Journal of
Music and Dance

  • Abbreviation: J. Music Dance
  • Language: English
  • ISSN: 2360-8579
  • DOI: 10.5897/JMD
  • Start Year: 2011
  • Published Articles: 23


The creative process in the context of jazz jam sessions

Ricardo Nuno Futre Pinheiro
  Condomínio Polia do Sul, Bloco B, R/C H 2710-728 Sintra, Portugal  
Email: [email protected]

  •  Accepted: 13 December 2010
  •  Published: 31 January 2011



This paper discusses jazz musicians’ creative processes in the context of jam sessions from an ethnomusicological perspective. It is the result of research carried out with professional jazz musicians working and living primarily in New York City. As an important context for sharing musical information, jam sessions will be analyzed as a framework for the demonstration of ideas, musical skills and approaches to jazz improvisation. Trying to fill the gap in jazz studies that concentrate on the analysis of harmonic progressions and specific melodic patterns, this discussion around the jazz musicians’ creative processes in jam sessions is informed by the social and cultural settings that contribute to configuring jazz performance. The characterization of creative processes in jam sessions is made according to the structural organization of a “standard tune” performance, namely, the selection of repertoire and musicians, and the performance of an introduction, melody exposition, “solos”, “trades”, “head-out”, and ending. The main aspects that influence the musicians’ creative process in the context of these events analyzed in this paper are: musical competence, different types of interaction between participants and audiences, and the characteristics of performance space. These aspects are closely related to aesthetic principles that are common to most jazz musicians, and that are rooted in the African-American cultural tradition.


Key words: Jazz, improvisation, jam session, New York.