Madison Jazz Jam sessions are held on the 1st and 3rd Sunday of every month from 4-7 pm at North Street Cabaret, 610 North Street, Madison (608) 422-5646. A jazz quartet plays two sets: the 1st set is for newer improvisers, the 2nd set more experienced players join in. The jam is free. A hat is passed for donations.
After you read the outline below be sure to read our Guidelines page, a sort of FAQ page that should answer many questions and help you know what to expect.
The 1st set
In advance of each session a selected song (and occasionally, learning materials) are published on the site. Musicians sign up at the jam and indicate what songs they wish to play with the band. They may choose to perform the song of the week or any song previously designated for the first set (see the list here). At times we may not be able to accommodate all who wish to play that week’s song so it is a good idea to prepare one or two alternate tunes.
Following each first set performance our veteran house band musicians will make brief remarks noting strengths and outlining ways to improve. Feedback is given gently and whenever possible individuals are not be singled out. It is important to give the feedback publicly so everyone can learn together.
The 2nd set
The 2nd set is run like a traditional jam session. Musicians are called up off the sign up sheet and name a tune they want to play. Usually that tune will be played, but occasionally the band leader may ask the musician to pick a different tune. There won’t be any public comments after songs in the 2nd set.
Who is the jam for?
- Musicians and Vocalists: Jazz improvisers of all ages and talents. The 1st set is targeted at newer improvisers. It is publicized to area high schools and colleges, but non-students of any age are welcome. More advanced improvisers will enjoy jamming with the talented house band during the 2nd set.
- Audience: Jazz appreciators that want to learn more about how an improviser crafts a solo, or just want to hear some good music.
Do minors need adult accompaniment?
Although The Rigby serves alcohol it is a restaurant whose principal business is selling food, therefore minors are allowed without their parents.
Are singers allowed?
Definitely. Vocalists often sing in nonstandard keys. Know what key you are singing in and if you happen to have a lead sheet, please bring it (3 copies) with you. It’s always best for the band to use the version you are used to. If you don’t have sheet music, don’t worry, the band will manage. Here’s more advice from Dave Cooper:
In my experience with singers, the toughest thing to work out is starting and ending the tune. Sometimes that’s built in to the tune and other times you need to make some decisions. Start by listening to versions of the tune you like and figuring out what they are doing for intros and outros. That way, before the tune begins you can say something like, “Let’s play the first 4 measures three times as an intro and repeat the last eight bars twice and ritard into the last chord for an ending.”
If you want to improvise or scat, that’s also something you might want to say. “I am going to sing the melody then scat two choruses before horn solos. After the last soloist, I’ll sing the melody out”.