Blues music is kind of like baseball: It is often passed from father to son, from sister to brother. Without that generational link it will wither. Blues is oral history… It is three chords and the truth.
Blues jams have been an important tradition nearly since the beginning of the form, with raucous head-cutting sessions among jazz and blues players in New York City, and jams from Delta juke joints to Chicago night clubs. The blues jam we host on Sundays at Ziggies Saloon in Denver is at the end of a long, long train of blues relationships, and we expect it will eventually help pull more boxcars that hook up along the way. Blues jams are about keeping that train rolling.
One of the things we like best about hosting the jam is encouraging new players. Playing in front of a crowd can be terrifying, especially the first time. The newbies who come to the jam and bust out their chops on stage for the first time are our heroes. Every blues jam has a debt – an obligation – to nurture the music. That means attracting, helping and inspiring new blues players.
We’ve seen new and intermediate players blossom while we have hosted the jam at Ziggies. Playing on stage every week with musicians of all levels, some of them develop a real talent for the music and the show. A few have moved on to working bands.
Accomplished players frequent the jams to see friends, to try out new chops or gear, or to just share the joy of playing the music with others. Blues is a performance art. Practice is just waiting.
One of our goals for every jam is to put together at least one killer feature set; a set that includes some of the best working pros who drop in, perhaps backed by members of the host band. Our main duty as a jam hosts is to put on a good show, and that killer set can bring people back to the jam and help inspire the new players. At jams, aspiring performers pick up riffs and showmanship and attitude from the more seasoned players. They hear great tunes to add to their repertoire. It’s about paying it forward. The blues will abide.
Blues jams are about doing a simple thing very well. They are about a shared understanding – a visceral instinctive joy – for the sound of the Delta, and Memphis, and Chicago, and West Coast Jump, and all the regional dialects of the blues language.
It is about keeping the blues alive.