A jam session
is a musical act where musicians play (i.e. "jam"
) by improvising
without extensive preparation or predefined arrangements.
Jam sessions are often used to develop new material, find suitable arrangements, or simply as a social gathering and communal practice session. Jam sessions may be based upon existing songs or forms, may be loosely based on an agreed chord progression
suggested by one participant, or may be wholly improvisational. Jam sessions can range from very loose gatherings of amateurs to sophisticated improvised recording sessions intended to be edited and released to the public.
The New York jazz
scene during World War II
was famous for its after-hours jam sessions. One of the most famous was the regular after-hours jam at Minton's Playhouse
in New York City
that ran in the 1940s and early 1950s. The jam sessions at Minton's were a fertile meeting place and proving ground for both established soloists like Ben Webster
and Lester Young
, and the younger jazz musicians who would soon become leading exponents of the bebop
movement, including Thelonious Monk
(Minton's house pianist), Charlie Parker
, and Dizzy Gillespie
. The Minton's jams were legendary for their highly competitive "cutting contests
", in which soloists would try to keep up with the house band and outdo each other in improvisation skill.
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