I’ve been jamming with bluegrass musicians for more years than I care to admit. And over time, the nature of jams has changed. And the more people I meet, the more I find that people are looking for different experiences when they go to a jam.
For me, it’s all about the singing. My dream jam has a number of people who like to sing leads and harmonies. The person choosing the song sings lead, one person chooses a second part and, if the song lends itself to it, someone adds a third part.
I love the goose-bumpy result of three voices singing tight harmonies that create an almost tangible buzz. If everybody’s up for it, these songs might result in multiple repetitions of the chorus, just for the heck of it. In a good session, everybody gets to sing lead, baritone or tenor some time — or just sit back, play rhythm and appreciate the beautiful harmonies.
So another part of my dream jam is that usually the songs are pretty traditional bluegrass, because those are the ones that most people are likely to know in common and that lend themselves to that great three-part stuff.
A friend says his dream jam is with talented, versatile musicians who know — or can pick up — a wide variety of tunes and songs and jam away gracefully and tastefully. His dream jam ranges from swing to jazz to bluegrass to anything Doc-Watson to whatever-the-heck you call the Punch Brothers’ music.
Lots of people in Oregon seem attracted to the fiddle tune jams. They love those classic old tunes, and they’re happy to participate in big jams where everyone plays his/her variation on instrumentals from Red Haired Boy to Clinch Mountain Backstep.
Then there’s the big singing jam, where as many voices blend in with as many harmony parts to create that big sound — and the senses of community when everybody’s participating. Particularly fun on gospel songs.
I’m at a stage where I prefer smaller jams, because I can hear better, and because I think in those jams people are able to interact and respond to each other better. But for many, the more the merrier.
What does everybody else think?