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Mustang Sally.........didn't there used to be a smiley vomiting?
Stormy Monday
Midnight Hour
Thrill is Gone


Just get down generic blues backgrounds in concert E, A, B, D, G, and C
99.99% of the time you'll be in E
 

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If its a good one: the first half of the Hollywood Fats cd plus the Fabulous T-Birds greatest hits plus Gatemouth Brown!
If its not: study your SRV:cry:

Rory

ps. the lovely girl "singer" will invariably call for Summertime, even on New Years Eve.
 

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Cranky Bear: Much depends on the type of musicians at the jam. The jams I went to (rarely anymore, but I used to) were more trad-jazz/swing oriented, so TIN ROOF BLUES AND BASIN STREET BLUES was more likely to be played. Popular keys were Bb, C, F, and Eb.

A few years ago, I wandered into a jam at a hotel in Idaho Falls, ID where we were staying on a road trip. All modernists, but we agreed to play THE SWINGING SHEPHARD BLUES, then followed with something called TENOR MADNESS (totally unfamiliar to me, but just a Bb riff as they played it). It was fun. They couldn't believe I wouldn't play into the microphone. DAVE
 

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It really, really, depends on the musicians. If it's a better than average jam (hopefully) you will NOT be only playing in E concert. You'll play in a lot of keys. It would be good to get comfortable with the 12-bar blues in all keys. You're on the right track regarding the idea of learning the tunes. The ones saxomophone listed are essential, although they are so time-worn, even the jammers will tend to avoid them. But if a singer gets up and calls "Stormy Monday" or "Midnight Hour" and you can't play the horn part, everyone will tag you as a rank amateur.

Here's a very partial list to start with:

Got my Mojo Workin'
Walkin' the Dog
T-Bone Shuffle
Messin' with the Kid
Shake Rattle & Roll
Caledonia
Let the Good Times Roll
Bad Case of Love
Big Boss Man
Everyday I Have the Blues
Kansas City
Red House
My Babe
Pride & Joy (especially at that SRV jam!)
Next time You See Me
---And many more 12-bar blues tunes, especially shuffles.

The above are mostly 12-bar blues and you could get by just knowing the form and paying attention to the rhythm. A couple of them have heads (Caledonia, for ex.) that you should know.

Instrumentals (not all 12-bar):

Watermelon Man
Comin' Home Baby
Mercy Mercy Mercy
Back at the Chicken Shack (must know!)
Cissy Strut
Work Song
Blue Monk
Cold Duck Time
Tenor Madness

The last few tunes above are more jazzy, but many blues players know them and might call them if they see a horn player on stage.

These are just a few tunes off the top of my head that I've run into at jam sessions more than once. However, a LOT depends on the particular jam and the players. You have to go and listen and take note of what is being played. Maybe go without your horn the first couple of times and find out what tunes are played.
 

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For Jazz and Blues it's always best to learn from recordings if you can.
 

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There is a open night blues gig in town I was thinking of going to but if they will play in concert E that's C# on alto and that key is no fun (and I suspect they will because it's a straight electric blues type deal.) That is my main issue with showing up there, because I prefer to play in the more 'open' keys (less side keys) such as my C, D, F, G, and A. I feel the keys of E, B, C#, F#, and G# (on sax) are harder to improvise in unless I am careful. Bb and Eb are not too bad, but I feel why bother if I can enjoy a key like G (my favorite.) So I'm a little envious of people who can play in any key without thinking about it, since in my case I can get frustrated and give up on a tune I am trying to play when I realize it's in a key I don't like.
 

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coolsax2k7 said:
There is a open night blues gig in town I was thinking of going to but if they will play in concert E that's C# on alto and that key is no fun (and I suspect they will because it's a straight electric blues type deal.) That is my main issue with showing up there, because I prefer to play in the more 'open' keys (less side keys) such as my C, D, F, G, and A. I feel the keys of E, B, C#, F#, and G# (on sax) are harder to improvise in unless I am careful. Bb and Eb are not too bad, but I feel why bother if I can enjoy a key like G (my favorite.) So I'm a little envious of people who can play in any key without thinking about it, since in my case I can get frustrated and give up on a tune I am trying to play when I realize it's in a key I don't like.
Everyone feels that way in the beginning......and then the urge to play with other people makes you start to fiddle with Db F# B Ab etc. Pretty soon, we all seem to come to the conclusion that it's no big deal to actually execute in these "strange" keys. I'm thinking it's because theye are now familiar and no longer stange, but I could be wrong. ;)

There's no two ways about it. If you want to play with anyone other than yourself, ( it improves your eyesight :D too), you need to become fluent in all keys.
Pick some stock bluess licks, bass lines, guitar riffs, turnarounds, etc. Take them through the cycle by ear. This helps get you familiar with the different keys. And because those different keys are actually pretty similar, notewise, running the "Stock Standard" licks, dials you in to where you are in each key. Hearing wise that is.
 

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Cranky Bear said:
awesome! thanks guys! I love how helpful everyone is on this forum! would I be better off learning those tunes with a fake book, or by playing to recordings?
Cranky, you definitely want to go to the recordings. However, you could supplement that with a fake book, mainly for instrumentals (i.e. Watermelon Man). But get away from the written page as fast as possible.

A really good way to get started is to pick up some cds by known blues artists, such as Albert King, B.B. King, Freddie King, ANYBODY King, Buddy Guy, King Curtis, Long John Hunter, Hank Crawford, Wynonnie Harris, Big Joe Turner, Eddie Cleanhead Vinson, etc, etc. Listen closely for the chord changes, the (usually) 12-bar form, how the singers phrase, and especially how the horn player(s) fill and play backing riffs. Then try playing along. Maybe you've done some of this already, but you can never do it enough.

At a jam, you'll probably hear some of those tunes I listed, but there are many more in a similar vein. So you have to find out what they are playing at any jam, and always be ready to play something you're unfamiliar with. That's not such a big deal once you know the blues form.

Regarding those "guitar" keys, the only hard keys on sax are the ones you haven't spent time playing in. C#, F#, Ab (on the sax) seem hard because beginners tend to start with keys that have fewer sharps and flats, which are much easier to read at first when playing written music. But the sharps and flats are no more difficult to finger and play, so when playing "by ear" you'll find all keys are equally easy (or difficult, at first!) once you get used to playing in them.
 

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Blues Jams

There is nothing wrong with trying to suggest a few yourself.

Albert Collins tunes are good. He's got a sax player. Ditto for Delbert McClinton, who has a very good sax player. I find on tunes which the other players know to have a sax associated with it, I get a bit more room.

Ray Charles stuff -- Unchain My Heart is a good one.

If there is a female singer, I will give you odds that you will be playing some Bonnie Raitt stuff.

Last night I played at a jam where a female singer did a SRV tune real slow as a funk thing. That was kind of fun, because it left some nice holes for the sax.

Rhumba's are fun if you have a good drummer -- "Love and War" is a good one.

For some reason, a lot of blues/rockers seem to know "All Blues." But, of course, they play it in some wacked out key. I've gotten to where -- as long as I'm not reading -- any key is fine. However, it is weird to play something -- even a simple tune -- that is always played in the same key in jazz circles -- in a different key. Took me a minute, but eventually I got there.

Have fun.

One thing that is nice about these blues jams is that there are usually five guitar players or more for every sax player. By contrast, I have been to jazz jams where ONLY sax players showed up to play. I have concluded that sax is the "guitar" of jazz. Where are all the trumpet players?

Scott
 

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Why can't we come up with a sax capo? I think that inventing that and a volume control for sop saxes would make a man rich!

Mike
 

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Add "Chameleon" + "Mr. Magic" to the list for "not-only-12-bar-sessions"
 

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Jazzed said:
Add "Chameleon" + "Mr. Magic" to the list for "not-only-12-bar-sessions"
Absolutely. A couple more instrumentals that are 12 bars:

"Comin' Home Baby" (12-bar minor blues, with a IIIm bIIIm IIm Im sequence instead of V IV I).

"Chitlin Con Carne" by Kenny Burrell

You also want to learn and understand how to play a minor blues since these will crop up commonly (for ex. "The Thrill is Gone").

Cranky, be sure to check out the SOTW Blues, R&B, R&R teaching resource. Lot's of good specific info there. You'll find a link at the top of the Rock & Roll Sax section.
 

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C Jam Blues - 2 notes in a simple pattern repeated through the entire head and you can play Concert C blues scales all the way through the choruses... heaven for a beginner! :D
 

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I can play in any key, but my preference is that the tonal center of the song I play (not chord progression within it) is in a "good" key for me on sax. I think Eddie Lockjaw Davis once said the side keys on sax were useless which is when I thought that maybe I might be thinking along similar lines. Sometimes I play for hours and days, just jamming and improving along to records (I have been playing sax for 10 yrs total) but I always seem to come to this conclusion. I agree jumping around between keys is a psychological barrier that is possible to overcome, but I also think the keys might sound different, and this might affect my preferences, which are for (mainly) the keys of C, D, F, G, and A on sax, for any situation requiring improv.

Dog Pants said:
Everyone feels that way in the beginning......and then the urge to play with other people makes you start to fiddle with Db F# B Ab etc. Pretty soon, we all seem to come to the conclusion that it's no big deal to actually execute in these "strange" keys. I'm thinking it's because theye are now familiar and no longer stange, but I could be wrong. ;)

There's no two ways about it. If you want to play with anyone other than yourself, ( it improves your eyesight :D too), you need to become fluent in all keys.
Pick some stock bluess licks, bass lines, guitar riffs, turnarounds, etc. Take them through the cycle by ear. This helps get you familiar with the different keys. And because those different keys are actually pretty similar, notewise, running the "Stock Standard" licks, dials you in to where you are in each key. Hearing wise that is.
 

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To the previous poster who was worried about the standard blues keys that are primarily designed for guitar/bass:

E, G, A, D concert does equal C#, E, F#, and B for Alto.

Yeah, its tough in the beginning. The first blues band I played with, I actually had to write down the blues scales for each of those keys and consult them before a song! It helped a lot at the time.

A few months later, I was fairly comfortable with them. Now, 17 years later, I feel better playing in those keys than I do in Bb or F concert. I've personally found that I have a better range in those "guitar" keys, giving me a lot more to say during solos.

Learn those, and guitar players (esp. those who run bands and hire horn players) will love you! Trust me, soon it will become second nature!

If it doesn't, you can always request "Sweet Home Chicago" in C!
-A
 
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