Theory

Hands off, hands down, hands on.
Theorizing The Jam Sessions.

“I will try to write down some underlying thoughts relevant to The Jam Sessions. For those of you who are interested in the deeper nature of this project, they’ll be here for you.”

  • Where it all starts
  • The Jam Sessions hypothesis
  • Putting theory into practice

Where it all starts

Somehow, it all starts with chaos. Kind of how I organize my life most of the time: no real plan, no strict ideas. No perspective, no structure. Wing it. See what happens. But at a certain point, it kind of hits me and everything changes: I start getting restless. I start getting the need to get stuff done and it becomes all I can think about. This ebb and flow usually dictates how I prioritize my projects. Like when I felt the need to start working on my own music. That need turned into The Hermit Sessions. Not intentionally. It just… happened. Like everything was at the right place at the right time.

After the release of The Hermit Sessions, I needed time to process. Everything. So I went to India. Took Pax with me. And when we returned, we got started on Kytecrash. That, too felt like it just… happened. Like it was exactly what I needed to remind myself to just let go and play. Which led to The Kyteman Orchestra where we needed to find out just how far we could go. Both in sound and in composition. Granted, many of the choices we made were wildly inappropriate, megalomaniacal even. But it was exactly what I/we needed. And I loved every second of it.

One project has kept me up for a few years now, though. It’s something we’ve been experimenting with since the first day we came together. And it’s something we still work on every time we are together. It’s the most joyous, exalting, freeing yet terrifying project I can think of. But somehow, even though it’s been on my mind for years, it never felt like the time was right. Like it never just… happened.

At least, not until now.

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The Jam Sessions hypothesis

Ever since the first time we started playing together, we’ve had this element in our live performances called ‘the jam’. ‘The jam’ had just one simple rule: conjure everything out of thin air, right there on the spot. So we went from hip-hop to opera, classical to drum ‘n’ bass, jazz to punk… wherever the rabbit hole would take us. And as we went deeper down the rabbit hole, we started discovering ways of bringing it all together.

Now, after six years of playing together, we feel confident enough for the next step: a project based solely on ‘the jam’. There will be no set pieces. No pre-meditated songs. No prior melodies, chords or rhythms. None of those things. On any given night, everything we play will be played for the very first time. And after that night, it will never be played again.

That particular feature of The Jam Sessions is also its biggest downside: every concert is unique. Since everything happens impulsively, there’s really no way for us to reproduce any of it. But just because something is transitory, doesn’t mean it can’t be made permanent. Not if we record it. So that’s what we’re going to do: record every single concert. We will then pick the best (and worst) moments, edit them into videos and make them available right here after every single show. And once we’ve completed the tour, we will release an album based on The Jam Sessions as well.

In the end, all that remains of The Jam Sessions are memories. But by recording them, we will at least be able to share them.

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Putting theory into practice

A jam, in my opinion, is best described as a real-time creative process that is available for everyone in its context. It is therefore impossible to dictate what a jam will sound like: it takes just one exception to break the rules and that can change everything. The only thing I can say with certainty is that once a jam starts, it’s impossible to say what will happen. This does not mean, however, that you cannot give a jam direction.

For The Jam Sessions, we shall be using our ears, eyes and signs to keep track of what we must do. I will not write down chord schemes, melodies, harmonics, dynamics or anything at all, for that matter. But just because we’re improvising does not mean it has to sound like we’re ‘just winging it’. On the contrary. We have developed an entire way of communicating with each other on stage: chord symbols, rhythm changes, dynamics, tranquillity, rebellion… all of these are part of an ever growing idiom we’ve been working on that allows us to influence everything we do.

Because The Jam Sessions is all about improvisation, we cannot practice songs, melodies or rhythm changes. Instead, we practice sign language, flexibility and flow. A concert then becomes more like a full on interaction with all the characteristics of a conversation. It allows us to bring the creative process of song writing to the stage, so no two concerts will ever be the same.

But most of all: the moment you stop believing it’s an improvisation, I know we’re doing good.

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