Sunday, November 22, 2009

Jam Sessions pt 1

Brooklyn Jam Session, Jon Crowley-trumpet
Front Door at Systems Two Studios, Brooklyn NY
Horns Set-up for my Recording Jan '09, John Beaty(pictured)

Blog # 32 Jam Sessions

Jam Sessions have always been an important part of the jazz scene since the very beginning. I've had some fun times and some, and also some of my most frustrating musical experiences at others

One thing is for sure ; I've learned a lot from Jam Sessions both in what to do and what not to do.

Worst Jam Session Stories:

I've seen a trombone player finish his solo, then sit behind the piano player. While the piano player was soloing, the Trombone player starts playing 'quietly' to himself; only it really wasn't that quiet. It was completely rude and the piano player had to stop, turn around and say 'Come on man!"

I was at a session earlier this year in Brooklyn where the bass player called "There will never be another you", somehow the piano player heard 'There is no greater Love'. The sax player counted off the tune and then didn't play the melody, instead launching into a very chromatic solo. The result: a train wreck as two different tunes were played simultaneously.

A few weeks ago I was at a real doo-zee of session in the Village. The piano player spent the entire time looking at himself in a mirror and making sure he really 'looked like a jazz musician' instead of actually playing and paying attention to the music. The drummer on the stage bashed away at the set having no concept of form or phrasing and was dropping and adding beats haphazardly. After he finished sitting in, he sat at the bar 3 feet from the band and proceeded to sing loudly while the band played. SO INCREDIBLY RUDE! A fight almost ensued between him and the leader, as a result of this horrible etiquette.

One thing that happens quite frequently, is a singer will call a tune is a specific key, then ask for a rhythm section intro. The band will play the most obvious intro and then the singer will STILL come in in a different key. Knowledge of form is arguably the most important thing in music.

I've seen someone call a blues and then 10 horn players pull out their instruments and bum rush the stage. It is my opinion that there should be no more than 5 soloists per song. I don't think I'm alone in not wanting to hear a 45 min version of a blues.

If you are sitting in, play one or two tunes and then leave the stage and let someone else play. If there is time at the end after everyone has played you may get asked to play another tune. If you get invited up, don't just stay on stage all night and keep playing tunes. Let everyone get a chance.

Lastly, a Jam session is not your gig. Play a few choruses and get out. No one has come to see you and only you play. More than a few choruses and you're just being rude self-centered. I've seen people sitting in take some VERY long solos.

Next blog entry: What I've learned from Jam Sessions

***Please feel Free to Comment with your Jam Session Horror Stories***

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