Simple challenge. Record yourself playing a new and original phrase at 120 bpm or close enough. Anything can start us off. Drum, voice, instruments. Either video or audio will do. Video is probably easier because you can record it on your phone and post it on Facebook.
I will clip out 4 bars of it and begin to loop them in my software.
Once we have a key or rhythm set I will post a backing track and we can start adding to that.
Vincent came and jammed one month, we liked him so much he has now had two guest spots. He has fully embraced the spirit of the jam session. Trying out new material himself but also bringing along a bunch of his students who then start to get the feel for it.
This year a number of musicians have guested at our jam session.
They are part of the house band and get to play anything from 8 to 10 tunes from their own repertoire.
Are you ready for this? Would you like to be considered?
Currently we are operating a no drums policy. So the house band generally consists of Piano, Double Bass and you, the guest.
The Bay horse is a smallish pub in Totnes and we are tucked in the corner. Horns don’t need to be miked up, guitarists need to bring their own kit. We have a decent mike and Vocal pa.
Can you hold an intimate audience for an hour with just bass and piano backing? There are no rehearsals. The guest has to be experienced at working with a house band. We ask for a set list in advance and expect you to provide chord charts for bass and piano unless the tune is a well known standard. In this case tell us the key and your starting note and we can bring it up on iReal pro. We expect you to be able to count us in.
Normal jazz etiquette is followed. Play the tune with the band, take a solo, piano takes a solo and often the bass player will take a solo too. Play the tune again and out. Experienced musicians will know how to call 4’s before bringing back the head. On Slow ballads we may take shorter solos and just bring the tune back on the middle 8 .
Special note for singers: nice to have some scat choruses but maybe not on every tune.
Intros and endings: We make these up on the spot. We will probably give you blank stares if you say “can you give us the Cannonball Adderley intro from his 1956 recording………”
Better to just say ” give me the last 8″ or “vamp on the first two chords” this we understand.
If you have read to the end and pretty much understood what I was talking about, and have 8 to ten tunes you are confident leading and they generally fit into the “jazz standard” category, then you may be ready to guest with us.
So this project started after my daughter Holly took her own life. I had just started learning “you don’t know what love is” I started listening to more Chet Baker and learning more of his songs. He seems to have a particular voice for tragedy and led a tragic life himself. 6 months later I have a full evenings performance worth of songs he either sung or played. I feel a particular connection to Holly when I play the songs as she was an accomplished singer herself. The sets will be dedicated to Holly.
Now I am bringing in other musicians, a trumpet player, a guitarist. At first, it was going to be the standard trio of piano bass and drums with a trumpet player. Now I am exploring replacing the drums with a guitarist, thinking that will give us a more intimate and mellow sound.
Next step is finding promoters and venues to take us on.
Jazz means improvising. Jazz is a universal language. A bunch of people who have never met before getting in a room and playing together. Its when the magic happens. They have to listen, they have to find the tunes they have in common. The one who calls the tune has to trust that the changes and the rhythm are gonna sit there for them. They start the tune and it all feels a bit different so they adapt and respond and change. There is a basic etiquette and they all know how it goes. That gives the safety of the platform for creativity.
A jazz jam session is where beginners can rub shoulders with seasoned professionals. Come with a jazz tune you know well enough to play the tune and a chorus of solo. Bring a chord chart for the bass player and drummer. Be prepared to count it in. Thats it! Play the tune, play your solo then step back and let the band take over. Any other lead instruments will also solo as will the pianist and the bass player. The band may even trade fours with the drummer. Then get ready to come back in with the tune. You can even have a way to end it which you may be able to telegraph to the drummer but remember – this is not an arrangement, its a jam session. Anything can happen, so be prepared to throw all your plans out the window and just listen and play.