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I had this new powerful new alto on me and I just couldn't control it. I was squeaking here and there. I hadn't practiced on it enough. I hit a couple slick blues lines with it that got peoples attention of the unique and incredible sound of the horn, but I was just barely getting buy on the horn. Then a tune came up that I didn't know. I believe it was softly as a morning sunrise - a tune that I just don't know. I decided to try to solo on it to try to make this horn sing again. But between my not knowing the tune and hardly being able to play this new horn, I totally was giving one of my worst showings ever.

About four bars into my solo, the leader of the jam session, and a close musical associate of mine tells the band to go to the head and comes over and totally bashes me for trying to solo. I put my stuff up and leave right there on the spot. I'm not going to a jam session again until I've got my act together on every tune in my real book, not just the 9 or 10 songs I can play really well. I've been focusing on getting a horn like this so long that my repertoire hasn't grown at all in 5 or 6 months.

Anyone been bashed at a jam session like this?
 

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it's part of growing up as a musician. We've all had a slice of humble pie. :)
 

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cann0nba11 said:
it's part of growing up as a musician. We've all had a slice of humble pie. :)
I was humbled. I was the worst soloist there, by far. Man, it's hard to take criticism and to be put in your place.
 

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Yep.

I used to go to a place called Bill's La Gourmet in Wichita, KS on a Sunday 'semi-open' jam. I was eighteen, and there were a bunch of old guys there. Jay Mcshann, Claude (Fiddler) Williams. I had no idea who they were at the time.

They always let some of the 'younger' guys play, while they had a drink during the second set on Sunday. A piano player started playing some blues, and there were a couple other young horn players there. I got up to solo first. I thought it was a blues in C. Yeah Yeah, I thought, I can do C.

Turns out the piano player liked to play blues in Db. I played half a chorus, couldn't figure out what happened, walked off the bandstand, grabbed my case, and walked out of the club. I put my horn away while sitting, totally demoralized, in my car.

I didn't get my horn out at that jam again until much later, and I made sure I could play equally badly in all keys.
 

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Liverpudlian Jam

Car-a-van

I was in Liverpool with my old high school band (thought i'd come along for the ride. fyi we played at the cavern and it was awesome).

Anyway I got invited along to a open jazz jam with (with canadian saxman Gene Hardy as my chaperone.....) Really heavy cats. Playing a lot of bop-funk-esque tunes.

The "session leader" comes up and in a thick english accent says "oh' your here with Gene. Well come on up and have a blow. What tunes do you know?" This was very kind as i'm sure others here will tell you that that question will rarely be offered to you.

I said "well, Ellington stuff. Like Don't get around much. Mellow tone... but you know funky is good too.

So we started off with In a mellow tone. We blew through the head and my solo was the first in the tune. It went ecstatically well.

Second tune. was some funky Minor tune that was mostly in and around concert Bb-. Needless to say. It went very well.

Final tune. Caravan........
If you've never played this song (let alone never heard it). Its one of those tunes that you really really need to know and have internalized.

I had none of this and by the time my solo came around i was almost ready to cry. I played a couple bars and I could tell that the changes were going by and i had no clue. So i cut it very short.

End of the tune. Leader comes back up and says. "great stuff chap. Trully. Next time though. Go with your gut."

Its never been more true. If you don't feel it, don't play it. -James Jamerson
 

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Yep,

High school. Stood up to play my solo on "Riffin' in Blues" and bombed. And that was just the first time. There are many-many more.
 

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By a strange coincidence, I just bombed on "softly" as well, this very evening! I just couldn;t handle it at a really quick tempo after a couple of beers. Anyhow, everyone was very nice about it (this being England, you see ;) ). Of course your experience may be "character building" but I still kind of feel like leaders who use this kind of situation as a chance to humiliate may have problems of their own. The question is "how would the world be if everyone was like that?". Answer: worse, with even less live music in the community.

Someone mentioned "go with your gut". I find this to be incredibly true in all live playing situations. Almost to the extent that I'm better playing stuff where I can't even think about it because i have no real clue what i'm doing.
 

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It's a good learning experience, someday you'll laugh at it! Don't let it get you down. Next time be more prepared, or just sit that tune out. It's probably happened to most of us. I used to know tunes on alto, tenor, or flute, but would have the wrong horn in my hands at the time, and stumble.
 

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You already knew you weren't hanging before that guy busted your sac about it. I can't stand it when guys act like that. It's a jam session, not a gig.
 

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When I was about 20 or so I guess, I sat in at a jam run by a piano player...mostly older guys and pretty good players, and I can't remember the tune that I got the signal to play on, but I didn't know it very well and REALLY stumbled through it. When the tune was over the paino guy looked at me and said, 'I don't think you played a single RIGHT note in that tune, but you do play with conviction, and I like that.'

I was mortified, mumbled something about having to 'go somewhere', put my horn away and walked out...OUCH !!!

And obviously I STILL remember it 30 years later...OUCH again...
 

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asaxman said:
It's a good learning experience, someday you'll laugh at it! Don't let it get you down. Next time be more prepared, or just sit that tune out. It's probably happened to most of us. I used to know tunes on alto, tenor, or flute, but would have the wrong horn in my hands at the time, and stumble.
That sounds like good advice. More important than what happened is how you react to it and where you go from here. I think it's a story most jazz musicians can relate to. Didn't Bird get a cymbal thrown at his head when he was coming up in Kansas City?
 

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no one knows all the tunes,,changes are somewhat associated,big ears could help,but there is a point that a jam leader can become intolerable of others,i would have let whoever play.thats the way i see it,call tunes that most could get through,or fake.having said that,every seasoned musician on this forum has had a experience that was similar,i would think,i certainly have.just part of the deal,i chose my environment to play in and i try to keep it within the framework of my craft.......
 

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hakukani said:
I thought it was a blues in C. Yeah Yeah, I thought, I can do C.

Turns out the piano player liked to play blues in Db.
I can hear it now Hak. Some real 'bluesy' notes. ;)
maybe if you heard it back, it mighta sounded quite good. :D
They probably thought, "damn, that guy can really play outside" :shock:
 

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That's why I like to know the tunes when I play. At this point unless it's pretty easy stuff I don't play very well unless I get a chance to go over the changes a bit before I have to solo. One of these days I hope it gets to the point the big boys are at where you have heard and played over all the different chord progressions so often your ear just takes over.

I'd take the hit to the ego in stride and chalk it up to a learning experience. Even though you bombed you are still in an elite group that can play the saxophone. Ask 100 randon people if they play sax and you probably won't get one yes. Keep your chin up and keep practicing, maybe next time you can show them something.
 

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RootyTootoot said:
Someone mentioned "go with your gut". I find this to be incredibly true in all live playing situations. Almost to the extent that I'm better playing stuff where I can't even think about it because i have no real clue what i'm doing.
I've had this very same experience several times.
The brain does get in the way of the ear.

However, you cannot rely on it.

Much better to know the tune.
Unless you are just jamming around with some mates where it does
not matter if you fall flat on your face.
 

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Great thread. It's happened to all of us. More than once. I published an article about one such time in my life. Here it is. It still embarrasses me to read it.
===============================
Coming of Age in D-Flat

In the 1950s the Charles Hotel at 14th and R Street, NW, Washington, DC had a lounge that featured a six-piece jazz band every Thursday through Sunday and is where as a teenager I got my first exposure to live jazz in nightclubs. The band was led by Booker T. Coleman, a marvelous piano player whose stride and swing piano called to mind Harlem rent party players from decades earlier. Finding Booker was a major discovery for this aspiring young jazz piano player. I could stand behind the piano and watch that amazing left hand in action. I took every opportunity to go to the Charles to watch and listen. After hours Booker would show me some of his pianistic tricks, things that can be heard in my playing today.

I said to Booker, "I can't play in D-flat." Booker answered, "And you never will if you keep on believing it. How about when some cat wants to play 'Body and Soul'?" He explained that even if it was in the easier key of C, the bridge would go into D-flat. "You can't escape it. You have to learn all the keys." I worked on D-flat at home but didn't know "Body and Soul" and did not bother to learn it.

One day I got a call from Booker. He was feeling poorly and asked me to cover the Sunday afternoon jam session. Why me? Everybody else is busy, he explained. Professional musicians from all over town came to the Sunday session. I was thrilled. But I was worried. What if somebody called a tune in a difficult key? I knew all the Dixieland standards from the house band's usual repertoire. But what about the guest players? I'd been to these sessions, and guests were likely to call anything.

The session started with only a few players to sit in. They were all standard Dixie players and the afternoon proceeded without incident. I was happily playing in a real jazz band, getting some exposure, building some chops. Then a small man walked into the lounge carrying a violin case. A violin? What's a violin doing at a jazz jam session? I took a closer look. My heart sank. I recognized him from pictures. He was Stuff Smith.

Stuff Smith, the greatest jazz violinist extant, came to the bandstand. The other players stepped down, leaving only Stuff and the rhythm section. Stuff reached over my shoulder, struck a note on the piano and tuned his violin. He asked me, "You know 'Holiday for Strings,' kid?" I said I didn't. "Okay," he said, "'Body and Soul.' One, two three four."

Terrified, I made it through the tune by listening hard to the bass player. I plunked whatever seemed to fit. I could barely see the keyboard as the sweat poured down my brow. My heart pounded in double time. Stuff mercifully finished the tune after one chorus without giving me a solo. I was sure that never in the history of jazz had any novice, lame, kid piano player ever sucked this bad in the presence of one of the greats of jazz. Surely I would be ejected from the premises, banned from ever returning, and, worse, not get paid.

At the end of the tune Stuff asked me, "You ever play that tune before?" I admitted I hadn't. He said, "Learn it."
 

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queperknuckle said:
I had this new powerful new alto on me and I just couldn't control it. I was squeaking here and there. I hadn't practiced on it enough. I hit a couple slick blues lines with it that got peoples attention of the unique and incredible sound of the horn, but I was just barely getting buy on the horn. Then a tune came up that I didn't know. I believe it was softly as a morning sunrise - a tune that I just don't know. I decided to try to solo on it to try to make this horn sing again. But between my not knowing the tune and hardly being able to play this new horn, I totally was giving one of my worst showings ever.

About four bars into my solo, the leader of the jam session, and a close musical associate of mine tells the band to go to the head and comes over and totally bashes me for trying to solo. I put my stuff up and leave right there on the spot. I'm not going to a jam session again until I've got my act together on every tune in my real book, not just the 9 or 10 songs I can play really well. I've been focusing on getting a horn like this so long that my repertoire hasn't grown at all in 5 or 6 months.

Anyone been bashed at a jam session like this?
Everyone who's ever gone to a jam session gets beat up every once and a while. Or maybe everytime - and that is likely the point to the whole process. The more you go the better it will get. The tunes that group of guys call will become more familiar and chances are they don't know the whole "real book" either. Go and listen, go and play. You'll find the same tunes are called a lot, and you can go home and shed them.

The guy that bashed you in the jam is insecure about his playing. Ignore him. We're all trying to do the same thing. Make music. No one dies a violent death playing "softly..." Nickel plate your balls and get back in there. If you don't, guys like that are going to take you to the floor everytime.

No horn should play YOU, and "Softly as a..." is not a ball busting tune. Get some lessons from a saxophone player who plays improvised music, knows what he's doing and ask him how he plays the horn and tunes.

All the best!
 

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queperknuckle said:
I had this new powerful new alto on me and I just couldn't control it. I was squeaking here and there. I hadn't practiced on it enough. I hit a couple slick blues lines with it that got peoples attention of the unique and incredible sound of the horn, but I was just barely getting buy on the horn. Then a tune came up that I didn't know. I believe it was softly as a morning sunrise - a tune that I just don't know. I decided to try to solo on it to try to make this horn sing again. But between my not knowing the tune and hardly being able to play this new horn, I totally was giving one of my worst showings ever.

About four bars into my solo, the leader of the jam session, and a close musical associate of mine tells the band to go to the head and comes over and totally bashes me for trying to solo. I put my stuff up and leave right there on the spot. I'm not going to a jam session again until I've got my act together on every tune in my real book, not just the 9 or 10 songs I can play really well. I've been focusing on getting a horn like this so long that my repertoire hasn't grown at all in 5 or 6 months.

Anyone been bashed at a jam session like this?
It all sounds so familiar to anyone "starting out!"- You get "pushed " into playing outside your comfort zone, the nerves get to you , and your playing can fall apart .
It can be even worse when the backing band are amplified , and behind you , and the mic is connected to speakers in front, so you cannot hear yourself play !.( That's why I prefer accoustic sessions- at least you can hear yourself !)
We all make mistakes when we play, it's part of the learning process, and I have fortunately found that my "musical companions on the journey" have ( so far ) been kind and understanding .
The "Leader " of your Jam may have had a bad day , or might just not be pleasant guy to play with !
Don't ever be forced to take on a "challange too far "- you can always sit a number out if you feel uncomfortable - there's no disgrace in that , but don't be afraid to take a chance either , and your confidence will grow with experience - Good luck!

Blowhard2
 

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kavala said:
I've had this very same experience several times.
The brain does get in the way of the ear.

However, you cannot rely on it.

Much better to know the tune.
Unless you are just jamming around with some mates where it does
not matter if you fall flat on your face.
That's quite true, kavala. "You cannot rely on it" is spot on. If i just wing it i tend to either play above my usual level or bomb terribly. I suppose that feeling comfortable to take that risk depends very much on the jam session circumstances and who you're playing with. I think a "tight jam" and a "loose jam" (i just made those 2 up!) are both good learning experiences in different ways.
 

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Music should be fun, no matter if it’s a simple little nursery rhyme, a fast bebop tune or a symphonic work. People forget that. I haven’t attended a jam session and I probably won’t be anytime soon. I don’t agree with some know-it-all oik having a go at someone who maybe isn’t playing as ‘well’ as them - all this garbage about better, faster etc… If you don’t have grade this, grade that, the concert hall snobs look down their noses. If you don’t know tunes by ear, the jazz snobs do likewise. Musical and musician snobbery is rife in the world.
 
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