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November 25, 2008

Analysis of Jam Band

The following is an analysis of a jam band song by Absolute Gruv titled "Bottle of Jack." This song is an excellent example of songs in the jam band genre. It has a simple melody that is broken down into two eight bar phrases that are repeated and varied slightly to make up the song. There is an extensive solo section that features keyboard, bass, and guitar solos. The soloist use common techniques of improvisation as well as some that are characteristic of the jam band genre.

Jam band is a genre made of many different sounds and is played a large variety of artists. These artists take from their own influences and other contemporaries and put together a blend of music that they can customize themselves. Jam band is known the emphasis on soloing and extensive jamming. A band that shows classic rock roots that also keeps up with the current style and puts focus on soloing and jamming is Absolute Grüv. This band has Minneapolis roots and came out with an album called Just Past North. One of the songs on this album that they also perform live is called “Bottle of Jack.? “Bottle of Jack? is a song from the jam band genre that features some characteristics of jam band including extended soloing by players of the band.
“Bottle of Jack? is its most simplest form displays the characteristics of a jam band song. It consists of an intro which breaks into the main melody. After a few verses, the solos start. First, the keyboardist solos for awhile, then the bass player plays a solo. The solo section is closed out by a guitar solo. The main melody is then heard again and another few verses are played and the songs ends. The melody is broken down into two different riffs. The riff that starts it off is riff 1, and the other melody, riff 2, is first heard after eight bars. This shows that the two melodies are the same length. The melodies repeat. The riff 1 is heard for the first eight, then riff 2 is played for several phrases as the lyrics come on. Then there is a change back to riff 1, back to riff 2 with more verses. Next is the solo section which has more similarities to riff 2. After the solo, riff 1 is back with another verse. Next it is riff 2 with the chorus. There are two verses before the solos and both are followed by the chorus. There is one last verse and chorus and the song ends. The verses are heard over riff 1 and riff 2, but the chorus is only heard on riff 2. There are notable differences in sections of the song. The tempo stays the same, although the amount of music played on the same beats change, so it feels like riff 2 is faster even though riff 1 is the same length. Dynamics are used very well for changing the feel of the music. The song starts quieter and builds through the verses and chorus. The solos start off at a softer dynamic and as the solo progresses, the music gets louder. This is especially clear for the bass solo. The rest of the band drops out at first and the drums are much quieter in effort to accent the bass solo which can clearly be heard.
The melody is not so obvious in this song. It is more about the interaction between the players and how they sound together. The melody is found in riff 1 and riff 2. Riff 1 is closest to a monophony or heterophony. The sound of the band is together, but since there are playing different instruments the sound is perfectly together. The bass is strumming along on the bottom, with the guitar and keys playing a similar moving line. As riff 1 appears later in the song, it changes. The bass is more intense with the guitar still playing the main line, but instead of the keys joining him, the key player adds a solo line over the melody which compliments it well. Riff 2 is the second melodic part. The guitar plays short choppy chords similar to reggae or the likes of Sublime. The key player plays a fairly consistent melody as the bass supports the bottom of the band. Riff 1 and 2 can also be described by the drum patterns. In riff 1, the drummer plays a simpler beat with accents on 2 and 4 and progresses to riff 2 with a more complex rhythm. The solo section changes for each solo. The keyboard solo is just backed by the drums and bass. The bass does not interfere with solo and provides a good rhythm background with the drums. The bass solo starts with only the drums providing time in the background, but as the solo progresses the guitar comes in with a riff very similar to riff 2. The key player starts playing simple background riffs and notes to compliment the bass and then the guitar solo. The key player uses the guitar solo to demonstrate drones, by holding a chord or note over a few bars which as backs as the chords for the rest of the band who is soloing.
When first listening to “Bottle of Jack? it is very easy to determine a pulse. It is a four beat per bar song, with eight bars in a phrase. The tempo stays fairly constant although it seems to change between riff 1 and 2, but this is because the rhythms are different between the two. The entire song is in this four beat per bar, eight bars in a phrase style; it does not change at all. The song has two different melodies lines, as described as riff 1 and riff 2. These melodies are both repeated and varied slightly. The soloist show their expertise by choosing a rhythm, repeating it and expanding on it. The music takes advantage of musical nuances such as syncopation, quarter note triplets, and hitting chords that change the feel. Cyclicity can be noted by the guitarist. He uses a repeating pattern of beats during riff 2 and also during other members of the band's solos.
The melody as discussed earlier is broken down into riff 1 and riff 2. It is repeated and varied slightly as the piece goes on. The core of the melody does not change but what the artists specifically play each time it comes around change slightly, from a few notes to the way they groove the melody. The song is structured but it seems the music was there before the piece was. The groove was made into a song with solos based on the groove. The contour of riff 1 compared to riff 2 would be sparse and more space between the notes. Riff 1 has a feel that accent downbeats especially with not much going on in between the beats. Riff 2 has stuff going on all the time so it feels more complex and faster. They both stick to a reasonably close range during the melody but really expand during the solos. The solos take advantage of the range of their instrument as well as using scales and chords to better suit their instruments. Recurring patterns and formulas are used by the soloist and the melody takes on some that characteristic. Quite frankly, the melody is quite simple; it is two eight phrases that are closely related. This eight bar phrases are repeated and have verse and chorus sung over them, and this makes up the entire song (plus a solo section). Looking to the text-setting, there seems to be little relationship between the text and the tune. The lyrics appear to be a monologue towards a person with a whiskey problem. The words encourage the opposite of what the person is doing. This concept is not translated perfectly to the music. The lyrics do not match the tone set the music.
Absolute Grüv is made up of a guitarist, drummer, bassist, and a keyboardist who is the lead singer. The guitar and bass are both chordophonic, the drums are idiophonic, and the keys imitate chordophonic sound with electrophonic means. It is by no means a secret how these instruments work but the personal styles vary. The guitarist plays with a very clear sound with a minimal distortion. The distortion is still present but the notes and rhythms come out clear. The bass player picks away furiously, and maintains a good sound, but the sound of the bass sometimes sounds forced. The drummer uses sticks to produce a prominent sound in the band. He always hits the punches and keeps the time well and the band in check. The key player keeps a strong voice over his skilled playing which reflects many influences including jazz and blues. Overall the band produces a warm, clear, and bright sound that fits perfectly with the choice of music.
Absolute Grüv's performance of “Bottle of Jack? sounds like a jam band in the respects that it has a well-thought out but simple melody and is filled with extensive solos performed by three quarters of the band. The guitar and keyboard provide an excellent lead duet while the drums and bass form a good rhythm section. The melody is broken down simply and the solos are more complex then they seem. This song is an excellent example of jam band styles and lays groundwork for future jam bands.

Researching Jam Band

After observing jam band in a previous entry, this is work of research. Brief history of jam band can be found here, with mentionings of the Grateful Dead and Phish. Researched jam band concepts included extended soloing, jamming, and improvisation. Jam band is always a changing style with few static characteristics including heavy lean on improvisation and willingness to try new things.

Multiple different genres of music have been created in the United States. Since the origin of jazz, music has really taken off. The creation of rock'n roll in the fifties is the biggest influence on any style since jazz. Rock'n roll has so many different takes it would take multiple days to describe them all. Jam band is a genre that has solid roots decades ago. Although this genre was never in the spotlight especially, it has always had a progressive attitude and thriving fan base. Jam band is always a changing style with few static characteristics including heavy lean on improvisation and willingness to try new things.
Jam band key authoritative sources are not typical of music styles. The Rolling Stone magazine is one of the basic sources of the time and has and continues to provide coverage of the genre since its conception. Although jam band has distant influence and roots in classical music, one aspect that is different is that it is not nearly as clear as classical music. Jam band has no huge authority. There are definitely not as many scholars who special in jam bands as there are classical music specialists. Jam band has been influenced largely by The Grateful Dead and Phish. They provide very detailed aspects of what jam bands were to be like for the entire existence of the genre. There are some authorities in jam band but not nearly to the extent of other genres. Jam band has established itself enough to have his own awards called the Jammys (Rogulewski).
Jam band has a history as old as some of the best styles of rock'n roll ever. Jam band has a history dating back fifty years. Jam band is a unique style. Although jam bands are very easily distinguishable, the varying styles of individual jam bands have quite a range. The music that describes Jam Bands cannot be defined in a single sentence. It is a combination of multiple styles. Jam band has heavy influences in jazz and blues which eventually lead to rock'n roll. The first band of the jam style was The Grateful Dead, in the late sixties. Jam band itself can be broken down into sub genres. Jam bands based in rock is the main type, but the style of rock can vary. The range of jam band can go from rock in the truest sense of the word, to the folk side of jam band, all the way to the free jazz players of jam band who explore the “out there? of the genre. When the Dead stopped touring in the nineties, Phish took over as the poster child for jam band. (Marino) At this time, other jam bands received huge support including Widespread Panic and Bela Fleck and the Flecktones. Since its conception, jam band has had close ties with the liberal side of politics. The followers of jam band are not all scholars, but are music lovers who appreciate people who are good at their instruments and have enough talent together to entertain thousands of people at once.
The tradition of jam band originates back to the 1960's. Most of jam band history is dominated by the separate reigns of two great jam bands, The Grateful Dead and Phish. Although these are not the only two great jam groups, they are some of the most influential. The Grateful Dead were originally classified as psychedelic rock but the term jam band definitely describes the Dead. The Dead were a group considered int the jam band style because of their love for extended jams in improvisation over consistent backgrounds of chords and melodic patterns. Phish was a quartet that was so full of ideas the jams could last for many minutes, and it is easy to tell why they are considered a jam band. Widespread Panic, and similar bands that followed like Absolute Grüv, maintained their popularity because of an extremely strong fan base. Widespread Panic was influential in their instrumentation and their ability to wow audiences in concert. (Freedman)
As with most intensely observed genres, the jam band performances are characterized by common ideas that do not have to explicitly defined for the next generation to understand. The things that truly set jam bands apart are the actual jams. These jams present the musician extended time with one simple idea to expand and express what they want to. The extended solos are what jam band is all about. Musicians in this genre must have a wealth of knowledge about music. They often plan songs and solos in specific keys and they must know what notes to play and where to play them. The art of jam band requires lots of practice, especially jam practice. Jam band is not about the head, or melody, but rather it is about the extended solos and jams that make the bands good and the genre unique. Musicians can prepare for performances by practicing the songs and playing through the solos. Although solos in concert and in jams tend to be improvisation in its entirety, good musicians will have ideas about what they what to play beforehand. They will know the feel and where they want to take the solo that way they have a direction to the solo instead of randomly trying to feel where they want it to go.
As rock'n roll become popular, it was listened to by both black and whites (Rock AND Roll). Jam band became popular at a time when this was also true. Jam bands were listened to by black and whites. The demographics of listeners and people of the style is fairly mixed. Although when it was getting started, it was separated between white bands and their listeners and black musicians and their listeners. Jam band was never about following social norms and the music showed it. It was wild and out there at first, no one expected a style could last that was based on simply soloing and jamming. Obviously bands like The Grateful Dead were instrumental in paving the road for further musicians in the style. The music wasn't created for the norms, it was created for what was felt to be right at times, which is why jam band could be so different. There was always a new feel for the music for each situation and the broadness of jam band expanded.
The history of jam band is one full of interesting points, stories and facts about a genre willing to take extended improvisation over rhythm grooves. Jam band has been dominated by two bands, the Grateful Dead and Phish, each with with an intense fan following they keep the music alive. Jam band has been going strong since the sixties and is now dominated by various bands but none as powerful as the original two. Jam band is a genre rich with history and filled with fabulous bands and great fans. It is a style based for the individual solo and the group jamming to show of the musicians skills in a way that is easily done by a group.
Works Cited

Freedman, Laurence J. “Influential jamband moe. invades the Michigan.? The Michigan Daily. November 4, 2003. michigan>
Marino, Nick. “The jam band scene improvises.? The Phish Archive. Boston Globe. February 23, 2003.
“ROCK and ROLL, an Introduction.? By Micheal Campbell, with James Brody. Second Edition. Thompson Schirmer; USA, 2008.
Rogulewski, Charley. “My Morning Jacket Lead Jammys.? The Rolling Stone. February 24, 2006. lead_jammys >