Jam session  

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Kunstformen der Natur (1904) by Ernst Haeckel
Kunstformen der Natur (1904) by Ernst Haeckel

A jam session is a musical act where musicians play (i.e. "jam") by improvising without extensive preparation or predefined arrangements. Jam sessions are often used by musicians to develop new material, find suitable arrangements, or 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 sophisticated improvised recording sessions intended to be edited and released to the public.



The New York jazz 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), Charlie Parker, and Dizzy Gillespie. The Minton's jams were legendary for their highly competitive "cutting contests", in which soloists would try to keep up with the house band and outdo each other in improvisation skill.


As the instrumental proficiency of pop and rock musicians improved in the Sixties and early Seventies, onstage jamming 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 and the Allman Brothers Band would feature live performances that could last anywhere between 10 and 20 minutes. However, they can be shorter. For example when Muse play live, they lead from the final chord of various songs into a short jam.

Some notable recorded jams and jam-inspired performances in the rock idiom:

Jam bands

More recently, the jam band has become a genre unto itself; following in the footsteps of jam band originators the Grateful Dead, performances by groups including Phish, moe., Umphreys Mcgee, and Widespread Panic 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, however, the players in an open jam will expect a certain level of proficiency. The abilities to hear chord progressions and keep time are prerequisite; the ability to play improvised leads that contain at least a suggestion of the melody is desired. Jams that require advanced musical proficiency are generally private, by-invitation events.

See also

Unless indicated otherwise, the text in this article is either based on Wikipedia article "Jam session" or another language Wikipedia page thereof used under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License; or on original research by Jahsonic and friends. See Art and Popular Culture's copyright notice.

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