LJS 51: Everything You Need to Know About Jazz Jam Sessions

Welcome to episode 51 of the LJS Podcast where today we are talking about everything you need to know about jazz jam sessions. Learn why they are important, how to be prepared, and how to network. Listen in!

Listen to episode 51

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In this episode

  1. Ask LJS: A listener asks what other musicians look for in jazz drummers and what they dislike.

  2. Why jazz jam sessions are important.

  3. 2 kinds of jam sessions.

  4. How to be prepared for a jazz jam.

  5. Good jam session etiquette.

  6. How to network at a jam session.

  7. What if there are no jam sessions in your city?

  8. What if you don’t feel you are “good enough” to attend a jam session.

Listen to episode 50: How to Become an Expert Jazz Comper

Mentioned in the show

30 Days to Better Jazz Playing eCourse

A 30-day audio eCourse that walks you through focused, goal-oriented practicing, where you will be working on things that actually improve your jazz playing.


Have anything else to add to today’s topic? Leave us a comment below.

30 Stepsto Better Jazz Playing


  1. I'm definitevely going to start Jam Sessions now, sounds really cool and really challenging.
    learning more standards now : )

  2. Thanks Brent. A quick question, what are your thoughts about having music memorized for a jam session? I went to what was billed as a pretty low-key session and I wound up getting dressed down by a sax player because I didn't have the changes memorized (I play bass), and that he has all of the music in the realbook memorized. I see where he is coming from, but that's a pretty high bar for someone who is just starting out. Can you do a podcast on memorizing tunes?

    • Hey Keith, sorry for the late response! Sounds like this sax player may have a slight issue with a big ego. Though, as you acknowledged, there is something to his complaint. Have you considered asking the question on the Podcast Questions Hotline: 910-557-2278. That's probably a question many others have as well!

    • While having "all of the music in the realbook memorized" is sorta weird (really, how many times is that sax player calling Carla Bley tunes?) the easy answer is: you have to have at least a small repertoire of tunes that are memorized. 10 songs, and that's excluding Rhythm Changes and blues. As a bassist, you're lucky in that its highly unlikey you'll be playing the melody at a jam, so learn the changes to a small group of tunes that are popular at jams (which are usually tunes with 32 bar or less forms and can be played at a medium-up to up tempo, so probably not All the Things You Are…no eager horn player wants to have to wait so long to solo).

      If you live in an area where the session is dominated by 1 guy or a particular style, then learn a few tunes you know the locals play. Example, I spent time in a city where a pianist who worshipped Bud Powell ran a session, so I learned stuff like Un Poco Loco and Obliviion.

      Here are 5 eye-roll tunes (songs everyone is sorta sick of playing but its the only one everyone will agree to play) and 5 songs that, in my experience, people actually like calling. All are simple enough and some allow the horn players to play alternate heads:

      Eye-rollers: Beatrice, What Is This Thing, It Could Happen to You, Four, Lady Bird

      Tunes people seem to like calling: Chick's Tune (You Stepped Out of a Dream changes), Black Nile (or substitute "Asiatic Raes"), Inner Urge (easily BS'able changes), Lazy Bird, Our Delight

      Obviously, some of those tunes would be considered "advanced", but if I'm a horn player at an average jam, if the bass player can sound the changes with good time and not get lost, then I'm pretty good to go.

      Hope that helped!

  3. Thanks for a great episode. One tool that I would add to be really useful for networking, organizing private jam sessions, is Meetup.com. In Vancouver BC our jazz meetup group has over 200 musicians, and we have private sessions a few times a month, with several people hosting.

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