-allowed jazz session. Jam starts from the first tune. On roughly every 2nd Tuesday.
The Water Hole – Rock
Pure rock; think guitarist-vocalists and Nirvana covers.
De Kring – Jazz
1st and 3rd Wed., from 21:30. Bebop.
Archie’s Ship – Jazz
2nd and 4th Wednesdays. Nice venue on the house-boat of the host, older crowd, but again more bebop. When I went there was no drum kit.
De Peper – Jazz
Super cool organic cafe, book for dinner. Jazz from 21:00, cool atmosphere, mostly young conservatory guys and more bebop, but sometimes with exceptions.
Maloe Melo – Blues
From 21:30. Classic smoky blues cafe. Often has sessions on other nights also.
Bird (Rotterdam) – Jazz
Not advertised on the website, but I heard there’s a late-night session.
Cafe Gollem, Overtoom Branch – Jazz
20:30 ~ 21:30 set, 21:30 ~ 23:30 jam. Nice pub and atmosphere.
Mostly Jazz or Latin, but the focus varies each week and they are more chilled about playing other stuff. Usually no keys equipment available.
Plan West – Jazz
New session every 2nd Sunday – AFAIK another jazz session by the conservatory guys.
De Engelbewaarder – Jazz
Afternoon jazz jam, 16:30 ~ 19:00. Nice pub but very crowded & traditional tunes.
Victoria Hotel – Jazz
Every 2nd Sunday, trad vocal jazz in suits in a hotel bar. 17:00 ~ 20:00
Session near the end after a gig.
Cafe Zilt – Jazz
1st Sunday only, afternoon
Very popular groove-based event. This is the only place in Amsterdam to play modern jazz-groove stuff with professional, youngish musicians, but anyone can join playing all different kinds of styles. Definitely my favourite Amsterdam session, but due to the irregular schedule / location and high popularity, sometimes you get to play a lot and sometimes not at all.
AmsterJam Meetup – All
Casual meetup, mostly beginners (note the capital J and don’t get confused with Amsterjam…!).
Casablanca – Karaoke
Most nights, 23:00 ~ 03:00
De Ruimte – Jazz
Held irregularly, but mostly Sundays.