Jamming is all about interaction and response. It requires at least two participating musicians. There is a point at which the numbers of participating musicians makes it difficult to really engage with improvisation; the more potentially cacophenous the sound can end up. The best sitations are with a handful of musicians – combos! As a general rule, the more musicians on board the more restrictive it becomes. Remember we are talking about spontaneous, impromptu musical performances; not pre-planned carefully orchestrated scores!!! Taken to the extreme, nothing is discussed beforehand; someone just starts up and everyone responds. No words are spoken!!!
The problem with some jams is that they become very monotonous because they don’t go anywhere; there is not enough interaction and response; perhaps because the musicians don’t have the abilities to do that. Ideally, the music should be able to go anywhere. Unfortunately I have witnessed too many one chord Jazz Funk jams (yawn). But it doesn’t have to be that way! And whilst some of us practice jamming with backing tracks, they are not the ideal: the ideal is real musicians. Backing tracks do not interact or communicate; they don’t respond to our playing. It’s all going one way and you as the soloist must be subservient to the backing track. Still, it’s good to practice.
In the near future I hope to be organising some jam sessions and they could be coming to a town near you! Well, actually, I say that but in all likelihood they will either be in the Southwest of Scotland or in Greater Manchester; but we’ll see. For me, jamming is the best form of musical interaction but it’s got to be good; and ironically, I think it helps to plan beforehand…watch this space!