Madison Jazz Jam sessions are held on the 2nd and 4th Wednesday of every month from 6-9 pm at Common Ground, 2644 Branch Street, Middleton (608) 820-1010. The jam is free. Because we are a non-profit, we pass a hat for donations to pay our house band members.

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.

How do you know what to play?

Musicians sign up at the jam and indicate what songs they wish to play with the band. If you don’t know what you might like to play, you can choose from a list of jazz standards here if you’d like: (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.

Who is the jam for?

  • Musicians and Vocalists: Jazz improvisers of all ages and talents are welcome at Madison Jazz Jam. We are a community gathering, and we want to hear from you!
  • 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?


Are singers allowed?

Absolutely! 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”.