|"Yo mang, I got some|
chit to play ya"
I really relate my own understanding of what jam session are about to this experience. I have been in situations on stage with musicians from all kinds of different ages and musical backgrounds and have had really heavy musical experiences. Sometimes I've been jamming with players and nothing really gets off the ground but we still hang and have a good time. I just can't understand musicians who give up the opportunity to take that chance and hang with people they may have just met and instead play what amounts to be a showcase with their own band. It would be like showing up at a party with my posse and refusing to converse with anyone else but the people I came in with. I was pretty taken aback by how many touring musicians I saw doing this at the jam sessions in Ottawa and Montreal this year. The worst example was watching a certain well-known young pianist (records on Blue note etc) sit in on drums and literally run the poor band down with his playing. I guess he wanted to practice his "shit" or something. But when it came time to play his primary instrument he brought up his trio to accompany him. For sure they sounded great. They brought the house down. The people there were getting another taste of his concert and for free. But I couldn't help but think to myself "ok but what do you sound like with other guys?" My guess is that from experience he knew his bag wouldn't hang well with other players. And what does that say about a jazz musician, I wonder, if they don't like taking chances with other musicians?
So back to my question : "Is there an etiquette at a jam session?" Are you there to hang with musicians who, for better or worse like the mortal human beings we all are, might not allow you to get off the way you know you can with your band? Or are you there to give up your own agenda and be curious about what what life could offer you when you're willing to take a chance and really let it hang out? For me these choices say a lot about what I find interesting in the people that I want to hang with and I'm really perplexed when I see musicians generally credited with playing daring and innovative jazz but are unwilling to take part in one of jazz's most enduring and edifying experiences. Life's a funny thing because you never really know who you're going to connect with. And when it happens, for me, that's what gives life and music its magic.