Musicians, Magicians and George In the Jam Room
For most western cultures, music is woven into the fabric of everyday life. For most artists, it is as natural as breathing. I love the masterminds of musical obsession. I could sit there and listen to them talk all day long. And sometimes I do.
Brock Butler from P Groove called me yesterday, Annabel, can you get us in touch with Karl D. We have a sick idea for a cover that we want him to play with us on Jam Cruise. He proceeded to apologize for calling on a Sunday to which I pleasantly remarked, Its a 24/7 job, baby. After I told him Id call Karl immediately, I asked him where his brain was this fine Sunday afternoon that he was inspired enough to call me. He and Al had been listening to a greatest hits album and heard a classic tune with saxophone and the ideas just started spilling out.
Most people who are friends with bands go backstage to say hi to them after the show. I like to go before they go on stage. I time it so that I have enough for a hug, then sit in the corner of the couch cross-legged and observe. Its not the time for catch up; that can come later. I like to watch them write the setlists, listen to them talk of their craft, practice tunes, smoke cigarettes, and just get into the zone before they hit the stage.
Magic, by definition, is the influencing of events, objects, people and physical phenomena by mystical, paranormal or supernatural means. I truly believe that musicians are magicians.
Speaking of which, I was at the Fox in Boulder on Saturday night for soleside, Kyle Hollingsworths newest side project featuring Speech from Arrested Development & DJ Logic. I saw this as an experiment, part of a series of efforts designated to explore a common concern or establish a viewpoint. Artists have the ability to live in an open-ended state of interpretation of the products of our work; a creative and exploratory brainstorming stage, followed by testing and refining.
Let me tell you, soleside came together and created a TIGHT band after 4 days of practicing. The idea was brilliant, and the collaboration was a huge success!
Not to take away from an existing band playing a repertoire of songs that their fans love, but there is something special about a group of musicians getting together and jamming. Obviously actual songs are intertwined, but there is a certain freedom that comes with just getting a bunch of people together to play.
Musicians have a natural propensity to jam with each other. They gravitate to the next opportunity. On the last night of Jam Cruise 1 & 2, a handful of disparate artists set up their gear downstairs in the disco just because they were so eager to rock out. It was an inspiring night for everyone there. We later saw the beauty of this idea and planned a Jazz Jam on Jam Cruise 3. The response was so overwhelming that it was too packed to get into the room! We then decided that we had to create a specific Jam Room that would always be going. Starting with JC 4, we set up a venue where the musicians could go and play outside of their normal groups. Improvisation drives this room, and there is no script. Anything can happen. It was such a hit that artists would line up outside the room before we officially opened it so that they could get a chance to play. By JC 5, all bets were off. The sweet sounds were flowing constantly until 6:00am every night. It is not possible to put into words how powerful the jam room is. I wish you could all just experience it for yourself.
Karl D led the Super Jam on Jam Cruise last year. Long before we set sail, Karl requested a list of contacts, and he selected the musicians he wanted to work with from that. As soon as the players list was set, he started matching the songs he wanted to play to the musicians he wanted to play them with. The next thing I knew I was standing on the pool deck shaking my head in disbelief at the strongest non-spontaneous Jam I have ever witnessed. How awesome is that!
Heres one story that continues to give me butterflies. We brought George Porter, Jr. on as a special guest for JC 5 just because he is so cool. After a day of sitting in with a couple bands here and there, he found the jam room, and I swear he never left. I would run into him in the hallway at 4:00am and hed say Boo (he calls me Boo), I have to go, I am late for a jam. He brought his wife on board and they celebrated their 40th wedding anniversary. At the end of the trip, his wife came up to me and said, Thank you for bringing my George on this cruise. I havent seen him this happy in 40 years.
But it doesnt end therewe have the funky Meters booked for Jam Cruise 6. I called him to celebrate, and although he is very much looking forward to playing with them, he said, Boo, does this mean I cant play in the Jam Room every night?
I love ya, George. We are honored by your enthusiasm. Now, if you dont end up in the Jam Room every night I will come and find you, Boo!