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The Jam Session
If it’s a good one there’s an energy that’s more than the sum of its musical parts. It’s truly COOKING. A mundane 12 bar blues jumps to a whole other level. For a few seconds the whole universe makes sense. I’ve experienced a handful of those. Sadly outnumbered by jam sessions from hell.
Jam sessions can get sticky sometimes.
Three-sheets-to-the-wind Singer of Tuneless, Unstructured and Incomprehensible Socio-political Rants
Flashback to my first year in Berlin. Hungry to connect with local musicians, my social life consisted of a faithful rota between three session venues. The Acud, the Floez and the Anker. The Acud was the edgiest. You never knew what was about to go off (and I don’t just mean onstage) It was a magnet for folk with a screw or two loose. At sessions a bassist and drummer generally stayed put for an hour or more, backing the never-ending queue of guitarists, singers, horn-players and assorted wannabes. Unless you were high in the pecking order – which I wasn’t, being a) an outsider b) female and c) sadly lacking in flashy effect pedals – you got max three songs. There was a particularly hot rhythm section that night and, happy to be next in line, I tuned up and stepped up. So did the Acud’s pet village idiot, a three-sheets-to-the-wind singer of tuneless, unstructured and incomprehensible socio-political rants. The hot rhythm section stopped for a cold beer, only pausing to make the stitch-up official by announcing me and him as the next act. Which is how I got stuck in front of at least 50 people with the task of making Sonny Jim sound like a rock star. Thanks guys.
Darkest chapter in Jam Session History
…..The Floez folk were friendlier, but had a weird guitar culture – four or more volume 11 guitarists might be onstage at any given time. (They’d play a mandatory 15 minute version of Pick up the Pieces by the Average White Band every session, and if you got it wrong you hadn’t made the grade.) But I’m the queen of less-is-more. Two guitarists, maybe (under strict supervision.) Three’s a crowd. Four’s a nightmare. A new tactic was called for. I brushed up diligently on my basic bass skills and turned up one night with my lovely Fender Jazz bass.
My lovely Fender Jazz Bass
I stood in the hallowed spot normally occupied by the regular Floez bassist, who was on holiday….. I’m actually doing OK for the first few songs, even managing occasional fancy turnarounds …till we start on Hey Joe, with that all-time defining killer bass line hook which I hadn’t a clue how to play. The self-appointed head guitar honcho – a mean little guy with a Hitler moustache (who probably worked in the tax office for his day job) conspicuously crosses the stage, mid-song, to tell me, – “We have to talk!” He consolidates his people skills by yelling through the mic at the end: ” Do we have any proper bass players here?” Some hairy muso, who’d been playing bass since birth, lurches onto the stage as I ignominiously slink off.
That’s all folks
These events were the lowest points, flanked by many less memorable, mediocre onstage moments. In which men (invariably men) listened with rapt attention….to their own instruments and little else. The magic times happened with those who listened to, and respected, their fellow players. The Anker was much better for that, with a hot house-band who were flexible and welcoming. I’m still grateful to their frontman, Tom Blacksmith – a real gentleman who always gave me a break, and Nina Davies the superb keyboard player who was also happy to let me in.
In the end the jamming experiences – both good and bad – motivated me to get my own band together. Goodbye sessions, hello Kathy X
Kathy X Leipzig Tattoo Convention 2003