Skip main navigation

Jam Session

A short description of what a jam session is.
I assume you know what a jam session is – a jam session in jazz. It’s where jazz musicians get together – sometimes they know each other, sometimes they don’t – and they play together. And it’s typical in a jam session that you might play a blues, one of the reasons for starting with the blues. Perhaps the second most frequently used vehicle is called rhythm changes, which is what we’re going to look at in this session. Before I just start, I thought you might be interested in a story where I played in a jam session in Pittsburgh, in the United States. I was in a notorious district of Pittsburgh called the Hill, but the people were very friendly.
And they said to me “You’re English, so you must know Julian Joseph”. Actually, as it turns out, I did know Julian a little bit. But kind of funny that’s the only British jazz pianist they seemed to have known about. Anyway, I went over to the woman leading the jam session and said to her I’d like to play. And she said “Where was I from”? At the time I was living in Southampton, so I said “Southampton”, but she hadn’t heard of Southampton. So when I eventually was asked to play, I was described as “Ray from London, England”. So I got on the stage and there was a very big grand piano.
And I thought it would be good to start off with the blues. The drummer was leading the session on the stage. And so I said I’d like to play “Now’s the Time,” which, as you know, goes like this –
– et cetera – lots of F in it. So when I got to play this big piano, I tried the F, and it didn’t work. So I said to the drummer – I said “I’m very sorry but the F on the piano doesn’t work”. And he said to me “I know the F on the piano doesn’t work. There’s loads of other notes. Use those”.

A short description of what a jam session is. If you have been to a jam session perhaps you can share your experiences with others in the comments. In fact if you have ever played jazz piano with other musicians then what was it like?

This article is from the free online

Learn jazz piano: Improvising on Jazz Standards

Created by
FutureLearn - Learning For Life

Our purpose is to transform access to education.

We offer a diverse selection of courses from leading universities and cultural institutions from around the world. These are delivered one step at a time, and are accessible on mobile, tablet and desktop, so you can fit learning around your life.

We believe learning should be an enjoyable, social experience, so our courses offer the opportunity to discuss what you’re learning with others as you go, helping you make fresh discoveries and form new ideas.
You can unlock new opportunities with unlimited access to hundreds of online short courses for a year by subscribing to our Unlimited package. Build your knowledge with top universities and organisations.

Learn more about how FutureLearn is transforming access to education