What Are Good Songs to Play at a Jazz Jam Session?

I have an idea for future blogs. At last week’s jam session several young jam participants asked me what tunes they should study to prepare for a jam session.  At first I just shared a link on facebook to this very well written article about “100 Must Know” Jazz Tunes.  The article is filled with great information, sources and tips for building a jazz repertoire. However I think the question of what tunes to play specifically at a jam session is a good one and worthy of exploring for both experienced and inexperienced players alike.

Why is it a great topic to explore? To begin with I cannot begin to count the Craig Ferguson style “awkward pauses” that happen at jams I’ve participated in and hosted where the flow comes to a complete stop and the dialogue turns to “What do you want to play?”……”I dunno what do you want to play?”…….(crickets)

So what are great tunes to call that are fun to improvise over, most people would know or have heard and that are fun and engaging to play. Why do so many singers who come to my jam sessions only call ballads? What are the correct changes? What recordings made these tunes our favorite to play? What was up with that other melody line played on Blue Bossa by Kenny Dorham and Joe Henderson in the middle of the bass solo ? Then there’s the intro’s and outro’s to tunes like So What, Nica’s Dream, Joyspring, Bye Bye Blackbird, and on and on.

As I thought some more about this, I went to my file cabinet and pulled out an old yellowed folder I kept from the year I first started to study jazz in college (1986 at San Jacinto College with the great Shelly Berg) and I found this paper (shown below), which I am positive is the very first list I compiled when I asked myself what tunes to start to learn.
The tunes scribbled on the top I remember needing to learn because I was gigging with a dance band and also with a dixieland band. It’s so strange I kept this and can see the evidence of the first step I took on this path!

Also in the folder were these two sheets. I wish I could credit the author. I think it could have been Eddie Gomez, but I am not sure because I attended clinics by Lou Fischer and Rufus Reid around this time. The list is a recommendation of tunes to know for a working jazz bassist.

So I invite you to participate in the comment section below. What are your favorite tunes to play at jam sessions?

While you think about your list, here’s a link to Blue Bossa on YouTube. If you’re a student Joe Henderson’s Page One is an essential recording to study. Check out the moment at 5:44 when Joe and Kenny play another melodic line that kinda divides the bass solo in half.  I like it but always wondered why they did that.  Also bass players check out the bass line.  I’m not sure I’ve heard anyone play that line at jam sessions.  They should, its a good one :) While I’m at it here’s another great article to check out for good jam session etiquette, enjoy.

I’m back.

My intent in October 2012 was to learn to blog, and blog regularly through 2013. Instead starting January 2013, I took a brief sabbatical from the music business and took a job at CREATIVE KITCHEN which is a creative production company that creates video/radio commercials and psa’s.  I decided to devote my entire focus last year on learning this new trade and my employers generously invested in me by sending me to video editing school at thetrainingfarm.com in New York City for a week during the summer where I studied Adobe Premiere Pro.  It was scary to walk away from performing jazz regularly for a while but I felt I needed to take some time to adjust to aquiring new skills. a new time schedule, and more importantly time to study a new trade.

In January 2014 local saxophonist Alisha Pattillo asked me if I was interested in co-hosting a jazz jam at Costas Elixir Lounge at 415 Westheimer on Thursday nights.  I’m glad she did. I miss playing jazz so much and wanted to resume working as a musician in Houston but feared I may have done irreparable damage to all my contacts and connections for being gone so long from the music scene in Houston.  However slowly but surely playing opportunities are trickling in and I am grateful.

I’m grateful for the opportunity to take a year and grow in a new direction.  I’m also grateful to be a part of such a great creative culture of music in Houston that has welcomed me back with open arms.

If you get a chance come visit me at The Thursday Night Jam @ Costas Elixir Lounge, 415 Westheimer (between Avante Garden and Sorrentos) 8-11 every Thursday, free valet.  You’ll see a chick bass player revitalized and on fire to make some great music again :)

New facelift for erinwright.com

I am converting my website into a blog site and intend to update it regularly once I navigate the learning curve for WordPress. But for now I have lots of good news.

1. I have found a new home for the Tuesday Night Jam Session and boy it’s a good one! Starting October 30, 2012 at Convivio 7-10pm the jam returns. Click on the link and I dare you not to salivate. Affordable prices, beautiful atmosphere, open to all ages and most importantly the owner Marta had a brother who was a great guitarist in Spain… so she is as passionate about good music as she is her excellent cuisine. It’s a good thing to work for people who love music ;) I cannot properly express how excited I am about this new location!

2. Stephanie Lienhard who is the loving wife of Jazzhouston.com founder/jazz pianist Andrew Lienhard has opened a beautiful shop on Studewood called the Sparrow and the Nest has agreed to sell some of my crafty items (betcha didn’t know I was crafty too). So click on the link, visit her shop, you’ll be glad you did …it’s a great place. Right now she is selling my handsewn art wraps, japanese paper dolls, and day of the dead greeting cards. I am working on putting together a workshop for kids to make their own day of the dead doll greeting cards.

3. Things are going great at Writers in the Round and currently I have many students studying guitar, ukulele, and bass. I have a couple of openings so contact me if you’re looking for a teacher… besates@aol.com.

Stay tuned I plan to update regularly, so for now off to study the WordPress manual.



Ps. I am performing this Thursday night October 4th at the Phoenicia Downtown Market 8-11pm with the great bassist David Craig.