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Jamming in the US compared to Sweden

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  • Jamming in the US compared to Sweden

    OK, so I've only jammed once in the US, in San Antonio at a small, local jam blues session and I have jammed quite a lot in Stockholm, both blues and jazz jam sessions so it's not really fair to compare but I'm gonna do it anyway.

    The San Antonio Blues Society has a couple of jam sessions every week and I went to the Thursday event, which probably draws the smallest crowd. Everyone seemed to know each other and that always creates a certain atmosphere. A nice jam, they were very friendly and let me play as much as I wanted, I had a lot of fun.

    Now... the comparison... the level of musicianship was about the same as you'd find in Stockholm on an individual basis. Some players were really good, a few were even great, some were not so fantastic but nobody sucked. So far it was about the same. The big difference was in the attitude towards the concept of playing together.

    These guys played together!

    By that I mean that everyone took responsibility for the groove. And I mean everyone, not just the bass player and the drummer as you will encounter quite often in Stockholm. That doesn't mean that it was swinging like crazy all the time but the groove was definitely better. I was up playing for over two sets not even once was the groove a problem.

    Also, it was all about playing and having fun, not about nailing some riff or trying to sound like the well known recording on the well known album. We polayed Sweet Home Alabama and as it was about to start I leaned over to Mike who lead the jam and whispered "I've never played it", thinking about the very guitar oriented riff in it and how to play that on balalajka. Mike just smiled and said "It's just I, IV and V in G, you'll get it!". And that's how they played it.

    They were much more disciplined when it came to keeping their solos short. On the other hand people came up on stage and stayed up as long as they wanted. But hey, if everyone keeps their solo to one chorus even on medium tempo tunes it's all gonna be just fine.

    Also the attitude towards playing in "not so guitar friendly keys". I was asked to do a few songs of my own and they're often in keys like F and Bb, but I can change if to E and A if need be (and this hapopens a lot in Stockholm). The bass player asks me what key I want the tune to be in I say "Well, we can take it in E if..." he shakes his head "No, no, I asked what key do you want to play it in! We'll follow, don't worry". And they sure did.

    This clip is from very early in the first set, my step-son shot this for me to have a memory of it all. My balalajka is plugged into the PA at this point but Mike later lent me his nice Fender amp and I was happy wailing away on that. Things got more rowdy as the night progressed, everyone is sorta shy still here .png" alt=":smileyhappy:" title="Smiley Happy" />

    San Antonio blues jam

  • #2

    That's pretty cool, Terje. I haven't been to a blues jam in years and I kind of miss it. The closest I come these days is the occasional "Broken String Blues" improvisation if someone breaks a string during set. Usually, that's me, so I don't get to participate very often. :mansad: As far as the difference in supporting the groove versus solos of indeterminate length, there are both kinds of players everywhere, I suspect. When you find a bunch that is willing to play together and share the wealth, just enjoy it!.png" alt=":smileyhappy:" title="Smiley Happy" />


    • daddymack
      daddymack commented
      Editing a comment

      I think you got lucky...don't assume US jams are not the same as Swedish jams...

      I have seen enough trainwrecks to know that the mix of people onstage is only as strong as the weakest link. Perfect example: I was at a local jam hosted by a good friend of mine (we gigged together in the late 90s...he also used to back forumite Jimmy James). He put me up with a bassist who I know to be marginal, and a drummer I'd never seen before, but the weakest link was the second 'guitarist' (who later admitted he signed up without realizing he would be expected to carry the rhythm and solo)...a few bars in I had to stop the song. I hate to do that, but they were all going off in different directions.

      You would think when you say "give me that 'Bo Diddley' feel" a blues jam...they would know what you mean, right? Nope. I stopped, showed the drummer what I wanted, showed the bassist what I wanted...but the guitar player was just I didn't get a solo, oh well.

      Sometimes it all clicks...sometimes it just ain't there...and I really dislike the wankers who come and just want to keep soloing for ten minutes...puh-leez...go home and do that....or better yet, put your own band together.