Originally from New Jersey, Jay arrived on the West Coast in 1995 and has been performing locally with his band since 2001, releasing five albums and becoming a mainstay of beach-area clubs with his occasionally quirky but always compelling tunes.
A sixth album, “Hallelujah Expressway,” is currently in the process of being recorded. However, where Jay has really made an impact is in hosting events that allow others to shine. Besides the more typical rock-show events, Jay now hosts an open-mic night at Winston’s Beach Club each Wednesday night from 6 to 9 p.m., immediately following the OB Farmers Market. Meanwhile, he is also the man behind the popular Acoustic Evenings music series held at La Jolla’s Athenaeum.
Unlike many other hosts of similar events, Jay takes a back seat to the other performers. Yes, he performs the occasional song, introduces the other artists and even tells a few jokes. But he said it’s not about him.
“It goes back to the way I was raised,” he said. “From the beginning, for me, if we all work together and help each other, build each other up, it’s a more gratifying, fully enjoyable experience. It’s what feels most right to me.”
He said hopes to make each event a showcase.
“I want it to be a high moment of the week for the performers. I really try to make a big moment for whoever is on stage,” he said. “Not everyone has a band or plays other shows, so through these events, I try to give them their big moment in the sun.”
While he has staged open-mics at other San Diego venues, Jay has a special place in his heart for Winston’s and the residents of OB.
“The venue itself is so professionally run,” he said. “And they are so friendly. But that’s just the way people are in OB. It’s a great place to hear music and it has great beach proximity,” he said. “It’s like the show ‘Cheers.’ It’s a place where everybody knows your name.”
Upcoming projects for Jay include that sixth album, “Hallelujah Expressway,” for which he’s also working on a musical. “It’s kind of an ambitious project,” he laughed. “I was walking home last night, and I was asking myself what I really want to go with my life and I realized that the things I wanted to do, such as have a creative outlet, express myself, be part of a community and help people where I can, I realized that I was already doing all these things. And I was pretty happy about it. I mean, we can always do more or try a different approach, but it’s nice to know that as long as you stay active and keep putting lines in the water, eventually something will happen, something will bite.”
For now, Jay is happy to keep running full speed ahead with his open-mic night. “I really try to make it like a variety show,” he said. “If you’re an attendee, you’ll hear a real mix of things; there is a lot of talent in San Diego. The night can include a little bit of everything. We even have one gentleman who does a bit of spoken word where he riffs on current news.” He notes not all taking part are “professional” musicians, but he adds that it’s all part of the evening’s charm. “Some of the performers are still trying to find their sea legs,” he remarked. “But anyone who takes in one of these shows will be thoroughly entertained.”
• JEFFERSON JAY’S OPEN-MIC: Wednesdays at WINSTON’S BEACH CLUB, 1921 Bacon St. 6 to 9 p.m. 21 and up. www.winstonsob.com.