DO PEOPLE STILL get together and jam? When I was in my early 20s my best mate and I, who were of a very similar standard as guitarists - used to sit in his living room and jam for hours. He had a Gibson SG and I had a red ES-335. We both went through his 1963 Vox AC30 at flat-out volume and had a whale of a time. We learnt loads from each other and got better naturally, simply through playing for hours. His sister went out with a brilliant saxophone player and he would often join in; or he would play flute and I’d mess around with chords. Again, learning so much.
Of course jamming had originally been a jazz thing, where in the clubs the standard repertoire would be elongated with solos from all the participants. I’m not sure if the same was true of the Chicago blues clubs, but I get the feeling that was more about the singer or band leader (Muddy, Wolf etc) and soloists had their set spot in the song.
In rock, jamming started simultaneously on each side of the Atlantic. Here it was Cream who, as legend will tell us, had so few original numbers that they simply turned blues tunes into huge jams. Of course they had the instrumentalists to carry it off and their audiences loved it.
On the other side of the pond it was bands like The Allman Brothers and Grateful Dead. But while Cream’s jamming came about through necessity, these guys just loved to play, and their whole point was to keep the music spontaneous. What’s more, the jamming scene has never really stopped over there (witness The Black Crowes, Blues Traveller etc), whereas in Britain we tend to like things more succinct - the three-minute pop song format of punk, indie, new wave, Britrock and so on.
So perhaps it’s time to get jamming back on the agenda. Why don’t you make it a plan to get together with a mate, or a few mates, lose your inhibitions and jam over a few simple ideas - who knows, you might form a band, or write a few songs.
To help you on your way our resident prof, Milton Mermikides has written a fascinating piece on the US jam bands, with a load of stylistically accurate examples to get you started. So have fun, and keep jamming!