What to Sing at a Jam Session?


We have had a request for some suggestions for new jazz songs to learn. Here are the 6 Golden Rules although no-one knows why…

Rule No 1; You can start with Summertime, Autumn Leaves, Route 66′, Georgia and other standards, because almost everyone else does, but if you want to sing them again and again, you had better come up with a new take on the tune. One Note Samba as a swing tune, Autumn leaves in French or 5/4 time or both, Georgia in 12/8, Route 66 with three or four singers, Caravan ditto. We have done all of these in the past, by the way.

And probably won’t be doing them again unless you ask nicely.

Rule No 2: Work out what the song is about. Find out who wrote it, and why. Listen to different versions. Try and relate it to your own experience. Cry Me A River is all about a bastard, so sing it with venom, Girl From Ipanema is about poignancy, with a sad back story for its creators.

Rule No 3: Mix it up – some fast some slow, blues, latin and slow ballads. An all blues set or an all funk set can be crashingly dull, an all swing tunes set gets tedious, and an all Bebop set often doesn’t work as well with vocals, and in any case needs to be played with conviction by heroin afflicted black musos with anger management issues to be at their best.

Rule No 4: Emotion: Charlotte Nicdao once reduced an audience to tears by singing Moon River, Sevil Sabah has done the same with Billy Preston’s You Are So Beautiful. Annie Smith regularly reduces an audience to tears as well, but these are generally tears of laughter.

Rule No 5: Singing is a specialised and demanding area of musicianship. Practice as hard as the musicians behind you. Get some formal training and feedback on your technique.

Rule No 6: Ignore Rules No 1 to 5 completely and do what pleases you most – we, the audience, will enjoy it all the more!

 

Threat Identification Chart: A guide to musical instruments

Threat Identification Chart: A guide to musical instruments

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Low flying saxophone. Do not pick one of these up, they are liable to explode and spray shattered egos everywhere

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Incomplete drumkit. Complete drumkit is a mythical concept, apparently. Barely adequate for the average drummer, often ruined by the use of drumsticks. Extra carpet required for M Hirsh esq.

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Eclectic guitar. This is perfect in every way, especially as it doesn’t have a lead.

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Two handed piano. This instrument has 88 keys – a lot of choices, all of them wrong.

On Council Largesse, and why employing musicians is a bad idea…

One of the special joys of inner city living is lying in bed listening to the rumble and clatter of the garbos at about 6 o’clock in the morning.

The other one is getting the rates notice. It is about at this point that you realise you are not just lying in bed listening to the rumble and clatter of the garbos at about 6 o’clock in the morning – you are also paying for it.

And you may console yourself, humble jazz musician, with the thought that at least Councils are major employers of musicians – Stonnington, Yarra, COPP and others all have programmes of jazz, generally free.

We recently carried out a Feasibility Study for an all-day Jazz event in Melbourne. Great site, good location, lots of pluses. We did a survey of live music prices, and similar offerings elsewhere. We looked at higher priced bands as well as a volunteer/low cost model. Whichever way we cooked the books, the proposal would not, could not, stack up.

And the reason? All those “free” concerts, jazz in the park etc. etc., mean that no commercial operator will go near a jazz festival – unless there is a substantial grant of public money. And so we have the edifying spectacle of professional musicians bemoaning the lack of opportunity, whilst complaining about their lack of earnings, and trousering the Council pay that ensures there can be no other commercial opportunities.

Council largesse could kill the music scene.
TW

The Jam Sessions: What to expect…

Quite why anyone in their right mind would want to attend a jam session remains a mystery. One day someone sensible will turn up and all will be revealed. No Hortense, that is not what I meant at all…

So supposing you read the ad in Melband, or google “Melbourne jam session”, or take the advice of someone who really doesn’t like you, or get lost on your way to the Municipal Bottle dump in the hope of a windfall, just what could you expect when you stumble through the green door?

Well, musical tragedies, the most appalling racket, and disharmony for a start. And that is just the saxophones warming up in the back room. Despite all this furtive practising, they still manage to come out and play the head approximately three poofteenths of a semitone flat, before launching into a solo which sounds like it is based on the chords for Epistrophy in 5/4 time, but probably isn’t, before playing over the singer, presuming to play the head one last time and then repeating it to make sure no one else gets a go.

But why just bag the saxaphones when there are richer pickings in the Back Bar?

Drummers... We all like the extended drum solos in between every number, and the slap and rattle jockies rarely let us down. The appalling racket ensures that no one can hear what song, key or tempo the singer or soloist might be calling for, and that gives us at least three excuses for getting it wrong.

Bass players: there are two types of bass player who come to the jam: Taariq in his bebop mode, and everyone else. ‘Nuff said.

Guitarists. Few people know that the guitar is a direct descendant of the mid fourteenth century left handed lute. This is because it isn’t true. Or is it? Whatever, we can only be amazed at how the guitarist can play a melodic line, comp a million chords and put in the bass line all at once, without ever interfering with the tempo and rhythm being set by the bass and drums.

Singers: these fall into three categories: singers who are so inexperienced that they know no better, singers who are so experienced that they should know better, and singers who used to know better, but have forgotten. The Divine Miss Smith falls into all three categories.

Captain Chaos: He maintains he carefully orchestrates the musician changes so that everyone gets a fair turn; and he never gets the least bit irritated when anyone just presumes they can get up and barge in because they feel like it. Or wants to play just one more tune, or doesn’t want to get up because they are waiting for a more accomplished line-up.

The Pianists: Anyone who has read this far will be wondering about the pianists. Most of them are good looking, modest, talented to a fault, and generously hold the whole thing together. The other one is still malingering in Hospital, lazy sod…

Freda Trout is writing the newsletter this week. Gawd help us.
TW