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Published: 2004/03/17

In Their Own Words: Jammys Performers Recap the Event

With so many vastly different styles of music represented at last nights 4th Annual Jammy Awards, one common thread was improvisation. Milling about in the maze of backstage hallways and dressing rooms throughout the night, many of the artists discussed the significance of improv. as well as their particular performances.
Edie Brickell: The spirit of spontaneity is when youre really feeling it. I was blown away by the fact that I was listening to Dickey Betts on the same stage. I was definitely into what he was doing. I felt more like a listener than a performer, but I was definitely into it. Hes lifted my spirits as a guitarist like no other. To me, thats the best part of music: that you can do whatever you feel and hopefully get away with it. With an audience like this, that sort of wants that, you feel accepted and you can relax.
Eric Krasno, Soulive: We got to perform Stop Messing Around with the Harlem Gospel Choir tonight. It was a beautiful thing how it came together. We were singing that song in our dressing room earlier today and they came by to say hello. So they heard us kind of going through it and we suggested that they try it. They just started singing the chorus with us and then they got the pre-chorus. Then we heard them warming up with Higher & Higher and decided that they should come out and start the show with just them. They were so gracious to come down here and play with us that we wanted to give them their own little spotlight.
Dickey Betts [on minimal rehearsal time with Reid Genauer and the Assembly of Dust]: Thats the whole idea of it. The fear factor is kind of the fun part. I went out and had twenty minutes or so with the band at sound check and they had really done their homework. I got really settled down after I heard how great they were. So I felt pretty comfortable going in, but theres still a little anxiety, especially when you only have two songs. You dont have a chance to recover. Tonight, when I went out and saw the audience, I felt real comfortable Its a very diverse rock and roll market nowadays. Theres Madonna and all that and all the way on the other side, theres the jam band thing and I think it describes what a lot of us have been doing for a long time. Its great to see it being recognized as a genre. Its really approaching what the jazz guys have been doing for a long time.
John Leccese, Assembly of Dust [on Edie Brickells nameless song]: We were in the dressing room and she was like, Lets jam, weve got some time. So Adam [Terrell] picked up his guitar and he just started playing some chords and out of nowhere, she just ripped these incredible melodies and lyrics off the top of her head. We did like an hour of just riffing back and forth on this random stuff. Then we opened our set with that and segued into ‘Blue Sky.’
Jon Gutwillig, The Disco Biscuits: We chose Slick Rick because hes the most badass motherfucker, which he clearly proved I thought. Out of all the different artists who will play at the Jammys, its nice to have hip hop represented. And who better to represent hip hop than the original godfather? He released an EP in like 1985. I was ten at the time and loved that song. But, Ive been singing La-Di-Da-Di all day and its very nostalgic. At the same time, Im a songwriter myself and the poem itself is pretty badass, so I think I learned a little bit from really looking at it from my present perspective as opposed to when youre ten years old and throwing baseballs around and you just like it because you like to walk around and go la-di-da-di.
Susan Tedeschi: Its spontaneous. You never know whats going to happen. Usually, the best energy comes with improvisation and really connects with a higher level. Its a universal language that brings everyone together so it doesnt matter what kind of music you usually play, you can all communicate. It also shows a lot of the influences that everybody has so you can tell where people come from. Tonight was such a thrill to me because I obviously love my husbands band, The Derek Trucks Band, but then Solomon has a lot of the church and old soul R & B style, which I love. It was just a thrill to hear him.
Derek Trucks: Man, being able to get Solomon Burke in the room with people like this, its just life improv.; the mixing of worlds is amazing. Improvisation is just freedom in music. Its what were supposed to be doing. Having people like Toots around and being able to get my wife and Dickey Betts and Solomon up there with our band taking it to church, its pretty wild. Theres not many guys like Solomon singing anymore. Otis Redding and Solomon Burke. Its just a different breed.
Victor Wooten: The cool thing about the whole jam band scene is its about the improv. It doesnt have to be structured and limited to a few bars. The audience in the jam band scene wants to hear improv. The thing about tonight thats so special, is a that lot of the musicians that get a chance to jam and just have fun, they dont ever get recognized. You dont get radio play. You dont get awards. So for an event like this to happen is amazing, to recognize the people that are in it for the music.
Perry Farrell: Improvisation is where you get your creativity. The Fibonacci curve comes from the creative moment. All the other stuff is rote. Its already been done. But when you jump up there on stage, thats new life, and you know how much people love babies.
Bill Nershi, String Cheese Incident: Were always trying to do something we havent done before and playing with Perry from Janes Addiction is a radical switch. We played with Vassar Clements a couple of nights ago and we wanted to do something very different. It was cool to get that experience of hearing him up there screaming it out. Its just a different band having somebody with that type of vocal attack at the helm for a song. It just changes the whole vibe of the band.
Chris Robinson [on reuniting with his brother, Rich]: It was fun. Were getting along pretty well and it came up we were both here so it was just fun to do it with Warren and MattImprovisations about freedom, you know what I mean? I think thats something thats really lacking. If you look at it in a commercial sense and a media sense, in terms of what people think is happening in rock and roll music or if you look at all the corporate stuff and the outlets through which it gets out there, none of it seems very free or very positive. Its always raising the bar to make something beautiful if you do it by your own criteria. Being able to take the path of the individual, [means] you always get the best results. I think thats pretty essential.
Steve Winwood: Improvisations a reaction against the homogenization of a lot of music now. I think hopefully it will reflect back to the more mainstream music industry, which will take a lead from whats happening in improvisational music now. As it was back in the sixties and seventies, mainstream music was much more improvisational by nature, so hopefully we may get back to something like that. But whatever happens, I enjoy [improv.].
Warren Haynes, Govt Mule: It’s momentary composition. Youre composing on the spot and its the biggest challenge in music and probably the biggest thrill. For people that grow up playing that way, theres no other choice. Thats the epitome. It means you gotta pay attention at all times. Youre not just playing what you rehearsed. Youre responding to whats going on around you. Reporting by Jeff Waful

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