Friday, November 4, 2011


I’ll start off with a good quote:

"Archaelogy is a thing of the past." – P. Johnson circa last night in reference to the age of data and literacy potentially eliminating the need for future archaelogists.

You know what else is a thing of the past? Me blogging. Maybe it’s because I’ve been busy, but mostly I think it’s because I’ve been using all my creative brain time on other things. For some reason today I felt inspired to play a bunch of guitar and now write about music.

I’ve been listening to a lot of pretty various music these days. I didn’t have an ipod hookup in my new car so my six cd changer now has some STS9, Wilco, Coltrane then Television followed by Erykah Badu, and The Rolling Stones cleaning up. Going on a trip and hearing these artists blend into one another inspires me to consider what over-arching characteristics link the disparate genres or what I like about them. I know I’ve had conversations with some of you, a memorable one with Brot in particular about how if someone plays me a song, whatever the genre, and it is funky, I am so much more likely to enjoy it and get into the band/artist/collective or whatever. Something about that heartbeat rhythm or skipstep beat lures me in regardless of instrumentation. Here though I think I have found another common theme.

The jam is a mysterious musical concept. Once you call music ‘jammy’ it gains dreadlocks and womp-a-wear. Once you call a song ‘a jam’ you are in danger of being scorned because either it was a jam or because it’s not by R. Kelly and you thought it was. Furthermore, from a musicians standpoint, it’s strange to try to 'jam' or to force ‘jamming’. It usually results in boring chord progressions and various assortments of noodling and I think the bands that have succeeded in constantly performing instantaneously improvised material live deserve a lot of credit for ambition and balls (sometimes it’s a huge flop, other times people do this to it). Sometimes ‘jam sessions’ are just fun times playing songs you know or wrote or messing around with parts of ideas, but the rare instance of a totally organic group improvisation is a special thing. I’d like to put my finger on what creates these instances. I think it has equal parts to do with group chemistry, an interest in serving the music not yourself, and a very comfortable situation where the players/singers can take chances and not feel self conscious.

While some bands are famous for this, there are infinite instances of jams coming from artists who normally just play song forms as developed by Schubert (citation needed). Also to make a distinction between live jams and studio jams is definitely reasonable but some artists do certainly succeed in recreating the feel of a group improvisation whether that be improvised solos, or just sections that are rehearsed but left open to interpretation each time. Actually though, I don’t really have any examples of fully improvised music going onto a cd and sounding good. All I have is some Syd Barrett shitshows.

I have a wobbly finger it turns out. Suffice it to say my definition of 'jam' is creative music. That’s all I’ve got. Partially that’s because I keep finding new music that fits the category and expands it. I think all of these following are ‘jams’ or have elements of ‘jams’ in them, or have a part in the song which is the ‘jam out’ part.

So, without further ado, here’s a playlist of ‘jams’.

Silly Fathers - Rubblebucket

This is a catchy and funky tune from a new band that I think bridges the gap well between pop music and jam bands. I think they deserve some attention. Check out Omega La La if you want more. I did.

Can't You Hear Me Knocking - The Rolling Stones

Starting halfway through the song, they bust out. There is a latin shuffly thing going on and then a minor twinged breakdown which builds all the way back up, lead by saxophonist Bobby Keys. In fact also guitarist Mick Taylor, in 1979, said: "Can't You Hear Me Knocking is one of my favorites. (The jam at the end) just happened by accident; that was never planned. Towards the end of the song I just felt like carrying on playing. Everybody was putting their instruments down, but the tape was still rolling and it sounded good, so everybody quickly picked up their instruments again and carried on playing. It just happened, and it was a one-take thing. A lot of people seem to really like that part."

Slump - Outkast

I think it's safe to say that this duo has balls. They do things big time popular rappers would never dream of, and seemingly always kill it. Andre is weird as usual, and the baby noises are kind of fitting. The key though is all in the dynamics and down and up of the outro. It's producing at its best.

Frequencies 2 > 3 - STS9

An older two part song of theirs that when revived with their new instruments and tighter sound is an amazing combination of jam and electrofunk.

I Drink Alone - Lonesome George Thorogood

I mostly put this on here because it cracks me up. The irony is welcome but also he always surprises me with the chances he is willing to take extending songs into rhythmic repetitive blues jams.

With You Friends - Skrillex

First of all, this dude is weird. But with dubstep being tiresome this is an innovative synthpophouse track that I think is worth checking out. Not really jamming, but a jam.

Break You Off - The Roots

I feel like I never heard the second half of this song when it came out, maybe there was a radio edit (grr) but maybe I never paid attention either but the Roots constantly do more than other hip hoppers and this breakbeat, downtempo, DnB whatever you call it jam is sick.

The Green Minute - Galactic

The boys from NOLA definitely have the group chemistry thing down, this song is tight and funkalicious. See what I did there? Delicious+Funk. Has anyone done it before? Yes.

Talking Shit About A Pretty Sunset - Modest Mouse

The closer for a reason. The lyrics are so good and this would already be a classic song. But then Jeremiah Green masterfully builds this seemingly simple breakdown into a thrashing MM masterpiece expressing angst, sorrow and haplessness in a beautiful, youthful jam.


1 comment:

  1. interesting, makes me think about what differentiates a song that IS a jam vs. a song that HAS a jam. i think in most cases, songs that ARE jams have riffs/changes/grooves that might not actually be extended or realized as jams in themselves, and that's what makes them jams, but if these riffs/changes/grooves were realized into full-on jams, then the song would not only BE a jam but also HAVE a jam.

    for example, the first few bars of "return of the mack". that groove is what makes the song A JAM. but if that song went out with that groove just on repeat for a few minutes, i think it would move from BEING a jam to also HAVING a jam. especially if trey was shredding over it amirite.

    also, check this song out for a sort of indie analogue to "can't you hear me knocking" -- starts off pretty airy and dirty projectorsy, but about half-way through turns into a pretty dope jam complete with bleeps n bloops: