Another Soul Funk Session

Two soul/funk sessions in a week reinforced why I don’t like jam session anymore. There was plenty to compare for both sessions, but little to contrast. The cost was about the same. The access was about the same. The level of the players was about the same, and that is very good but also very redundant. Three of the seven guitarists could probably outplay me. I’d recommend them for a professional gig before I’d recommend myself, but they all sounded just like each other. They all even played strats. Two more were trying to play outside their genre of specialisation, but very nice guys. One of them played a strat. One more kid played a nice bossa nova on a strat, but missed the ending. So I was glad I brought my modded GB-10 instead of my G&L. All strat players were a bit envious of the fat and round tones I got out of those little practice amps. 

This time, I brought charts I made for my old band. The one of the session hosts saw my charts, and offered to take them to the convenience store to make copies for everyone for which I was very grateful. Of the five or so tunes, he chose Valdez in the Country. It went ok until the other guitarist (another session host) started to play a strange vamp to end the song. Was he playing the George Benson version? Eventually I got his attention, and shook my head. That didn’t stop him, but my cutting did. When the drummer stopped, I simply played louder and stronger, thus turning the ending into a break, and we vamped out over the correct changes. So twice this week, a tune I called was derailed by a house band musician who should have some idea about how a classic tune from the soul/funk/R&B cannon of the 70s should sound, but didn’t.

The sax player on the stand asked me about my chart afterwards, so I gave him a copy. Meanwhile, the little guitarist on the stand stayed behind to tell everyone how to play the next song. Spending as much time as he did explaining how to play a tune almost seems like a necessary evil, but not not really in the spirit of a jam session. But then again, these aren’t really jam session — not in a classic sense, anyway. These are close to the college clubs/circles at a Japanese university, which makes sense since most of the participants are students, and that also explains why they’re so good, yet so clueless about fundamentals like dynamics, space and listening. For example, there was a great singer named Minori, but you couldn’t hear her tribute to Alicia Keys because the kid playing alto was playing over her. I told the session host about the mic volume, but he did nothing. So I did something.

Besides Minori, there were some really good piano players and bassists. I hit it off  with one of them who is closer to me age, speaks fluent English, and has some mutual friends. On the stand, he started to play Chameleon, so I showed him my chart for the second part of that tune, of which I’m very proud of my transcription.  He asked to see the other charts my little folder of charts, and recognised some of the tunes like In My Wildest Dreams and Lady Day & John Coltrane. So he gave me his business card, and agreed to playing a gig this spring/summer, though he might have just been trying to get rid of me. I’ll probably go back to both sessions, but I really need to get my shit together, starting with really learning how to play The Chicken. The reason Valdez survived running aground is because I can play the tune in my sleep…almost. Still room for improvement!



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