Friday, March 27, 2009

Jam Sessions in USA and Greater Helsinki Area

Soup Kitchens and Jam Sessions

The above is very interesting blog post by Alexei Zoubov, now an American jazz musician. In that Alexei writes:

"Nevertheless, the image of a soup kitchen (or bread line) pops out in my mind at jams more and more often lately.
I guess that has partially to do with the present bad economic situation. There are less and less gigs, especially jazz gigs, less and less jazz clubs. And the expansion of jazz education produces more and more young players that just can’t find any spots to play jazz.
Except for jam sessions. These are the places where hungry for playing jazz musicians can get their “bowl of jazz soup” for free, or “at a reasonably low price” (see the definition of a soup kitchen above).
They sign up on a list, sometimes pay $5 or so (nothing bad about that, the money goes to the house rhythm section) and thus form a line to play a few choruses in a couple of songs."

Tuukka (gt) and Harri (t-sax) in Bar Mendocino on Nov. 12, 2008
(picture by by Bluespekko)
I go to jam sessions quite often in Helsinki area. Never happened that I have to pay to play, although in one place there is a great pressure to buy raffle tickets (5 euros each) to cover the house band. In many places the jam players get free beer or beverages.
The jam places where I played recently are:
  1. Grillari in Soukka, Espoo
  2. Hemingway's in Tapiola, Espoo
  3. Henrik in Helsinki
  4. Bar Mendocino in Helsinki (Blues, roots music)
Alexei continues:
"I strongly believe that a really enjoyable and satisfying jam session, the one that expands music ideas and creates new music should have some threshold, the minimum level of musicianship accepted.
It is practically impossible when the musicians are required to pay to participate, then everyone that pays has the right to play. There are always people that abuse this right and subject other players and the audience to extreme suffering, sometimes raising to the level of torture - you know what I mean.
I guess Russians are rude compared to Americans. At the jams back in Russia you could often see a musician being taken of the stage by the sleeve and told to go home and practice. They did that to me when I just started and it sometimes made me cry, but in the end it did me a lot of good."

I guess the Finnish jam organizers are more polite or perhaps more tolerant. In any case both players and the organizers should read the Jam Session Etiquette by Grant Koeller.

Bob's Takeaway in Henrik, January 2009


Harri Rautiainen said...

Jam session etiquette:

1. Don't be a solo hog. Say what you have to say in as few choruses as possible.

2. Don't cut another soloist off by jumping in.

3. If you don't know the tune, don't solo. Nobody wants to hear a person who hasn't paid their dues on their horn make a complete fool of himself by trying to make every one think he knows how to play.

4. Don't tell the leader what to do. It's their Jam. Not yours. You can always get your own jam someday.

5. Know when to play.

6. Know when to sit down and chill out and enjoy the other players.

7. Have respect for the other soloists ideas by not doodling' around on your ax when they are playing.

8. If the other players start to riff behind the soloist, then go ahead and join in, but remember the balance, don't cover the soloist up.

9. Remember the solo order so when fours come up, everybody gets a turn.

10. The Bass doesn't need a solo on every tune.

11. If there is more than one horn present don't all play the melody in unison. Use different harmony parts and chord tones to create interest.

12. When playing a Ballad, split up the choruses in half, so the tune isn't an hour long.

13. Don't insist on staying up on stage all night. Play your 3 or 4 songs and make room for the other soloists who haven't played yet.

14. Never be critical of another person on the bandstand. If you have something to say to someone about their pitch, tone, sense of time, or what ever, wait until the break.

15. Never be a mike hog. Always share.

16. Don't call tunes in order to impress somebody. No one wants to hear Carla Bley Tunes with no Bar Lines performed at the speed of Cherokee. Or Anthony Braxton tunes performed with a polka feel.

17. Learn some tunes that you love, and do them.

18. Don't judge other people's tunes. If you hate the song Stella by Starlight, instead of complaining about it, go sit down and take a break.

19. As a horn player, when the singer sings don't play. It's ok to fill in between their phrases as long as it's done tastefully.

20. Use space. Don't play every Jamie Abersold lick that you know in the first three minutes. Save some ideas for later.

21. Be Mature. A jam is supposed to be about mutual respect for all the players regardless of ability, and not just a cutting contest. There is no room for "Higher, louder, faster," types of players who want to show off.

22. If the person ahead of you just took 8 choruses on the blues, don't try to "better" him by playing more if you have nothing to say.

23. Play in tune with each other. Don't have the attitude that "I'm right, Everyone else is Flat".

24. When ending a tune, look to the Bass or piano player for signs as to which type of ending will be used. Is it the 3 times a charm ending? Or that everybody stops at the same time with tight cut off ending? Is the rhythm section going to put a turn around at the end and vamp for a while ending? Turn on your radar.

I know there are millions more so if you can think of any please let me know.

The Dissonance said...

Nice post Harri. You really got me thinking and I took off from this post for my peeps in the Seattle area:!51AA828BCB20646!5963.entry


Alexei Zoubov said...

Just found this blog - it's nice find oneself quoted!

May be some day I will play at a jam in Helsinki!