17 August 2022

Jamming guidelines supplemented

The BIB editor writes:

Jamming is a highly important part of bluegrass activity, especially for developing the individual's musicianship and for learning how to fit in with others - very necessary in what is essentially an ensemble music. Pete 'Dr Banjo' Wernick has done more than anyone else to emphasise the importance of jamming; here's a reminder of the Wernick Method Weekend Bluegrass Jam Camp, led by Larry Kernagis, which is to be held in Galway on 4-6 November (see the BIB for 15 July).

Jamming can also be a test of the player's sensitivity to the 'rules', often unspoken, by which a session is being conducted. I remember with pain one session, the beginning of which was one of the best half-hours of my entire life. After that, things seemed to go more and more wrong, and I didn't know why. Days later, I found out I'd been taking breaks according to one set of conventions while everyone else was on another.*

This kind of experience can be avoided by following the advice that Chris Jones gives in today's instalment of his weekly 'From the side of the road' feature on Bluegrass Today. Near the end, he makes the point: 'Listen, Listen, Listen: This is one of the most important jamming principles anyone can learn, and it applies to playing music with other people in any situation.'

Chris and his band the Night Drivers (photo below), who toured here in the autumn of 2019, have been having a string of chart successes on bluegrass radio, with seven consecutive #1 singles from their current project, Make each second last, on the Mountain Home Music Company label. A new single from the album has been released: 'Silver city', the inspiration for which struck Chris when he was in Aberdeen, Scotland. It can be heard on Bluegrass Today and on SoundCloud.

* When this post was first published, this episode appeared as a clash between 'Dublin conventions' and 'Ulster rules'. In reality, it was just the result of my not noticing what everyone else was doing. Thanks to Colin Henry for help in clarifying this matter.

© Richard Hawkins

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