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Thread: All the sudden, everybody's PHISH!

  1. #26
    Professional Dreamer journeybear's Avatar
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    Default Re: All the sudden, everybody's PHISH!

    Quote Originally Posted by Marty Henrickson View Post
    Balance is nice.
    Exactly. One of the best aspects of live concerts is the unexpected, the spontaneous creation of music that never existed before that moment and whose path cannot be predicted. Even carefully scripted forms like classical and big band benefit from spontaneity (and nuances that can't be reproduced satisfactoriiy by recording and reproduction). The two worst shows I've seen were a club gig by The Cranberries (each song was sung the same way, backed by strum strum strum from 3-4 rhythm guitars), and a stadium gig by The Cars opening for The Beach Boys. They were just hitting the big time, and though they were very polished, every song sounded exactly like it did on the album. It was a big "why bother?" for me.

    What I like about good jamming is the exploration of possibilities, and what makes it good is the level of imagination, or perhaps how well that imagination is realized. I understand this can be very subjective. Personally, I prefer jams that remain a bit grounded, at least to a point where the source material is still recognizable, or at least relevant, even while the music is taking you places. That is, you should be able to tell what song is being played, and each one should be distinctive - each song has its own characteristics, and shouldn't be just an opportunity to cycle through each band member's collection of riffs each time. Another show on the above list is a club gig by War from the late 90s. Over an hour into the show I realized they had done only four songs. You really don't need to give every guy a chance to stretch out on each song.

    For me, a good performance incorporates both approaches in good measure, and I try to incorporate this into my own playing. I like it when a jam, or even just a solo, is worked so that it returns to the song and resolves to the melody. I keep this in mind at shows, and try to reel it in within some sort of set time frame. Sometimes the singer lets me run a little wild, especially if the spirit is upon me; sometimes I bring it back a bit sooner, if that's how I feel it. I also derive a lot of satisfaction from how well I play the little riffs in the middle of a song, or create ambient textures that fill out songs and give them distinct characters. These may be much shorter than extended solos but can offer as much opportunity for creative expression. In my other band, in which I am playing all original blues and rock, I have to keep some sense of how far to stretch out and when to turn the instrumental section back towards home. However it goes, just as in gymnastics, it's important to stick the landing.

    Like Casey Kasem used to say, keep your feet on the ground, but keep reaching for the stars.

    Quote Originally Posted by Marty Henrickson View Post
    After about 25 years of listening to the Grateful Dead, one of my favorite parts of any their lengthy psychedelic jams, is the moment when Jerry and the boys would re-enter earth's atmosphere and I can once again recognize the song that they were playing.
    You know, back in the swing era, there was a lot of improvisation, often so far-fetched that it's hard to tell what song is being played if you drop the needle in the middle of the track. My favorite example is a version of "Tea For Two" by a Benny Goodman small combo off a Charlie Christian compilation, in which they play the first two bars, then off they go, never to return. You can hear the chord structure now and then, but the melody is left in the dust and they don't resolve to it at the end. I think a rendition like that will only work if the audience is sophisticated enough to be able to recognize the composition without the band having to play down to them. I doubt that either the material or audiences are at this level of sophistication currently. I get the impression, from the scores of movies and clips I have seen from the 1930s and 1940s, that audiences then were very much clued in to the music that was being played, and knew the material well enough to recognize chord progressions in general and songs in particular. I don't think that is the case so much these days. And it may well be that, in response, bands don't feel a need to touch on that. But I did usually feel that Dead jams led to the next song with some sort of purpose, and that you could tell what song was coming up. Perhaps it helped that I knew most of their songs (which I wouldn't at a Phish or other jam band's show), but then again, there are plenty of songs I heard first at Dead shows and still somehow understood that a song was coming up. You know, they really were pretty good, and smart, and talented, even if they were a bunch of old hippies.

    Quote Originally Posted by Steve-o View Post
    I suspect another reason for the jam band scene is the fact that it's an outdoor festival where people can get up and dance and wander around, so musicians cater to that atmosphere. An indoor concert hall is a totally different venue.
    Well, OK, but don't these bands play indoor venues, too?
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    Innocent Bystander JeffD's Avatar
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    Default Re: All the sudden, everybody's PHISH!

    Quote Originally Posted by journeybear View Post
    Exactly. One of the best aspects of live concerts is the unexpected, the spontaneous creation of music that never existed before that moment and whose path cannot be predicted. :

    That is a matter of taste I think. It seems to be true for many.

    I want to hear the bands latest creations, their songs, tunes, stories etc. Plus some of the old favorites that got them famous. My life is already pretty unpredictable, I go to music for solace from that.

    Well not entirely. I like a good break, and you are right about the nuances and interpretations of old familiar tunes, they can bring out something in the tune that I hadn't heard, and make me love it all the more. (I guess I have the predjudice that all the possibilities are in the tune itself.) I guess I am more narrowly focused on the "aimless ego jam", which is like some blowhard who gets a microphone and won't give it up, but has absolutely nothing to say.

    I was at an open mike night a few weeks back. A fellow on an electric guitar and looper. He played some incipid four chord pattern, looped it, and then jammed on top of it. His very extended improv (nobody else was on the open mike sign up list), didn't have a dramatic arc, it didn't have a direction, it just showed off the players ability to play slowly, and suddenly play fast and play loud and play suddenly meaninglessly softly and use his looper. The difference between his music and a marble rolling around in a cereal bowl was that the marble eventually stops.

    After an eternity of this, he moved on to his reggae version of fameous Neil Young songs.

    I tried, I actually tried.


    The best jamming I have heard recently was a Sierra Hull concert, where her band, and Darol Angor and Tony Trischka and Michael Daves sitting in - and they jammed on "Rollin in my Sweet Baby's Arms". It was 15 minutes of pure heaven. Virtuosity in service of a great old war horse of a tune that is great because it can support virtuosity.
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    Default Re: All the sudden, everybody's PHISH!

    Quote Originally Posted by journeybear View Post
    Well, OK, but don't these bands play indoor venues, too?
    Well of course they do Steve. The point was that the (multi-day, multi-band) outdoor format lends itself more to a jam atmosphere than an indoor setting. Perhaps Woodstock was the prototype for this scene. The vibe and audience indoors is different (e.g., less contraband). To borrow from the OP's experience, I've seen Green Sky Bluegrass a couple of times indoors. They played their songs straight up with the usual bluegrass breaks without wandering into extended jams.

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    Professional Dreamer journeybear's Avatar
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    Default Re: All the sudden, everybody's PHISH!

    I hear you, Jeff, and I feel for you. That open mike experience must have been excrutiating, and also riveting as a train wreck - horrible to behold, but unable to turn away from. Sometimes one encounters occurrences which should drive the awy, but one can't leave, as an overwhelming curiosity to see how things turn out takes hold.

    But didn't mean that experiencing unfettered improvisation was the most compelling reason to go to a concert. You see, I left a little wiggle room in my polemic - "... one of the best aspects ..." - which allows for, well, many things really, including not only glorious Dead shows but also, sadly, that horror show. The differences between the two are many, including talent, experience, sensitivity, sensibility, sense, probably sinsemilla, - well, you know ... But besides that, "the unexpected, the spontaneous creation of music that never existed before" doesn't mean only improvisation but also pertains to precise performance of tightly rehearsed music. A great performance doesn't necessarily need to be weighted toward improvisation, as long as it isn't so rehearsed or static somehow that it is something like that show by The Cars. Sometimes a fine rendition of a well-known tune can be just as exhilarating and satisfying as the most adventurous exploration that improvisation can achieve. And again, in my experience, once I have hit upon the perfect solo for a certain song, the challenge becomes playing the best rendition of that solo - and nailing it can provide the same sort of satisfaction as really hitting a great stride while jamming. Two sides of the same coin.
    But that's just my opinion. I could be wrong. - Dennis Miller

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    Professional Dreamer journeybear's Avatar
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    Default Re: All the sudden, everybody's PHISH!

    Quote Originally Posted by Steve-o View Post
    The point was that the (multi-day, multi-band) outdoor format lends itself more to a jam atmosphere than an indoor setting.
    OK, I see what you meant. Sounds more like a Rainbow Gathering than a concert that way, with a sense of community beyond just the music. I haven't gone to many of these shows - not interested musically or culturally - and the closest I've come was a Gathering Of The Vibes show some 15 years ago, in a city park in Bridgeport CT, with no overnight camping, but a slew of bands and a pervasive cloud of smoke.
    But that's just my opinion. I could be wrong. - Dennis Miller

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    man about town Markus's Avatar
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    Default Re: All the sudden, everybody's PHISH!

    Quote Originally Posted by Jeffff View Post
    In my mind, non aimless jamming has resolution. A musical idea is stated and then expanded upon with varying degrees of success and then resolved to most everyones satisfaction.

    Aimless jamming always reminds me of Free Jazz in the style of Ornette Coleman which, right or wrong, I have never cared for.
    We're in agreement on this. I just don't find any structure there or anything to hold onto.

    Quote Originally Posted by LastMohican View Post
    But I would have enjoyed the set much more if this type of experience was book-ended by them just playing a few of their songs.
    I agree with you. Improvisatory explorations are great for some songs, but not every song needs more than a minute of solo.
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    Default Re: All the sudden, everybody's PHISH!

    Quote Originally Posted by JeffD View Post
    I was at an open mike night a few weeks back. A fellow on an electric guitar and looper. He played some incipid four chord pattern, looped it, and then jammed on top of it. His very extended improv (nobody else was on the open mike sign up list), didn't have a dramatic arc, it didn't have a direction, it just showed off the players ability to play slowly, and suddenly play fast and play loud and play suddenly meaninglessly softly and use his looper. The difference between his music and a marble rolling around in a cereal bowl was that the marble eventually stops.
    I think I've heard the same guy, and he didn't do it for me either.

    Hint: All it might take for a song is four chords and the truth, but that doesn't mean if you string any four chords together and don't lie you have a song.
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    Innocent Bystander JeffD's Avatar
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    Default Re: All the sudden, everybody's PHISH!

    Quote Originally Posted by Markus View Post
    but that doesn't mean if you string any four chords together and don't lie you have a song.
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    Default Re: All the sudden, everybody's PHISH!

    I just have to ask... how many of you have listened to Phish? I mean really listened to Phish. I think it's quite unfair to lump them in with jam bands as a whole. I've been seeing them for nearly 10 years(minus a few in which they didn't play), and while I'm no professional musician I can certainly say they are above and beyond anyone else in the jam band community. They play quite a wide variety of musical styles across the spectrum, and do great covers of whatever they desire. They do often venture outside the box when it comes to the context of the improvisation vs the context of the song, and it gets a little wild. They almost always resolve the craziness back into a chorus, appropriate ending jam, or transition into another song. I get where you're coming from on the aimless jamming and I've experienced my fair share with Phish and other jam bands, but more often than not even not-so-great jam bands resolve into something coherent in the end. Just my observation in 400 shows spanning the last 15 years.

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    Default Re: All the sudden, everybody's PHISH!

    Quote Originally Posted by imleath View Post
    I just have to ask... how many of you have listened to Phish? I mean really listened to Phish. I think it's quite unfair to lump them in with jam bands as a whole. I've been seeing them for nearly 10 years(minus a few in which they didn't play), and while I'm no professional musician I can certainly say they are above and beyond anyone else in the jam band community. They play quite a wide variety of musical styles across the spectrum, and do great covers of whatever they desire. They do often venture outside the box when it comes to the context of the improvisation vs the context of the song, and it gets a little wild. They almost always resolve the craziness back into a chorus, appropriate ending jam, or transition into another song. I get where you're coming from on the aimless jamming and I've experienced my fair share with Phish and other jam bands, but more often than not even not-so-great jam bands resolve into something coherent in the end. Just my observation in 400 shows spanning the last 15 years.
    I've really listened to Phish. Really. I'm not their number one fan, (I think you might be), but there was a time and they are really good but after a while it got lost in the scene of young girls, drugs, and the like. Too many hanger ons, too popular and too cool burnt them out and I know a few fans that got burnt on it too.

    While they are great musicians and have done wonderful things, in the end they were a jam band. Not that it's bad. It just is what it is. The Grateful Dead were a jam band too.
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    Default Re: All the sudden, everybody's PHISH!

    Quote Originally Posted by greg_tsam View Post
    I've really listened to Phish. Really. I'm not their number one fan, (I think you might be), but there was a time and they are really good but after a while it got lost in the scene of young girls, drugs, and the like. Too many hanger ons, too popular and too cool burnt them out and I know a few fans that got burnt on it too.

    While they are great musicians and have done wonderful things, in the end they were a jam band. Not that it's bad. It just is what it is. The Grateful Dead were a jam band too.
    I'm far from their biggest fan. I'm just a live music addict, and they've always given me the best fix. Improvising doesn't make you a jam band, and neither does playing unique setlists. Those are obviously key characteristics of a jam band, but a few acts take it farther. I enjoy the Grateful Dead, but they are not the greatest musicians in the world by any means. I know everyone else puts the two in the same class, but they are wildly different as I'm sure you know.

    I do agree that the scene out there has really gone down hill. There used to be a great deal more respect for the music. People still did the drugs, but they were a bonus. It seems like a lot of people out there now are just looking for a handful of MDMA and something to do while they're high, but there are still some true live music fans roaming around the lots.

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    Registered User LastMohican's Avatar
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    Default Re: All the sudden, everybody's PHISH!

    Quote Originally Posted by imleath View Post
    I just have to ask... how many of you have listened to Phish? I mean really listened to Phish. I think it's quite unfair to lump them in with jam bands as a whole. I've been seeing them for nearly 10 years(minus a few in which they didn't play), and while I'm no professional musician I can certainly say they are above and beyond anyone else in the jam band community. They play quite a wide variety of musical styles across the spectrum, and do great covers of whatever they desire. They do often venture outside the box when it comes to the context of the improvisation vs the context of the song, and it gets a little wild. They almost always resolve the craziness back into a chorus, appropriate ending jam, or transition into another song. I get where you're coming from on the aimless jamming and I've experienced my fair share with Phish and other jam bands, but more often than not even not-so-great jam bands resolve into something coherent in the end. Just my observation in 400 shows spanning the last 15 years.
    Hey...guilty as charged: I've never seen them live and the amount of recorded stuff I've heard wouldn't fill a tea cup. I cited them in my OP because, for 20 years, they have been held up as the prototypical "jam band".

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    Default Re: All the sudden, everybody's PHISH!

    Quote Originally Posted by LastMohican View Post
    Hey...guilty as charged: I've never seen them live and the amount of recorded stuff I've heard wouldn't fill a tea cup. I cited them in my OP because, for 20 years, they have been held up as the prototypical "jam band".
    I'm just saying being Phish isn't a bad thing. They are great musicians with a huge repertoire. They even did a bluegrass thing with Jeff Mosier once, and if John Fishman could play the mandolin they'd have been great. The Reverend actually made a camcorder documentary of it, and it's available on youtube.

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    Innocent Bystander JeffD's Avatar
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    Default Re: All the sudden, everybody's PHISH!

    Quote Originally Posted by imleath View Post
    I just have to ask... how many of you have listened to Phish? I mean really listened to Phish. I think it's quite unfair to lump them in with jam bands as a whole.
    Well perhaps. I have been to one concert and played two or three CDs. Its enough for me to know that, for me, what ever I might "get" by listening to Phish more, is not worth the listening its gonna take to "get" it.

    But that is purely a taste thing. I read a pretty detailed interview with the band and I am impressed with what they do and what they strive to do. Its just not something I am ever going to appreciate.

    Especially from a players perspective. For me, just me, improvisation and taking breaks has never been a big part of playing. Playing old tunes over and over again till I understand them inside out - that is more my joy. And expressing myself? I got nothing. I figure if I bore myself I would bore the audience.
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    man about town Markus's Avatar
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    Default Re: All the sudden, everybody's PHISH!

    Quote Originally Posted by JeffD View Post
    But that is purely a taste thing.
    Exactly. Most of music is. You've seen people walk past an OT jam with a `huh I don't get it' look just the same as your Phish experience.

    If we all liked the same kinds of music and bands, it would get quite boring and finding happiness as a mid-level musician would be harder to do. Happily, everyone likes something different and we all find stuff to make us smile.

    Quote Originally Posted by JeffD View Post
    perhaps I would understand what is happening better if I weren't so sober.
    Sorta depends on what the band is doing too. If the band has quite a buzz ... well, you've got to expect a bit less coherence and a bit extra enthusiasm.

    I respect how Phish has changed in the last years, having finally addressed some quite serious chemical dependence issues in the band. Having a sober guitarist, with new fire in his belly is what everyone always wished for Garcia of the Grateful Dead - I had mostly walked away from Phish, had `grown up' ... and am happy that they have grown up too. I loved their long ornate composed pieces, which have re-emerged [and are played clean] from their early club days. From mid 90's to mid 2000's they grew into a big band but lost the technical and complex songbook - everything became a jam. A good intoxicated time, but not what they first impressed me with and seem to have regained in the last year or two.

    Unlike how Phish shows used to be around here, the place still had tickets available and an easy 1/4 to 1/3 of the crowd was married couples there for a night away from the kids. It was clear to me there was a whole lot more sobriety on, and the music was far better practiced.

    imleath does have a point .... Phish covered Zep's No Quarter this weekend, and their "lengthy jam-band treatment" ran a full 17 seconds over the original. [Musically it paid great homage, stuck very close to original]
    When The Circus Comes To Town [Los Lobos cover] ran a huge 4:17.

    The reason why I still go see Phish and left unsatisfied with the Stringdusters and just about every other jam band is that most of them never do anything concise. If every song is a reason to have everyone take extended breaks, to have just about every member take a long solo ... that sounds a lot more like band practice to me

    As someone stated earlier, unless each song is distinctly different and the melody/structure of the song is followed it all turns into musical mush.

    Being older and soberer, I probably wouldn't be going to see the Phish of 8 years ago - nor the late period Grateful Dead I did.
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    Registered User Jeff Budz's Avatar
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    Default Re: All the sudden, everybody's PHISH!

    I was watching a Stringdusters Youtube the other day, and during the song the Dobro and Fiddle players traded breaks. At first they started out slow, built the solos, traded off, the other player taking the previous player's idea and expanding on it. But it went on way to long. By the time they were 1/2 way through the "jam" section, the Dobro player was already playing his best stuff, had nowhere left to go. Then it just kept going and going, and became tedious, I was nervous that it would never end. It would have been great if they had limited it to 4 or 8 times around, but they probably played 16 or 32 trades.

    The thing about a solo, especially an extended "jammy" solo, it should start out slow and build and build till it's crazy, then come down for the next soloist. If it gets to "10" quickly and just stays there, it's never going to be a great solo.

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    Default Re: All the sudden, everybody's PHISH!

    Quote Originally Posted by Jeff Budz View Post
    I was watching a Stringdusters Youtube the other day, and during the song the Dobro and Fiddle players traded breaks. At first they started out slow, built the solos, traded off, the other player taking the previous player's idea and expanding on it. But it went on way to long. By the time they were 1/2 way through the "jam" section, the Dobro player was already playing his best stuff, had nowhere left to go. Then it just kept going and going, and became tedious, I was nervous that it would never end. It would have been great if they had limited it to 4 or 8 times around, but they probably played 16 or 32 trades.

    The thing about a solo, especially an extended "jammy" solo, it should start out slow and build and build till it's crazy, then come down for the next soloist. If it gets to "10" quickly and just stays there, it's never going to be a great solo.
    I like it...

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    Default Re: All the sudden, everybody's PHISH!

    Quote Originally Posted by Markus View Post
    Exactly. Most of music is. You've seen people walk past an OT jam with a `huh I don't get it' look just the same as your Phish experience.
    .
    Absolutely. I think it also depends on what you are in the music for. I don't mean for money or fame and fortune, I mean some folks are very much into the self expression. Others are very much into the tradition. Others again are into making something new out of something old. Others perhaps are into putting a personal stamp on a tradition. And others are into entertaining - providing an experience the audience likes.

    All different goals. Some overlap for sure. Its like something Ebert says about movies - its not the goal of the movie, its how well the movie reaches its goal. In music its important to be able to appreciate how well a band or musician does what they have set out to do, even if its not something you would set out to do. So while its hard for me to understand jamming as a reason to be in the music, its still important to discern when it is done well and when it isn't.

    In other words, do what ever you want, but don't be lame.
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    Default Re: All the sudden, everybody's PHISH!

    "Don't be lame"

    I am going to add that to my list of credo's. It has value in every area of life!
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    Default Re: All the sudden, everybody's PHISH!

    Quote Originally Posted by Ivan Kelsall View Post
    Maybe if the Jazz players cut down on the quantity & thought more of the quality,they'd make as much money as the rock 'n rollers.
    An uneducated or ignorant perspective

    Quote Originally Posted by Jeffff View Post
    Aimless jamming always reminds me of Free Jazz in the style of Ornette Coleman which, right or wrong, I have never cared for.
    Actually, Ornette is well-known as one of the most melodic and "tuneful" composers of the jazz and art music idiom

    Quote Originally Posted by imleath View Post
    I'm far from their biggest fan. I'm just a live music addict, and they've always given me the best fix. Improvising doesn't make you a jam band, and neither does playing unique setlists. Those are obviously key characteristics of a jam band, but a few acts take it farther. I enjoy the Grateful Dead, but they are not the greatest musicians in the world by any means. I know everyone else puts the two in the same class, but they are wildly different as I'm sure you know.
    Was about to point out that Phish, in addition to being competent "jammers," are also highly capable at song craft. Their approach--and their musical and stylistic wherewithal--is somewhat unique in that they are so versatile. But imleath has said it

    Quote Originally Posted by Jeff Budz View Post

    The thing about a solo, especially an extended "jammy" solo, it should start out slow and build and build till it's crazy, then come down for the next soloist. If it gets to "10" quickly and just stays there, it's never going to be a great solo.
    I presume you're talking about "trad" music of some kind. But this formulaic approach to soloing is not found in all music. But I can understand your preference and expectations


    Without having read through all the replies, my response to the OP--why so many "jam band" approaches?...aside from the succesful ($) milieu, I suspect players enjoy the space to get creative
    Last edited by catmandu2; Jul-06-2012 at 11:01am.

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    but that's just me Bertram Henze's Avatar
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    Default Re: All the sudden, everybody's PHISH!

    This is not my territory at all, and I just stop by long enough to drop some principles independent of genre and taste:

    - performers are supposed to play for the audience, not in spite of them. There may be as much improvisation on the stage as anybody wish as long as the audience is taken along for the ride.

    - performance is supposed to contain unpredictable elements, not to be just a record playback. There is a fine line between being able to re-create the exact emotion of the recording and not being able to play any different note.

    Whatever fits these points is valid. Now back to my own territory - ITM, where chords are supposed to wrap around melodies, not the other way round...
    the world is better off without bad ideas, good ideas are better off without the world

  22. #47
    Innocent Bystander JeffD's Avatar
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    Default Re: All the sudden, everybody's PHISH!

    Quote Originally Posted by Bertram Henze View Post
    Whatever fits these points is valid. Now back to my own territory - ITM, where chords are supposed to wrap around melodies, not the other way round...

    Yes.
    Indulge responsibly!

    The entire staff
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  23. #48
    Innocent Bystander JeffD's Avatar
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    Default Re: All the sudden, everybody's PHISH!

    Quote Originally Posted by catmandu2 View Post
    Without having read through all the replies, my response to the OP--why so many "jam band" approaches?...aside from the succesful ($) milieu, I suspect players enjoy the space to get creative

    Bingo. And I think that taken to extremes, they lose sight of the prime directive, to entertain the audience. They are having fun, but they are getting paid to ensure the audience is having fun.

    While the two are not mutually exclusive, in the extreme a jam can get so self indulgent I feel like I wondered into someone elses house during a family discussion.
    Indulge responsibly!

    The entire staff
    funny....

  24. #49

    Default Re: All the sudden, everybody's PHISH!

    Ah, where the rubber hits the road!..some of us like that

    If it's interesting to the players, l'll tend to be interested, myself, as a listener. Jazz is like that--it generally DOES ask "more" from the listener

  25. #50
    Innocent Bystander JeffD's Avatar
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    Default Re: All the sudden, everybody's PHISH!

    Quote Originally Posted by catmandu2 View Post
    Jazz is like that--it generally DOES ask "more" from the listener

    Well its pretty to think so
    Indulge responsibly!

    The entire staff
    funny....

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