Alexei Zoubov,head with saxophone
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        Soup Kitchens and Jam Sessions

        February 28th, 2009 by Alexei Zoubov


        From Wikipedia (quote and picture):

        A soup kitchen, a bread line, or a meal center is a place where food is offered to the poor and homeless for free or at a reasonably low price.

        Soup kitchens have been introduced during the Great Depression, in the 30-s.

        I guess that the first jazz jam session were introduced much. much earlier, and in ethnic folk music similar activities existed for thousands of years.

        No, I’m not against the concept of jam sessions… and not against the concept of soup kitchens, for that matter. I’m not trying to say that all or even majority of jam sessions make me think about soup kitchens.

        Nevertheless, the image of a soup kitchen (or bread line) pops out in my mind at jams more and more often lately.

        I guess that has partially to do with the present bad economic situation. There are less and less gigs, especially jazz gigs, less and less jazz clubs. And the expansion of jazz education produces more and more young players that just can’t find any spots to play jazz.¬†

        Except for jam sessions. These are the places where hungry for playing jazz musicians can get their “bowl of jazz soup” for free, or “at a reasonably low price” (see the definition of a soup kitchen above).

        They sign up on a list, sometimes pay $5 or so (nothing bad about that, the money goes to the house rhythm section) and thus form a line to play a few choruses in a couple of songs.

        In the course of my music “career” (so to speak) I’ve participated in hundreds, may be thousands of jam sessions, and there were many that didn’t remind soup kitchens at all. They were real celebrations of jazz, exchanges of ideas, learning experiences and even creation of great music right on the spot. And, of course, just great places to make contacts and even find gigs.

        I strongly believe that a really enjoyable and  satisfying jam session, the one that expands music ideas and creates new music should have some threshold, the minimum level of musicianship accepted.

        It is practically impossible when the musicians are required to pay to participate, then everyone that pays  has the right to play. There are always people that abuse this right and subject other players and the audience to extreme suffering, sometimes raising to the level of torture Рyou know what I mean.

        I guess Russians are rude compared to Americans. At the jams back in Russia you could often see a musician being taken of the stage by the sleeve and told to go home and practice. They did that to me when I just started and it sometimes made me cry, but in the end it did me a lot of good.

        Well they don’t have a word for “self-esteem” in Russian language. As I understand, to harm somebody’s self-esteem ¬†is a capital offense¬†in the States¬†- I never have witnessed any harsh critique of any of the awful musicians that frequently show up at any jam.

        And still – in spite of all I said – I love jam sessions!

        Posted in Jazz, Music, Thoughts