I have noticed that even after many years of playing, it can be fun to get together with some folks for a more “free-form” style of jamming than most of us do nowadays. I like to do this with some of my “developing” students, so they can hear just what I do over their playing, and to see if some of that “good stuff” rubs off a little, and they get to train and tune their “ear” more. Jamming should be purely experimental and improvisational anyway, and it’s such a good way to create “structure” out of what is really unstructured. It also helps to “ground” a player who may be just a little too “free form” within their playing, and who needs a better sense of structure and “song-like” situations to handle.
But even once you’ve gotten a lot of your style, technique and experience, it’s still nice to go back and visit the very concept of “jamming” so as to keep given yourself new and fresh ideas, and to literally stretch your abilities even more. I know that when I find myself in a jam I naturally find myself gravitating to either totally new territory, or at least long ago familiar territory that I haven’t used in a long time! This is so refreshing, and it makes you realize sometimes just how much you’ve somewhat forgotten along the way. Years and years of very rigid studio work can make for a musician who may even be losing interest little by little, and there’s nothing like a good jam, with good players, to really spark some new life and ideas into one’s playing. This evidenced in many areas of the industry, where it’s so crucial that players keep up their “chops.” Perhaps nowhere is it more apparent these days than the musical hotbed of Nashville, where all those great pickers who may be doing studio work in the daytime, then let loose in the night, honing their jazz chops when they may have been playing country licks all day, or just simply further stretching and refining their playing in general.
It’s always a thrill to see players of this kind of caliber “stretching out” with their improvisations and you can literally watch them grow before your eyes! This is something I readily encourage all my students to do as well, and I always do some real nice personal jamming with them as a part of their lessons. Of course, I wait till the student is ready for this kind of thing, which can be rather intimidating to them, and then and only then, will the jamming aspect of the lesson really take hold and have adequate meaning to them. Still, I might suddenly “throw” something at them just to keep them on their toes, and to basically “test” where their ear and abilities are at that moment in time.
So, I certainly would recommend seeking out good jams wherever you can find them, and please try to always take away something positive from them……the “good” side of a jam is always there for the taking! So experiment, explore and create, you can’t help but get better!