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Old 12-09-2012, 08:19 PM   #1 (permalink)
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Default Jam Bands

Never seen a thread dedicated to jam bands in specific, so I thought I'd start one.

First of all, there is a lot of controversy as to what really defines a jam band. So, let's try to settle that.

Is a jam band simply a band that puts emphasis on improvisation during their live performances? I think that's part of what makes a jam band. I've been to a few music festivals in my day and have seen a lot of concerts and there's no doubt that a lot of bands play their music just like they do on the albums, but then there are the bands who change things up and do a lot of extended improvisation. But can all bands who improvise be considered jam bands? I don't think so. If that were the case then bands from nearly any genre could be considered jam bands.

This is how wikipedia defines jam bands:

Jam bands are musical groups whose albums and live performances relate to a fan culture that originated with the 1960s groups such as the Grateful Dead and The Allman Brothers Band. This jam band environment continued in the 1990s with bands like Phish.[1] The performances of these bands often feature extended musical improvisation ("jams") over rhythmic grooves and chord patterns and long sets of music that cross genre boundaries

I think that's a fairly accurate description. Not just Any band who plays long improvised songs can be considered a jam band. If that were the case then I'd say jazz would be the primary genre of the jam band scene, rather than rock n roll (although a lot of those rock bands do incorporate a little jazz). Like I said previously, I think it's more of a cultural thing that started with bands like The Dead and The Allman Brothers and has continued with similar bands like phish.

However, I think the best conclusion to draw would be that the term is pretty pointless. Just another label to thrown around.


What do you guys think?
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Old 12-09-2012, 09:02 PM   #2 (permalink)
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I think that jam bands can be any genre, including jazz. The term "jam" is actually drawn from the jazz scene, and many "jam bands" which are widely considered as such draw widely from jazz influences. Phish is a perfect example, with their very heavy emphasis on jazz conventions, particularly from their percussion and keys.

I've seen numerous jam bands, and not all of them have even had much if any rock influence. There are bluegrass jam bands, folk jam bands, jazz, electronic...

I think jam bands are just improvisationally based, and that's how I generally use the term.
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Old 12-09-2012, 09:25 PM   #3 (permalink)
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Yes, that's true. But the most notorious jam bands are bands like the allman brothers, The Dead, Phish and Widespread Panic To name a few. All of which are bands whose style cover multiple genres, but I would still say that they're primarily rock bands, but I guess that's arguable. They're multi-genre bands, I suppose, which is a big reason why they're so notorious as jam bands.

I agree that bands from any genre can be jam bands, but how many jazz bands are so commonly associated with the word "jam band" as The Dead or Allman Brothers? None that I can think of.
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Old 12-09-2012, 09:28 PM   #4 (permalink)
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Quote:
Originally Posted by blastingas10 View Post
I agree that bands from any genre can be jam bands, but how many jazz bands are so commonly associated with the word "jam band" as The Dead or Allman Brothers? None that I can think of.
Agreed. The whole notion of jam bands is rock borrowing from jazz, not the other way around.
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Old 12-09-2012, 09:30 PM   #5 (permalink)
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Medeski, Martin & Wood are VERY heavy on the jazz, and they're certainly on the line-up at numerous festivals with the likes of WSP, Phish, Gov't Mule, Lotus, Bisco, and what-have-you. Then, there are legitimate jazz outfits I can't recall right now I've seen at shows, world music, things like that. I think that as an umbrella term, it encompasses all of that, but as a common term, the connotation is "bands hippies listen to," if that helps at all.
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Old 12-09-2012, 09:42 PM   #6 (permalink)
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I was just about to mention MMW. Great band who is certainly more jazz than Rock. I just think the term is a little more specific than "bands who are known for improvising" The whole cultural thing has a lot to do with it, I think. The same people who followed The Dead from concert to concert are the same people who follow Phish and WSP. Its a very tight-knit hippie, music festival thing.

And while I agree, it really could be a band from my genre, it's more popularly associated with the things I was saying above.

Another thing to factor in is how many bands welcome the title "jam band"? I think nearly any jazz band would prefer to stay away from that title. Theyd probably think it was somewhat derogatory. Even Gregg allman has said he'd rather be known as "a band that jams". Members of WSP have also been quoted as saying they wanted to Lose that title.

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Old 12-11-2012, 12:09 PM   #7 (permalink)
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In my journal I use the term 'jam bands' quite liberally regardless of whether the band are just doing extended jamming to really lengthen things out or are doing what I call a more dedicated improvisational jam. For example, Grand Funk Railroad especially their earlier stuff would fall into the first section but somebody like Amon Duul would fall into the second category. I see them as bands of other genres that have just incoorporated heavy jamming into their music.
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Old 12-12-2012, 11:49 AM   #8 (permalink)
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So, who are some of your favorite Jam Bands?

Ill start.

The Allman Brothers in their original form and in the modern form with Derek Trucks and Warren Haynes on guitar. This is the quintessential jam band, in my opinion. One of the bands that this whole "jam band" thing started with. They were great in the studio with songs like "melissa" and "blue sky" in their repertoire. I know their songwriting has been criticized but I completely disagree. The stage, however, is where they really shined. Their dual drumming and guitar attack is Hard to match. They were one of the more advanced rock bands of their time, as well. They used many different time signatures and jazz and classical techniques.
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Old 12-12-2012, 12:15 PM   #9 (permalink)
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I love The Dead and Santana in general. I'd say most recently I enjoy Robert Randolph and The Family Band and Los Lonely Boys if they qualify.
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Old 12-12-2012, 01:04 PM   #10 (permalink)
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They might as well. I've seen the Lonely Boys twice and they were great concerts. They certainly do "jam". So many bands qualify as "jam bands" (depending on your criteria), that it almost becomes a pointless word.

Anyway, i think the Lonely Boys are a little underrated. I know a lot of people who just dismiss as being lame because of the song "heaven". I personally kind of like the song. They can definitely jam, all of them are pretty good instrumentalists. Henry Garza is a pretty good guitarist.
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