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A jam session is a relatively informal musical event, process, or activity where musicians, typically instrumentalists, play improvised solos and vamp on tunes, songs and chord progressions. To "jam" is to improvise music without extensive preparation or predefined arrangements, except for when the group is playing well-known jazz standards or covers of existing popular songs. Original jam sessions, also 'free flow sessions', are often used by musicians to develop new material (music) and find suitable arrangements. Both styles can be used simply as a social gathering and communal practice session. Jam sessions may be based upon existing songs or forms, may be loosely based on an agreed chord progression or chart suggested by one participant, or may be wholly improvisational. Jam sessions can range from very loose gatherings of amateurs to evenings where a jam session coordinator or host acts as a "gatekeeper" to ensure that only appropriate-level performers take the stage, to sophisticated improvised recording sessions by professionals which are intended to be broadcast live on radio or TV or edited and released to the public.
One source for the phrase "jam session" came about in the 1920s when white and black musicians would congregate after their regular paying gigs, to play the jazz they could not play in the "Paul Whiteman" style bands they played in. When Bing Crosby would attend these sessions, the musicians would say he was "jammin' the beat", since he would clap on the one and the three. Thus these sessions became known as "jam sessions".Mezz Mezzrow also gives this more detailed and self-referential description, based on his experience at the jazz speakeasy known as the Three Deuces:
I think the term 'jam session' originated right in that cellar. Long before that, of course, the colored boys used to get together and play for kicks, but those were mostly private sessions, strictly for professional musicians, and the idea was usually to try to cut each other, each one trying to outdo the others and prove himself best. Those impromptu concerts of theirs were generally known as 'cuttin' contests.' Our idea…was to play together, to make the improvisation really collective… Down in that basement concert hall, somebody was always yelling over to me, 'Hey Jelly, what you gonna do?'—they gave me that nickname, or sometimes called me Roll, because I always wanted to play Clarence Williams' '(I Ain't Gonna Give Nobody None O' This) Jelly Roll'—and almost every time I'd cap them with, 'Jelly's gonna jam some now,' just as a kind of play on words. We always used the word 'session' a lot, and I think the expression 'jam session' grew up out of this playful yelling back and forth.
The New York scene during World War II was famous for its after-hours jam sessions. One of the most famous was the regular after-hours jam at Minton's Playhouse in New York City that ran in the 1940s and early 1950s. The jam sessions at Minton's were a fertile meeting place and proving ground for both established soloists like Ben Webster and Lester Young, and the younger jazz musicians who would soon become leading exponents of the bebop movement, including Thelonious Monk (Minton's house pianist), saxophone player Charlie Parker, and trumpeter Dizzy Gillespie. The Minton's jams had competitive "cutting contests", in which soloists would try to keep up with the house band and outdo each other in improvisational skill.
Influenced by jazz, Cuban music saw the emergence of improvised jam sessions during the filin movement of the 1940s, where boleros, sones and other song types were performed in an extended form called descarga . During the 1950s these descargas became the basis of a new genre of improvised jams based on the son montuno with notable jazz influences pioneered by the likes of Julio Gutiérrez and Cachao. During the 1960s, descargas played an important role in the development of salsa, especially the salsa dura style.
As the instrumental proficiency of pop and rock musicians improved in the 1960s and early 1970s, onstage jamming—free improvisation—also became a regular feature of rock music; bands such as Pink Floyd, Cream, the Jimi Hendrix Experience, Deep Purple, The Who, the Grateful Dead, AC/DC, Led Zeppelin, Santana, King Crimson, Lynyrd Skynyrd and the Allman Brothers Band would feature live improvised performances that could last anywhere between 10 and 20 minutes. However, they can be shorter on the recorded version.
Though the Grateful Dead are often credited as being the first jam band, Cream incorporated long improvisations into their songs as early as 1967. However, the Grateful Dead allowed the "jam band" to become a genre unto itself; more recent bands following in their steps include Phish, moe., Umphreys Mcgee, and Widespread Panic, all of which feature extended improvisational sessions. Other bands, such as the Red Hot Chili Peppers also regularly perform live jam sessions. Progressive rock band Coheed and Cambria often end shows with a jam session to their song "The Final Cut" with different instruments.
Bluegrass music also features a tradition of jamming. Bluegrass jams happen in the parking lots and campgrounds of bluegrass festivals, in music stores, bars and restaurants and on stages. Bluegrass jams tend to be segregated by the skill level of the players. Slow jams for beginners provide an entry point. Open bluegrass jams are open to all comers, but the players in an open jam will expect a certain level of proficiency from participants. The abilities to hear chord progressions and keep time are essential, and the ability to play improvised leads that contain at least a suggestion of the melody is desirable. Jams that require advanced musical proficiency are generally private events, by invitation only.
Bebop or bop is a style of jazz developed in the early to mid-1940s in the United States, which features songs characterized by a fast tempo, complex chord progressions with rapid chord changes and numerous changes of key, instrumental virtuosity, and improvisation based on a combination of harmonic structure, the use of scales and occasional references to the melody.
Bluegrass music is a genre of American roots music that developed in the 1940s in the United States Appalachian region. The genre derives its name from the band Bill Monroe and the Blue Grass Boys. Bluegrass has roots in traditional English, Scottish and Irish ballads and dance tunes, and by traditional African-American blues and jazz. Bluegrass was further developed by musicians who played with Monroe, including 5-string banjo player Earl Scruggs and guitarist Lester Flatt. Monroe characterized the genre as: "Scottish bagpipes and ole-time fiddlin'. It's Methodist and Holiness and Baptist. It's blues and jazz, and it has a high lonesome sound."
The New Orleans Rhythm Kings (NORK) were one of the most influential jazz bands of the early to mid-1920s. The band included New Orleans and Chicago musicians who helped shape Chicago jazz and influenced many younger jazz musicians.
Comping is the chords, rhythms, and countermelodies that keyboard players, guitar players, or drummers use to support a jazz musician's improvised solo or melody lines. It is also the action of accompanying, and the left-hand part of a solo pianist.
Milton Mesirow, better known as Mezz Mezzrow, was an American jazz clarinetist and saxophonist from Chicago, Illinois. He is well known for organizing and financing historic recording sessions with Tommy Ladnier and Sidney Bechet. He also recorded a number of times with Bechet and briefly acted as manager for Louis Armstrong. Mezzrow is equally well remembered as a colorful character, as portrayed in his autobiography, Really the Blues, co-written with Bernard Wolfe and published in 1946.
Bruce Randall Hornsby is an American singer-songwriter and pianist. He draws frequently from classical, jazz, bluegrass, folk, Motown, gospel, rock, blues, and jam band musical traditions.
A descarga is an improvised jam session consisting of variations on Cuban music themes, primarily son montuno, but also guajira, bolero, guaracha and rumba. The genre is strongly influenced by jazz and it was developed in Havana during the 1950s. Important figures in the emergence of the genre were Cachao, Julio Gutiérrez, Bebo Valdés, Peruchín and Niño Rivera in Cuba, and Tito Puente, Machito and Mario Bauzá in New York. Originally, descargas were promoted by record companies such as Panart, Maype and Gema under the label Cuban jam sessions. From the 1960s, the descarga format was usually adapted by large salsa ensembles, most notably the Fania All-Stars.
In its broadest sense, the head of a piece of music is its main theme, particularly in jazz, where the term takes on a more specific set of connotations. In other types of music, "head" may refer to the first or most prominent section of a song. The term may, though obtusely, be applied to classical music, insofar as classical pieces generally bear similar thematic elements, but the preferred term in this instance is (main) theme or subject. The term "head" is most often used in jazz and may refer to the thematic melody, an instance of it in a performance of the song, or a more abstract compilation of ideas as to what the song is. It may also, though uncommonly, refer to the first section of the melody, or the theme riff in the melody.
A lead sheet or fake sheet is a form of musical notation that specifies the essential elements of a popular song: the melody, lyrics and harmony. The melody is written in modern Western music notation, the lyric is written as text below the staff and the harmony is specified with chord symbols above the staff.
"Dark Star" is a song released as a single by the Grateful Dead on Warner Bros. records in 1968. It was written by lyricist Robert Hunter and composed by lead guitarist Jerry Garcia; however, compositional credit is sometimes extended to include Phil Lesh, Bill Kreutzmann, Mickey Hart, Ron "Pigpen" McKernan, and Bob Weir. "Dark Star" was an early Grateful Dead classic and became one of their most loved and anticipated numbers, often with the group using it as a vehicle for musical improvisation sessions that extended well beyond the original structure of the song. The song is included in The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame's 500 Songs that Shaped Rock and Roll list and was ranked at number 57 on Rolling Stone's 100 Greatest Guitar Songs of All Time. "Dark Star" was often the basis for jamming during the Dead's live shows, allowing the band to employ techniques typical of improvisational jazz.
Israel López Valdés, better known as Cachao, was a Cuban double bassist and composer. Cachao is widely known as the co-creator of the mambo and a master of the descarga. Throughout his career he also performed and recorded in a variety of music styles ranging from classical music to salsa. An exile in the United States since the 1960s, he only achieved international fame following a career revival in the 1990s.
A jam session is a relatively informal musical event, process, or activity where musicians, typically instrumentalists, play improvised solos and vamp on tunes, songs and chord progressions.
Jazz improvisation is the spontaneous invention of melodic solo lines or accompaniment parts. It is one of the defining elements of jazz. Improvisation is composing on the spot, when a singer or instrumentalist invents melodies and lines over a chord progression played by rhythm section instruments and accompanied by drums. Although blues, rock, and other genres use improvisation, it is done over relatively simple chord progressions which often remain in one key.
A music session is a social gathering of musicians and singers who perform music in a relatively informal context. Much of the music performed at such events is traditional music for the area, popular songs and other well-known tunes. In sessions, the participants typically improvise the accompaniment, song arrangements and musical ornaments to the melodies of songs or tunes. The venue may be a public bar, tavern, village hall or a private home.
1958 Miles is a compilation album by American jazz musician Miles Davis, released in 1974 on CBS/Sony. Recording sessions for the album took place on May 26, 1958, at Columbia's 30th Street Studio and September 9, 1958, at the Plaza Hotel in New York City. 1958 Miles consists of three songs featured on side two of the LP album Jazz Track, which was released earlier in 1958, one song from the same session not appearing in the album, and three recordings from Davis' live performance at the Plaza Hotel with his ensemble sextet. The recording date at 30th Street Studio served as the first documented session to feature pianist Bill Evans performing in Davis' group.
Leeds "Lee" Collins was an American jazz trumpeter.
A jam band is a musical group whose live albums and concerts relate to a fan culture that began in the 1960s with the Grateful Dead and The Allman Brothers Band, both of whom held lengthy jams at concerts. The performances of these bands typically feature extended musical improvisation ("jams") over rhythmic grooves and chord patterns, and long sets of music that can often cross genre boundaries. The Grateful Dead continued to grow their fanbase in the second half of the 1980s. During the late 1980s and early 1990s, a series of Grateful Dead-influenced bands began touring the United States with jam band-style concerts, such as Phish, moe., Edie Brickell & New Bohemians, Blues Traveler, Ozric Tentacles, Widespread Panic, Dave Matthews Band, Bela Fleck and the Flecktones, Spin Doctors, The String Cheese Incident, Col. Bruce Hampton and the Aquarium Rescue Unit, Medeski Martin & Wood, The Black Crowes, Leftover Salmon, The Samples, Galactic, əkoostik hookah, and Lettuce. The jam band movement gained mainstream exposure in the United States in the early 1990s following the rise of Phish and the Dave Matthews Band as major touring acts and the dissolution of the Grateful Dead following Jerry Garcia's death in 1995.
Bluegrass mandolin is a style of mandolin playing most commonly heard in bluegrass bands.
Cuban Jam Sessions in Miniature is the debut album by Cuban double bassist Cachao, released in 1957 by Panart. The album is composed of descargas, improvised jam sessions with Cuban themes. It was the fourth installment in Panart's Cuban Jam Session series after Julio Gutiérrez's Cuban Jam Session Vol. 1 and Vol. 2, and Niño Rivera's Vol. 3. Unlike the other installments, Cachao's session comprised short improvisations instead of extended jams. The album sold over a million copies and became "a Latin music milestone". In 2013, it was induced into the Latin Grammy Hall of Fame and the National Recording Registry.