Every Wednesday night, a small bar in Bushwick is packed with patrons eager to witness a little piece of live music magic.
This magic is courtesy of Pulse Sessions: A free, weekly hip-hop and jazz jam session headed by multi-instrumentalist Elisha Henis, at a bar called The Sampler Bushwick. The event is known for its intimate, improvised performances from various instrumentalists and vocalists playing seamlessly together.
Henis started Pulse Sessions just six months ago at The Sampler. Henis had participated in another weekly jam session there, but when that tapered out, he decided to host his own. But, it was a struggle at first, he said.
“There was literally nobody in the audience,” Henis said of the first few jam sessions. “It was my girlfriend just over there watching alone.”
Today, the event is so popular that there is barely any standing room in the bar on Wednesday nights. Henis, who moved to New York three years ago from Israel, said it's all thanks to the power of word-of-mouth advertising and social media, as artists and attendees frequently post content from the event.
Mia Faith Hammond, who has been coming to Pulse Sessions since its inception, said she witnessed its rapid growth firsthand.
“It just went from a small group of people trying to make music to now it's this great thing that everyone is jazzed to come to every week," said Hammond. “It's so lovely that I got to see it as an embryo and see it evolve into something that everyone has such a joy for.”
“In New York, people really want to play,” said Yonatan Farhi, who co-hosts Pulse Sessions with Henis. ”Once word gets out that there's a new session, and it's consistent, and there's a certain level of musicianship that's being reached, people will come out."
The sounds of Pulse Sessions are diverse. There are drummers, guitarists, keyboard players and more, bouncing from genre to genre without missing a beat. Singers, rappers and even poets often come to the microphone and freestyle along with the music.
“Hip-hop, electronic music and jazz, those are the three pillars that this is built on,” said Henis. “It's like a good sandwich that has all the right ingredients without any gimmicks.”
What separates Pulse Sessions from many other open jam sessions is a focus on highlighting its vocalists, Henis said.
“There’s an ego-driven volume problem in jam sessions,” said Henis. “This results in singers who don’t really want to come up because the band overshadows them.”
Though the session often showcases new talent, it also has its regulars.
“Coming here feels like great practice for me with live music,” said Nory, a rapper who discovered the session by walking by the event. Now, Nory performs there every week. “It almost feels like a laboratory where I can experiment and grow as a musician.”
Pulse has also created an opportunity for musicians to network and build community.
“Everybody gets to play,” said Tascha, a singer who began performing at the session a few weeks ago. “People listen to each other. I don’t feel like there’s competition, and I like that."
Excited about its growth, Henis hopes to take Pulse elsewhere and expand its reach. But those plans are not set in stone. For now, he's simply along for the ride.
“It's gotten to this point because I wasn't forcing anything,” said Henis. “I’m just going with the flow, and the flow is really wonderful.”
The free event takes place every Wednesday night from 11:00pm-2:00am at 234 Starr St. in Brooklyn.