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Musically Speaking: Are you a band or just jamming

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JJ Rocks Article # 215:
From St. Croix Music Magazine, Issue # 42, March, 2009
Im bringing this subject up because of some of my personal experiences at Blues jams and the necessity of defining the line between being in a band, and just jamming for fun. But please allow me say this first. I really dont care what people think they are doing up on the stage, only the sincerity of their attempts. I just find this topic interesting to write about and Im wondering if anyone else out there has had a similar experience.

As you all know, Blues jams can be a lot of fun. Opinions of the players on stage dont show up on my list of priorities. Most players are there for a good time and possibly pull off some licks that they normally wouldnt play in a musically organized setting. And of course there are the gig seekers, out of work musicians, over the hill horn players, play by ear keyboardist, drunken harmonica hobbyist, boring drummers who are there to just pick up the money, and of course, a singer who is the self elected band leader that tells everyone when they can take a solo. Well, I guess that still doesnt define the line between many bands and a jam session. So what does?

Well, lets see. A real jam session is when musicians pick a very simple progression and start to improvise over it, or just pick a popular song as a template and try to be creative within its boundaries. Either way, having a chance to make up something on the spot is the main attraction. But sometimes the people who want to sit in dont show up in the first set and the club owner still wants live music coming from the stage. Thats when the band side of the jam starts to perform songs that they know. So Im amazed that some of the band (jam) leaders keep saying were not really a band, were just a jam session. I hear this even after they played an entire set of the same songs that they have been playing for years. Whether they rehearse or not is not the issue. If what they play is organized and repetitive week to week, then they are a band. Thats the bottom line.

Wanting to be in a band was one of the dreams that fueled my drive to play music. All I wanted as a beginner was to say Hey, Im in a band! So why do some players deny themselves that privilege? Is it because they are ashamed of their playing and they are only making excuses? This one baffles me. If you are going to make excuses about what you are doing on stage, you shouldnt be on stage in the first place.
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