The Jammers Bit: The Jam Session Irregulars


This week’s breathtaking edition is entirely written by the Jam Session Irregulars, none of whom has attended a jam in months, of course. Much thanks to:



Alan West    Learning Music


Captain Chaos    It is Not Just the Music


Mike “carpet” Hirsh    Recording Tips For Vocalists


Rosemarie Harvey    The Vocal Chords





‘Nuff said. Read on!…..

It’s Not Just for the Music

With over 12 years involvement with Melbourne Jazz Jammers I have found that there is more to the sessions than the music.

Firstly, they offer the opportunity to network with fellow musicians. Out of this has come the formation of many ongoing groups that have gone on to gig around Melbourne and at various country festivals. This has been my own experience with the band

“Breakout” which started from a phone call to me from Peter Ryan over 6 years ago. Peter had known me from his occasional appearances at the jam session. From time to time the band has dipped into contacts through the jam sessions to replace players.

Then there are the surprise drop ins from interstate and international visitors to Melbourne. I can remember some superb musicians over the years. The German guitarist, the Canadian tenor saxophonist, the Russian alto saxophonist, the two Japanese trumpeters, Luis, the Spanish soprano saxophonist, the Japanese pianist, the Belgian vocalist, the Sydney drummer, the Queensland vocalist and the list goes on.

As well there are the new overseas arrivals to Melbourne who use the jam sessions as an initial foray into the Melbourne Jazz scene. The Columbian Pianist who went on to do Paris Cat gigs, ade ishs who has become one of Melbourne’s top jazz pianists, Mihoko the Japanese tenor saxophonist, Sebastian the French drummer, and Danilo, the Italian drummer are but a few examples of the fine musicians we have met through the jamming experience.

Not to mention the ongoing friendships that have been formed

Hopefully, nothing will have changed when the jams are back in full swing after this crazy pandemic.


Learning music

An article by Alan West, saxophonist


I would like to pass on what was impressed upon me. I learnt from a double bass player, Murray Wall, who learnt from Lenny Tristano – a well known NYC music teacher who used to play piano with Charlie Parker.


The Lenny Tristano method,

Lenny was blind (there is ear work involved.)


Starters: Learn the diatonic system, scales in major and minors (natural, harmonic and melodic) in all keys. Play them slowly and try to hear the next note before you play it. Play arpeggios (including 7th) from each step on all those scales. First in root position, once mastered that move on to 1st, then 2nd and then 3rd inversions, again slowly and trying to hear the next note before you play it. Make all scales sound musical. Pick solos you like, start with easier ones, sing the solo and learn it on your

instrument from your singing (likewise melodies). Sing as much as possible, your ear is like a muscle and improves with use. Know the melody well to every tune you play. You don’t deserve to solo on a tune if you can’t play the melody.


For the more serious players. The above is about 6 months work with 4 hours a day regimen. Here comes the hard part. Tristano said if you can’t play a tune in all 12 keys, then you don’t really know it, all you got is finger memory. Start with nursery rhymes (hopefully your momma sang them to you as a child) pick them up by ear and take them through all keys. With standards, start to think of the chords in degrees i.e. III VI II V7 1, instead of Em7 Am7 Dm7 G7 C. You will start to hear in degrees more quickly and playing in all keys is much easier that way.


In a nutshell that is the basics. From here you can venture forth with a solid foundation. Remember the important thing about technique: It is only important when the lack of it inhibits music coming out. Just having a blistering technique and not much else is meaningless. Good luck, see you at the jams, whenever.


Alan and regular jammer Malcolm Hornby play on these. They are good: check them out!


iso remote recordings, written by Alan West


Gypsy Jam – Demo

Cha Cha Fransesca

Hot Luck



Alan West – sax, Malcolm Hornby — Piano, Denis Toner – bass and Mark Voogd – drums.


The Vocal Chords

One of a series of articles on singing, from Ebony Rose


The vocal chords are two pearly white folds on either side of the larynx or voice box. These are usually described as vocal folds. When you are breathing they form two long sides of a triangular shape around the glottis through which the air reaches your lungs.


When you speak the muscles in your neck pull on the vocal chords and they move inwards almost touching the larynx. Air passes through and it vibrates on your vocal chords therefore making sound so we can understand each other! Or in this instance, sing. Singing, like talking, is a complex mechanism that we really do not even think about.


Vocalising higher pitch sounds involves the larynx muscles pulling on the chords to make a higher pitched sound. The sound vibrates at a higher frequency similar to the way a guitar plays a higher note when its strings are tightened during tuning.


To increase volume you need to speed up the pressure of air being released.


Not surprisingly, your voice reflects any energy, tension or nervousness.


In order to be a good Singer we need to control breath, communicate and relax! There is nothing between you and the audience…nothing to hide behind….the voice reveals all and the Singer must be able to comfortably express themselves and tell the story through emotion and feeling.


Stay tuned for RELAXATION…


All love Ebonyrose xx

Recording Tips For Vocalists…(Before Your Session)

Article by Mike Hirsh (Esq) who runs MCS Recording Studio



Having had experience as an ex full time touring player, session player (record companies) and full time studio engineer, I thought I might share some of my studio experiences.

These tips of course will differ for each musician depending on their experience and expertise and are purely for those who are about to book their session.

  1. Money: When people ring a studio they usually only ask about the price. If you are worried about money, don’t record as it’s always better to wait till you have more than you budgeted for.
  2. Lyrics: Most people want their recording/s to sound like the latest Sony release. Problem is, they don’t want to learn their lyrics. Seriously.
    Don’t ever think you can record a meaningful song whilst reading your lyrics from a piece of paper, phone or tablet. If you insist on this preposterous undertaking, you will never ever sound like a real pro and only end up insulting the listener, that’s if you can get one.
  3. The Mix: Never assume engineers can fix it in the mix. Yes, we can edit certain things, and have auto tune at the ready. However, wouldn’t you feel much better that you did a really good take of the vocals, eg; in tune, in tempo and from the heart?
  4. Rehearsing: Assuming you have rehearsed with your band or backing track, there is no such thing as being over rehearsed for a recording. Yes I know, for all you experts out there, one can be over rehearsed for a live performance, and for obvious reasons, like spontaneous audience combustion.
  5. The Recording Process: However, we are talking about the recording process and because there is no audience, it’s a totally different experience. If you take my advice, rehearse lots (and you will thank me for it later.) Get a good night’s sleep before the session, and please don’t forget to bring a copy of your lyrics for the engineer, his cat or dog. This cunning plan will save on recording time and consequently your money.

So that’s it, short and sweet. If I’ve missed any other points, consider yourself lucky. Next article: I might delve into the actual recording process, which I can assure you seems simple enough, but is in fact, quite complicated.

“May Your Efforts Achieve The Success They Deserve”. Max Abrams

MCS Recording Studio,

tel (03)9312 7391     mob 0417 383 585

The Jammers Bit: Whatever Next

Whatever …

You may well ask… seems like we are no closer to resuming jam sessions than we were a week ago… or three months ago.. Conversations with a number of jammers have entirely failed to throw up the sort of sparkling bright suggestions for resumption of play that we might have hoped for. These lockdowns are starting to resemble the English cricket season, where rain falls for seven days out of every five, and every time the umpires walk out, it rains again anyway.


So, what, as Hortense might have put it, are the options? And what, as Madge from Altona might have replied, is stopping us. Here are three alternative approaches to the “new normal”


The Back to normal option. a jam session at the Tower Hotel, subject to social distancing, and with some limitation on numbers.


Downside: if there are too many people, we split into two sessions, maybe on separate days: Nightmare organising that lot. Most Jammers turn up at random times, other than the estimable Miss Smith, who is always late.


The Outdoors Option. An outdoor location is inherently safer, and would ease back on the numbers issue. . . Stonnington, Williamstown and Port Phillip are three Councils which might be interested: Stonnington has had an outdoor jazz programme, Williamstown has the Newport Bowls Club and Paine Reserve, and Port Phillip has an open air rotunda/bandstand in Catani Gardens.


Downside: Good luck getting that through Council, which would have to approve any use of public space. And it is bleedin’ cold at this time of year, although we would be complaining about the flies by the time it is all in place. And we might need a bit more manpower to set equipment up.


The Streaming Option: set up a “virtual” jam session and invite jammers to get involved. The software exists and should be getting better.


Downside: we lose the socialising aspects of jam sessions, which almost all jammers nominate as the most important aspect of a jam. No substitute for live and sweaty


And… Next

We would like to get some feed back from any of the jammers who are so mind-numbed by the lockdown that they still read the Jammers Newsletter (feeding twaddle to the masses since 2008). Do you have a suggestion for the future of the jam sessions? Let us know


Send us an email:


Festival and Jammers News:



Breath meets the larynx and this is ‘Vocal Attack’

One of a series of articles on singing, from Ebony Rose

The vocal chords are living tissue and need to be used carefully. ( Avoid sudden shouting or gravel sounds as this causes strain). Hear the sounds mentally before you release them….


Inhale expanding the lungs……when breath goes through the larynx and vocal chords energy, vibration, sound, and pitch come into play. We are also using our resonators (air cavities, throat mouth nose and sinuses.


When a guitar is played you strum the strings.A Vocalist must find the power and know where to resonate from in the facial cavity. Fasinating really as no teacher can show you exactly how to do it!


It is something we must feel and learn…


Remember that moment when you found the tone and pitch resonating in the right part of your face, forehead and at the same time you are using the diaphragm to control the depth and resonance…..the sound is so much better!


Stay tuned for the Vocal Chords!


All Love Ebonyrose xx

How I was introduced to the jazz jammers

Singer Aimee Everett


Sala was the one who introduced me to the jam sessions. We had met online. I have always been keen to meet musically minded people, but not sure where to find them. The drum set in his profile picture caught my attention and I thought I would try and befriend this stranger. For about three weeks, we messaged each other and discussed music and occasionally sent each other an audio recording of ourselves.

Having a mutual musical interest, we thought it would be fitting for our first meet up to be music related, so we ended up meeting at Yarraville pop-up Park watching the Concerteenies. Sala invited me to come down to the jam session the following day, which I did. He bought me a drink and encouraged me to get up and sing. I can’t recall the songs I sang or how well I sang them (note sure if that was due to the drinks or the nerves), but I remember how friendly and warm everyone was. Since then, I have been one of the regulars at the jam sessions.

Hope everyone is safe and well and I looking forward to seeing you once we return to a ‘new normal’


The ‘orrible Truth – the future of live music


One might say that Madge from Altona is as miffed as anyone else in Refinery Terrace. It would seem that the corner store has run out of Winnie Blues due to some unregulated panic buying, and this year’s Chateau Plonc is barely worth the cardboard box it comes in. But what, you may ask, of the grand metropolis up the road, that once heaving hub of social activity, now ring fenced, locked down and surrounded by squaddies armed to the teeth. There is not a bar, venue, stadium, theatre or dancehall open – and it may not be about to get better any time soon. That is the ‘orrible truth, and here is why:

If you take music venue managers at their word, (and who wouldn’t?) they were either losing money or barely making any profit in the past even if their venue was full. Cut down the allowable punters and ticket prices would have to go up a staggering 400% just to maintain the status quo.

Taking my superseded copy of the Building Code Of Australia as a guide (see note 1), the design capacities could be reduced by between 70% (concert halls) and 87% (stadiums). Bars are even worse. In summary – the greater the original crowd capacity, and the smaller the venue, the bigger the loss of bums on seats. There probably isn’t a venue in Melbourne that could turn a profit. If a venue is losing money, the more music it puts on, the quicker it will go broke, and no musician will earn a living from live performance – not that many ever did anyway (see Note 2.)

Musicians are better off than venue owners. They can all earn $400USD + per month by running up a million plays on Spotify (see Note 3) or… play for the fun of it -or as Venue managers used to say “for exposure”. So Musos dependant on gigs for their income (remember, there aren’t many) must rely on the philanthropy of venue owners, as the others will have gone broke anyway. Industry executives (see note 4) are predicting a downturn from the 2019 industry value of $555 million. How many bars that have closed will reopen?

Unless you enjoy playing so much you will do it for free, it doesn’t look good. Cheer up! – any day now, pigs will fly, the moon will turn blue, and someone will come up with a vaccine. Maybe get a cure for saxophone playing and Little Sunflower while they are at it.


In conclusion:

So…A bit heavy on the serious stuff this week, and it is not looking too bright just yet. It will get better. Lots of jammers hunkered down with their ukulele, bagpipes, bolivian nose flutes or whatever. Chops should be sensational. Meanwhile, all the singers are learning the verses to go before the choruses – another first.


Festival and Jammers News:



Note 1: The figures given are calculated from Table D1.13 of The Building Code of Australia, a 665 page manual so obscure that it was used to burn down several apartment buildings in Melbourne.

Note 2: According to their submissions to government, every musician in Australia has lost hundreds of gigs because of Covid19. Luckily, only around 33% of professional musicians earn their living solely from music.

Note 3: What does streaming pay? Depends who you ask! The second link is a fun little exercise.

Note 4: Industry executives: they can be identified by their propensity to call musicians “artists” or “talent” or “profit centres”, or “units”. The figures are taken from the ARIA annual report.


Aria Report 2019

The report might be worth a read (link below) but the Bar Chart says it all.,annual%20increase%20from%202018%20figures.

A brief and splendidly inaccurate history of the Blues in Australia:

Reprinted from 12th January 2011

Blues music started in the Untied States of America when Blind Big Willy from way down somewhere else fell into a dumpster and came out clutching a ukulele with three broken strings and a bottle of Drano, which does something to the voice but I am not sure what.

Blind Big Willy could only count to three, so that settled the question of which chords to play. Almost every blues song begins with “woke up this morning”, followed by a litany of daily catastrophes that is so inevitable one wonders if waking up is in fact a bad career move. The Blues should have quit whilst it was still ahead…but instead it developed into a dubious art form, requiring its exponents to (a) shoot a man in Memphis, (b) hitch a ride on the Midnight Special and (c) get done left by their woman on a regular basis, before (d) dying of consumption, a broken heart, and a lifetime of luck, all of it bad….

At this stage it was brought to Australia by a travelling snakeoil salesman, where, in Melbourne at least, it was enthusiastically adopted by Madge from Altona, Robbo the postman from Preston and several people mostly called Eric who saw it as a preferable alternative to paid employment. Disguising their middle class origins with such names as Fat Mama from Altona, Freddie the Frontloader and the blind drunk boys of Upper East Doncaster, they would take it in turns to bemoan their fate and cadge drinks from an unsuspecting public due to the inadequacy of their non specific performing arts grants, received on a weekly basis in exchange for forged documentation suggesting they were actually applying for work in the field of brain surgery or some such.

Eventually I will definitely attend something. Maybe, a jam session. Maybe you should too...

On Jazz Guitarists

Another in a series of guest writers: Fermin Navascués on learning guitar.


I used to come home from playing guitar in bands at functions and the like, playing pop music and soul tunes and my wife said to me “How come you go out and play pop tunes but come home and listen to jazz?” Well, true enough, I was disillusioned with contemporary music on commercial radio. A friend had referred me to PBS radio 106.7 and I discovered not only a plethora of jazz but also, Latin, funk, soul, world music and even doo-wop and progressive metal to mention a few. The key ingredient here was passionate and enthusiastic announcers who not only sourced significant and rare recordings but who could also tell you about the artist, the recording sessions, the impact of the music and some great anecdotes that brought these artists to life.

Where did the interest in jazz start? When I was 15 one of the senior boys at school who played great clarinet and admired Benny Goodman, encouraged me to jam with him in the science lab during lunch times. This led to playing rhythm in his 13 piece swing big band with guys averaging 16 years old. After that, I had tried to learn jazz guitar from a tuition book but found it hard going.

After listening to PBS and building up a CD collection of jazz artists, I found a CD at the library that brought it all home (No pun intended!). It was The Artistry of Barney Kessell with chord solos that seemed impossible to execute and improvisation that said something and makes every note count.

Eventually I signed up for jazz guitar lessons, with Bruce Clarke who at 80 years young was as sharp as a tack. In true Bruce style he gave me a time slot to decide if he was going to teach me. I practiced up in anticipation and when I arrived he asked me who was I listening to? Well, I said Barney Kessell and rattled off a few others like Joe Pass and Herb Ellis. He then asked me if I could read and put an exercise in front of me to prove it. He said he had heard enough, pointed to the photo on the wall of him playing with Barney Kessell and the other one next to it, playing with Herb Ellis and said, “See you next week”.

For me, the Jazz Jammers has provided the opportunity to transition from learning the music to playing it. It provides a safe haven to play with a wonderful array of musicians and instrumentation, and a great network for collaboration.