Winnipeg's Jazz Magazine

Coming to the Jam?

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The Cool Wednesday Night Hang celebrated ten years this spring. When we started it up, jam sessions were not familiar to local players, but they’re an essential part of a jazz musician’s development—they’re also a lot of fun!

Jam sessions are designed to give musicians a chance to socialize, play together, and share ideas while forming future gig alliances. Jam sessions are fun when everyone cultivates a supportive atmosphere. One way to be supportive is to step up and play with the weaker players. It sets up karma for when you go and play with the stronger ones!

Several jam sessions are popping up on the Winnipeg scene now. On Wednesdays, you can hang out at the Orbit Room with the university crowd. A couple of Fridays a month, high school players take the lead over at Vincent Massey Collegiate with Live at Massey Hall. On Sundays, Jocelyn Gould leads an open session at Maw’s up on Princess in the Exchange District. Since jam sessions are most fun when you do your homework, here are a few essentials to successfully negotiate a jam session:

Tune list for Massey Hall:
“Sonny Moon For Two” (Bb)
“Filthy McNasty” (Bb)
“Straight No Chaser” (F)
“Bag’s Groove” (F)
“Now’s the Time” (F)
“Mr PC” (Cm)
“So What”
“Blue Bossa”
“Song For My Father”
“Work Song”
“Sing a Song of Song”
“Strasbourg St. Denis”
“Autumn Leaves” (Gm)
“Bye Bye Black Bird”
“Take the A Train”

Tune list for Maw’s:
“I Can’t Get Started”
“They Can’t Take That Away from Me”
“Stompin’ at the Savoy”
“Just Friends”
“Four on Six”
“I Thought about You”
“I Didn’t Know What Time It Was”
“Yardbird Suite”

Jam Session Etiquette

1) Go to be fun and have fun!

2) Be somewhat proficient.

Be able to play at least one jazz blues song in time with a metronome.

Know at least one standard that you’ve learned from a recording and practiced with a metronome.

Find a list of standard songs that the majority of musicians perform frequently and start learning those songs (see sidebar).

Learn the standard song forms (rhythm changes, blues, “Autumn Leaves,” “Honeysuckle Rose”).

3) Practice stage etiquette.

Positioning: horns stay tight together when playing together. Avoid standing between the audience and a soloist at any time. When you solo, be as close to the drummer as you can get.

Soloing: “We’re up here for a good time, not a long time.” Don’t “practice” on the audience—practice at home.

Speaking: State the name of the tune clearly on the microphone before (or after) you play it, with a little info on why you want to play it.

4) Listen to your fellow bandmates and offer feedback only when you love them or when they ask for it.

5) Be kind, and have fun!

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