Jammin' by the Seine

Jammin' by the Seine

 Ah...the good life!

Ah...the good life!

Each April & May, we bring a group of professional musicians to Northfield, MN for a series of open community jam sessions.  Send me a note on the Contact page if you'd like to be on the mailing list to receive details for the next Northfield Gypsy Jazz Jam Series.  Sessions are open to all instruments and abilities, some come to play and many come just to listen.  Not sure if you should join in the jam?  Here's a fun link to provide some extra encouragement! 

RESOURCES FOR JAMMERS:

For those who want to study up in advance of our next Northfield Gypsy Jazz Jam Series session, here are a few resources to get you started:

  • The 2008 Django Fakebook - this is the set of charts we project on the wall.  There's no pre-defined set list but feel free to send me a note if you have a special request.
  • FOR STRING PLAYERS - Check out Tim Kliphuis' Hot Jazz Violin 2-part DVD set.  This is a great tool for learning the swing feel on violin.  Tim has other great resources for advanced players such as his Grappelli Licks book and here's a free online excerpt from his teaching materials.  Tcha Limberger does a great job showing how to use singing to develop good soloing technique and ideas - great for any instrument!
  • FOR RHYTHM GUITARISTS - there are plenty of free online videos, but since "le pompe" rhythm is so critical to the gypsy jazz sound and there are so many BAD examples, you've got to be really careful what you watch.  Tim Robinson does a great job of explaining the difference between "good" and "bad" gypsy jazz rhythm. The Nolan Bros. Rhythm Domination series is awesome, but at this time only their Gypsy Bossa lesson is available online. It's also worth checking out this online rhythm lesson collection from the world's ultimate gypsy jazz rhythm guitarist, Nous'che Rosenberg.  WOW!  Just watching Nous'che's teaser video (a clip from his advanced rhythm workshop) is so thrilling that you'll never want to solo again! (though I'll still encourage you to do so... :) 
  • FOR GUITAR BEGINNERS - Robin Nolan's Acclaimed Books - especially his Gypsy Jazz Songbooks - are by far the most popular resource and commonly cited as the fastest way to learn.  Robin's website is also loaded with tips on how to get up to speed fast.
  • The Rosenberg Academy is another incredible online resource that brings gypsy jazz titan, Stochelo Rosenberg, right into your living room.
  •  Ireal Pro App for Iphone and Android - this app offers a collection of 1,000 play-along gypsy jazz tunes (the music files are available as a separate download).  This fabulous app allows you to adjust tempo, key and instrumentation to help make the most out of your practice.

And of course, keep exploring the rich repertoire of recorded music by Django Reinhardt and Stephane Grappelli, the Rosenberg Trio, Birelli Lagrene, Henri Crolla, Fapy Lafertin,Gonzalo Bergara,Tim Kliphuis, Alfonso Ponticelli and Swing Gitan, plus our own Northfield Gypsy Jazz Jam Series featured artists.

 

JAM SESSION ETIQUETTE:

It's awesome to play in a group, especially one where amateurs learn from pros, young musicians learn from old sages - and sometimes the other way around!  To get the most out of a jam (and be sure you'll be warmly welcomed back), take note of these basic tips:

  • LISTEN TO THE SOLOIST - Actively adjust your volume to be sure you can hear him or her.  If you play with an amp, be extra sensitive to keeping your level equal to that of the group.  If you sense things are getting too loud or chaotic, it's ok to drop out for a bit and just listen.  
  • GIVE CLEAR SIGNALS - There's usually an order to the solos (which are often passed around a circle) so be sure you know when it's your turn and give clear signals to the group about whether you do or don't want to solo on that particular tune.  If you do want to solo, make eye contact with the leader or the current soloist.  If not, just shake your head "no" which let's folks know you want to pass. (Looking down at your shoes is NOT a clear indication!)
  • KNOW WHEN TO STOP - Often a soloist is on a roll, and the group can sense that build in excitement.  If you're lucky enough to be riding that wave - take another chorus!   But generally, folks take just one chorus (meaning once through the tune) or even a half chorus to help keep the jam moving.  Remember everyone wants a chance to test out their chops, so don't hog the stage!  
  • TRADING FOURS - This is a fun way to move quickly through the group with each player only soloing over a short section of the song.  Although commonly referred to as "trading fours" (meaning soloing over four measures), players often "trade eights" or solo for eight bars (one full section of a 32-bar AABA tune).  
  • HAVE FUN! This is a fundamental rule of music, but it especially applies to jam sessions.  Unless you're a serious competitor, jam sessions are meant to be open, welcoming learning environments.  Don't be afraid to take a solo, test out a new technique, and stretch outside your comfort zone.  Usually other jammers can pick up on that sense of adventure and are right there with you, supporting your explorations.  Try nodding to a fellow jammer to join in on your solo, harmonize with you, or trade fours.  Make up a rhythmic motif and repeat it a few times until other players join in.  Try sliding up to the highest possible note on your ax - and then take it a few steps further into the stratosphere.  Jump in to sing or scat a little bit.  Get really quiet and see if the group follows you down (and if they don't, refer them to rule #1).  These extra little surprises are what add that sense of spontaneity and excitement to a jam session. So treat your fellow jammers to something they don't expect!!