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IIM is a Jam-band approach to playing music. Probably the best known practitioners are The Grateful Dead and like minded musicians. It involves a band being cohesive yet improvising as a band and not just a solo or lead instrument or player...
Those familiar with The Grateful Dead will probably understand IIM well enough, especially musicians. Jerry Garcia was once asked about the bands musical approach and he responded with the likes of... "You know the song, the words, chords and changes... everything else is up for grabs..."
This doesn't equate to a free-form "anything goes" attitude.. There's a cohesion to IIM... One tune where "anything goes" has long been "Darkstar", which has always been a anything goes tune and long a favorite of many fans.
When a band has been playing for years the members know how each other plays.. They can anticipate what someone will do and many nuances such as dynamics... tempos etc become second nature through such anticipation. This is not a playing by rote method, it is quite active and alive. As Jerry also has said.. "I will never play like Bobby or God forbid Phil!.. and I will never tell them what to play."
This is because all members of the band improvise together.. a sort of "The Music Played The Band" experience... The music being formed as they do this involves the intuitive aspect as one person improvising is not the same as the whole band doing it as well. Listening is a key requirement because the music is being created live on stage by all members and the form of any music is thus subject to change. This is not the usual, which many are used to, of improvising a solo over a well established form.
There is improvising within the form and also improvising with the form... While playing as a member and as a band.. there is a form and a cohesive music, yet improvising and especially all members improvising, provides a limit. Some call this The Edge, which is how I term it. The Edge is reached when the possibilities are right on the tip of it's creation and the work, band, can fall apart. This though is where the magic is and the real IIM begins. Listening to the music then being formed, composed, is an outright necessity and being able to play and participate at the same time is the essence of IIM.
This doesn't mean justice isn't being done or a "song" is not being honored... Though it is the music which is honored.. the music being composed right then and there. Digging for what is in a tune is a worthy endeavor and many tunes are subject to growth over years. The Grateful Dead has not only a long history of Jamming, but they have also worked with songs and many songs have grown over the years as they find "what's in them"...
This was part and parcel what The Dead were famous for. Touring every year ( except one ), every Spring, Summer and Autumn, while playing California ( home ) through the Winter. They were known for not playing the same songs every show and not playing them the same way every time. Fans would go to many shows, knowing that each would be different. They were also hoping for the Magic to happen as the band and the IIM approach would sometimes work and sometimes not. The fans were kind in waiting for the Magic and it was often provided.
The music was Grateful Dead music and also many covers. They especially favored Dylan tunes.
I'm interested in how many musicians use this same or any like-minded approach. I've been working with IIM for many decades myself. It can be applied to mo0st any genre or style of music and isn't really something new.. Gypsy bands and music has long been precisely this "jamming" and composition right then and there live, form of playing.
Playing this way does require knowing ones instrument very well and knowing music. Even beginners who play this way soon find that they need to become very good players for the music and process to really work. Listening and playing music ( not just songs known by heart ) is outright required.
I was wondering how many here are or have been in bands where the whole band improvised and not just a solo instrument.. while creating the music right then... I've seen very competent musicians that can't do it ( mostly because of never trying ) and I've found some that can... It's very interesting. I favor and love Progressive Rock and I always bring IIM to the table for my part.
You'd probably love the Miles Davis' "B*****s Brew." (as do I)
What do you think of the 'free jazz' genre? It seems HEAVILY based in this idea.
I used to have Bitches Brew long ago and have forgotten virtually all of it... I need get it again. I like jazz freeform and free jazz... some of it indeed, though find much of it ah... not as cohesive the Grateful Dead approach. oh... Weather Report, of course... wowa...
I think the Dead were aware of it for sure, in fact I know they were... and were influenced much like Miles was with George Russell ( Lydian Chromatic Concept Of Tonal Organization )...
Bob Weir ( gtr ) of The Grateful Dead spoke of how ( early on ) they used to have a song end and didn't want to stop playing so they beat that song around the block quite a few times and kept it going... which is one sure way of learning to jam' and "see what's in the song" .. and music...
Jazz has long been into jammin' and a whole band jamming with and within forms... early jazz out of New Orleans was about this. These various approaches.. early jazz.. Miles / George Russell... Grateful Dead / Phish etc... Gypsy bands and music.. all in one form or another.. some within forms and some also with forms.. Louis Armstrong... Neville Brothers etc.. all could / can do this jammin' one way or another..
I play Progressive Rock / Grateful Dead... as for style. Progressive Rock soooo often has this Jammin' sense, even though well laid out and composed.. it's still the feel... I mix the two together... and Prog about has all influences in it... so it's quite eclectic.. as I am musically.
One thing I'd mention about this is that playing.. jammin' along, to anything.. and having the patience in a whole band to take ones time... to let the music grow... so many bands are through changes and forms.. ABACAB etc,.... throw that chorus out .. lyric.. chorus.. bridge.. short solo... chorus.. end./.. etc.. like a old fashioned AM Radio hit of 3 minutes, you know?
I like to PLAY... I like MUSIC... and I've found Jazz ( of course ) and especially the Grateful Dead had this approach... When I play with musicians that can do this ( and not all can ) it's like Heaven on earth!
so lol... sorry.. back to the question.. I like Jazz that does that.. but when it's just outside, it's often interesting, but I wonder the lack of cohesion at times.. though enjoy where it could go and anticipate. I love it though... when a whole band can do it and yet sound like one person... or have cohesion that bewilders... I guess is a way to say it.
I'm copesetic with that idea for sure.. Ornette can do it... not sure what he's doing these days... must be 80 something..
Jerry Garcia plays on 3 tunes I think it is.. on Ornette's "Virgin Beauty" album. They appreciated each others work.
You might want to check out some Grateful Dead shows with Branford Marsalis sitting in.. Brilliant stuff.. Brandford can jam out the yin yang, to say the least and was right at home with IIM.
March 29 1990 Nassau Coliseum - Eyes Of The World and Darkstar etc.. Branford comes in at Birdsong... Eyes is brilliant example though and the Darkstars... Darkstar has always been an "anything goes" Dead tune...