Let's be perfectly clear going into this: I hate jam nights.

Let's be perfectly clear going into this: I hate jam nights.

I'm not opposed to the idea of live improvisation. Get a roomful of greats together and it's a thing of beauty. But most of the time when musicians jam it devolves into the sort of meandering you can hear by standing outside your balding uncle's basement when he descends with his college buds and a case of Bud Light. Highly unedifying.

That said, I like Evan Oberla. Young dude. Ambitious. Plays a mean trombone. And I appreciate what he's going for with his Tuesday night jams at Ruby Tuesday. "Anything goes" can be extremely liberating when skilled players take risks.

One thing this gig has going for it is it's not a blues jam. Lord knows Columbus has enough of those. However, I could have sworn this used to be marketed as a jazz jam, at least back when they were doing it at Rumba Cafe. And that's what I hoped to hear.

Alas, there was no hard bop or Dixieland or free jazz to be heard. The closest thing was a generous helping of smooth and funky elevator music. The sort of sounds I was looking for would have required a few more horn players - think of the New Orleans parade band from "Treme" - or at least some rapid-fire rhythms straight out of 1955. Wherefore art thou, Wes Montgomery?

(Yes, I'm well aware I can hear jazz at the competing Tuesday night jam at Park Street Tavern. Calm yourselves.)

Expectations aside, there were moments of inspiration. My highlight came after 1 a.m., when Tony "G. Finesse" Haslett stepped up to rap. He was a real presence up there, and the musicians built him a dusky groove that reminded me of the stuff DJ Shadow sampled on the entrancing "Endtroducing." Chris Shaw and Jake Webb also mixed things up a bit with acoustic pop ditties.

Although I wasn't in love with a lot of what I heard, Oberla's open-door policy means the potential for something special is always lingering. I just wish the musicians would push the limits of that freedom a little more.