This year marks the 20th anniversary of JamBase. Part of the yearlong celebration includes the 20 For 20 series featuring 20 lists focusing on 20 notable topics and events of the JamBase era. The lists were compiled by current and former JamBase staff members and contributors, music industry professionals and other experts. Stay tuned for more, as the series continues throughout the year and we look back at two decades of encouraging fans to Go See Live Music!
Previous 20 For 20 Lists include Standout Debut Albums By Jam Acts, Pranks & Gags Played By Jam Acts, Festivals We’ve Lost, Memorable Reunions and Farewells Of The Past 2 Decades. Next up is a look at the Longest Jams & Standout Improvisations Of The Past 2 Decades.
While a long jam does not guarantee quality in execution, what it does is allow the space for magic to happen. And often magic happens. That standout sequence 30 minutes into a jam doesn’t happen if the players on stage don’t cross that threshold and push beyond to explore even more.
The below list captures instances of spontaneous jamming within a single song — at times filling an entire set — along with completely improvised sets where songs were completely extricated to make room for pure improvisation. The jams happened over the past 20 years and each band only appears on the list once. Whenever possible, official releases were relied on for timings. In other cases, timings were based on tapers’ edits.
Phil Lesh & Friends | Viola Lee Blues (34:01)
Apr 15, 1999
[Video Credit: Tyler Penn]
Grateful Dead bassist Phil Lesh recruited Phish guitarist Trey Anastasio and keyboardist Page McConnell for a trio of Phil Lesh & Friends shows held on April 15, 16 and 17. The April 1999 Phil & Friends run at The Warfield in San Francisco marked a truly seminal moment in the jam scene’s last two decades.
Those three shows — also featuring guitarist Steve Kimock and drummer John Molo — ended up being merely the first of many subsequent collaborations between the members of the Grateful Dead and Phish. The first set of the first night opened with the Grateful Dead’s arrangement of “Viola Lee Blues,” Gus Cannon’s Jug Stompers song first released back in 1928. That performance of “Viola Lee” answered two questions:
What would they open with? and Would they jam?
Jam indeed. The sprawling opening sequence set the tone for a truly memorable three nights of music. Lesh spoke to Jambands.com about the “Viola Lee Blues” opener back in 1999:
Lesh: Trey and Page came up with like a dozen tunes that I wouldn’t have thought to do, but they wanted to do them.
Jambands: Any ones in particular?
Lesh: Well it was Trey’s idea to do “Viola Lee Blues.” That was the opener.
Jambands: That set the tone. The curtain opens and you do a 39 minute “Viola Lee Blues.” It was as if you were saying “we are not here to fool around!”
Lesh: (Laughs No we weren’t and I think that proved it. We just went on from there. It was tremendously exciting for me.
Jambands: Many are wondering how the group came together.
Lesh: It was kind of cosmic in a way. I wanted to come back on stage and perform and really demonstrate my gratitude for my new vigor. We were talking about maybe doing an Other Ones gig. Then that couldn’t happen because people weren’t available. Then I wanted to do it with Bob, but he couldn’t do it because he was making a record. Then we just sort of started casting around. Someone mentioned Phish, and I thought “I don’t really know their music that well.” So I got some CDs, and I was listening, then some people sent me live tapes, and I heard Trey play this one thing, and I thought, “Jeez, I could play with that guy.” I don’t even remember what it was.”
Jambands: I was going to ask…
Lesh: It was absolutely entrancing, it was just gorgeous, and but I couldn’t hear the piano well on the live tapes, so I went back to the CDs and started listening to Page and what he was doing, and so I said “Well…” and my wife said “Come on, Come on, give them a call.” Somehow I got their phone numbers, and I gave them both a call. We talked about it, and they said we’d love to do it, and so we set a date, and we started calling back and forth, and like I said earlier they brought in a dozen Grateful Dead tunes I never would have thought of doing, but they wanted to them. And we got together at rehearsal and the first thing we did together was “Viola Lee Blues,” and from there on out it was like now let’s do this one, and let’s do this one. It was real rehearsal in the sense that the Grateful Dead rarely was. Grateful Dead rehearsals were kind of comical. We believed in public rehearsals.
The Disco Biscuits | Akira Jam (84:28)
Dec 31, 1999
When the Jammy Awards debuted on June 22, 2000, at Irving Plaza in New York City one of the categories that evening recognized the Jam Of The Year. The winning jam of 1999 came on the year’s final day, during The Disco Biscuits New Year’s Eve concert at the Theater Of Living Arts in the band’s hometown of Philadelphia.
The third set of Bisco’s marathon four set performance that night in Philly consisted of the band improvising a score to Katsuhiro Otomo’s Japanimation film Akira. The animated classic was shown on screens inside TLA while Bisco soundtracked its scenes. At the end of the film, the quartet segued from the improvised sequence to the ending of their original “Basis For A Day.”
Released in 1988, Akira was set in post-World War III Japan. The events take place in what’s called Neo Toyko — in what happens to be the year 2019. The film’s soundtrack was reissued by Light In The Attic Records and “the symphonic music to Akira was composed by Dr. Shoji Yamashiro, head of the beloved Japanese musical collective Geinoh Yamashirogumi, and performed by the group.”
Subsequent years saw tDB employing the live score setup for such movies as Alice In Wonderland, Koyaanisqatsi, Run, Lola, Run, Tron and It’s The Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown.
[Audio source: Tim Danielson]
Trey Anastasio Band | Mr. Completely (48:22)
Jul 26, 2001
As Phish guitarist Trey Anastasio began to expand his musical endeavors beyond the band that he helped launch in Vermont in 1983, his late-1990s output included his first solo album, One Man’s Trash. Released in late-1998, the somewhat not fully-realized record was made up of fragments, rather than what typically constitutes completed songs. When Anastasio tapped bassist Tony Markellis and drummer Russ Lawton for his first solo tour in 1999, none of the album’s songs were part of the newly-formed band’s setlists.
In summer 2001, while Phish was on hiatus, an expanded Trey Anastasio Band — now featuring keyboardist Ray Paczkowski and a horn section made up of Dave “The Truth” Grippo, Russell Remington, Jennifer Hartswick and Andy Moroz — embarked on a summer tour that saw several songs from One Man’s Trash make their live debuts. “Happy Coffee Song,” “Quantegy” and “At The Barbeque” were among the One Man’s Trash songs that TAB played live that summer. Those three songs became instant rarities, only “Quantegy” making a few appearances after the tour. But “The Way I Feel” and especially “Mr. Compeletely” — also One Man’s Trash songs — became regulars of the TAB repertoire.
According to a jam chart compiled by Phish.net user Nightspeaks, the July 4, 2001 debut rendition of “Mr. Completely” barely passed the eight-minute mark. That same chart points to the “Mr. Completely” just a few weeks later at Atlanta’s HiFi Buys Amphitheatre as the longest TAB jam. Phish.net’s note for the show points out that at the time, the 48-minute “Mr. Completely” more than doubled the previously longest jam. Here’s what the jam chart says about the Atlanta “Mr. Completely”:
This very extended version is centered around one basic groove, but travels through many movements including a quiet funky groove which builds into a rocking jam, a stop and restart of the jam, a saxophone solo, a keyboards led section with Trey on keyboard, a jazzy horns only section, and a digital delay loop jam to conclude.
Dave Matthews Band with Bela Fleck & The Flecktones | #41 (32:03)
Apr 20, 2002
[Video Credit: ChesterCopperpot5]
Dave Matthews Band and Béla Fleck and the Flecktones, two seminal jam bands noted for their muscianship moreso than their penchent for lengthy improvised odysseys, shared the stage together on April 20, 2002 at the Corel Centre in Ottawa, Canada. The night prior saw the two acts collaborate on DMB’s “Lie In Our Graves,” but it was the following night’s teaming that produced the more impressive – and longer- jam.
Dave Matthews, the late saxophonist LeRoi Moore, drummer Carter Beauford, bassist Stefan Lessard and now former member Boyd Tinsely were accompanied by Bela Fleck on banjo, Victor Wooten on bass, Futureman on his custom SynthAxe drumitar and now current DMB member Jeff Coffin on saxophone. The half-hour collaboration that night consisted solely of “#41,” which appeared on the Dave Matthews Band’s 1996 sophomore album, Crash, after making its live debut the year prior.
According to DMBalmanac.com:
[#41] was originally known as “41 Police,” a name derived from a combination of its being the forty-first song Dave wrote and its sounding like a Police song. “Police” was most likely not intended to be a final name for the song but rather a way of identifying it from other songs when it was new (see also “40 Always”).
After being perfected during the studio recording sessions of Crash, #41 came to be the most played song of 1996 and an instant classic. When Béla Fleck and the Flecktones guested on the song on NYE 1996, a marriage was made between #41 and the Flecktones song “Sojourn of Arjuna”. Since then “#41-Sojourn” has become a tradition between DMB and the Flecktones whenever they play together. The Flecktones have even played a bit of #41 during their own performances of “Sojourn of Arjuna”.
“#41” continues to be regularly played live by Dave Matthews Band. More than 640 of the band’s setlists have included the song.
Phish | 46 Days (38:30)
Aug 3, 2003
One of the statistics JamBase reports on after each Phish show is which LivePhish track is the longest. The Skinny also tracks the shortest track for each show, but typically it’s the longest entries that generate the most reaction.
The helpful folks at Phish.net keep close watch over which of Phish’s songs are jammed out the longest. While “Runaway Jim” from November 29, 1997, tops the chart at 58:48, the longest jam the band has played during the last 20 years happened on August 3, 2003. Phish ended their Summer Tour 2003 by hosting their It festival at Loring Air Force Base in Limestone, Maine.
Opening the final set of the weekend, the nearly-40 minute “46 Days” (Phish.net lists 38:30 while LivePhish clocks it at 39:04) was the song’s sixth appearance.
Here’s the Phish.net description:
Haunting, thrumming, mind-blowing, and masterful. The band wastes little time departing from “46 Days” and descends into an underworld soundscape filled with all sorts of chilling effects, eerie sounds and more. After nearly 20 minutes of deep exploration, the band resurfaces with 15 minutes of (appropriately low intensity, more musically oriented improvisation, and ultimately finishes off “46 Days” in the closing minutes.
Phish’s show at Alpine Valley on July 14, 2019, featured a “Ruby Waves” that fell just a few seconds short of outpacing the It “46 Days,” which currently stands as the sixth-longest jam in band history.
The Allman Brothers Band | Mountain Jam (40:19)
Aug 9, 2003
The original The Allman Brothers Band lineup often utilized “Mountain Jam” – their song that interpolated Donovan’s “First There Is A Mountain” – as a vehicle for long, psychedelic blues improvisations that at times stretched beyond the hour mark. While Duane Allman, Gregg Allman, Dickey Betts, Butch Trucks, Berry Oakley and Jaimoe made “Mountain Jam” excursions staples of their live shows, the lineup that reformed in 1989 initially abandoned the song.
The Allmans lineup in 2000 — Gregg Allman, Butch Trucks, Jaimoe, Oteil Burbridge, Marc Quinones, Derek Trucks and Jimmy Herring — finally brought “Mountain Jam” back into the legendary band’s live repertoire. One notorious “Mountain Jam” was played that year on June 21 at PNC Bank Arts Center in Holmdel, New Jersey, though it only clocked in at 34:20. Derek Trucks described that version to author Alan Paul in his book about the group, One Way Out, recalling:
We took “Mountain Jam” to Mars, which is what (ABB roadie) Red Dog was always urging us to do. He’d say, “The original band took the song out! It was different every night. You can’t play the record.” But after the show, we get on the bus, Gregg walks on and goes “OK, who’s the fucking Phish fan? That was too much.”
The lengthiest live version of “Mountain Jam” played between 2000 and the band’s final show in 2014 is believed to be from August 3, 2003, at Verizon Wireless Amphitheatre in Charlotte, North Carolina. Officially issued by the band, the 2003 Charlotte show featured Gregg Allman, Jaimoe, Butch Trucks, Oteil Burbridge, Marc Quinones, Derek Trucks and Warren Haynes. That night also featured “Desdemona” with Karl Denson sitting-in on saxophone, “Midnight Rider” with Paul Riddle on drums and on the anniversary of his death, a tribute to Jerry Garica in the form of Haynes’ “Patchwork Quilt.”
moe. | Rebubula (56:53)
Aug 30, 2003
moe.’s annual moe.down festival is the perfect place for the band to experiment. The fourth installment of the event took place August 29 – 31, 2003 at its longtime home of the Snow Ridge Ski Area in Turin, New York.
On the second night of the festival, August 30, the band played three sets, and the third of the evening featured just one song. moe. treated the devoted crowd of moe.rons to the longest jam in moe. history — a 56+ minute version of “Rebubula.”
“Rebubula” is among the oldest and most-beloved songs in the band’s repertoire and often serves as a springboard to improvisation. Guitarists Al Schnier and Chuck Garvey, bassist Rob Derhak, percussionist Jim Loughlin and drummer Vinnie Amico took their time working through every section of the song on the unusually cold night in August. While moe. often extends the intro of “Rebubula” for a few minutes, this time it would be over 17 minutes before Derhak sang the first line as the quintet zigged and zagged in various directions before the initial verse.
moe. toyed with the composed sections of the song ahead of Schnier’s guitar solo, which began around the 23-minute mark. A few minutes later the band had strayed far from typical “Rebubula” space and were back in exploratory mode. A massive peak was hit as “Rebubula” passed the 30-minute mark and there was still far more to come.
An ambient interlude followed the huge peak as the members of moe. each pushed and pulled the jam to interesting terrain. The Pink Floyd-esque improvisation continued for nearly 13 more minutes until the five-piece connected on the riff that marks the start of Garvey’s solo. moe. played the rest of the song fairly straight but after the final lyrics Al and Rob engaged delay loops that would ring out for the last few moments of the longest jam in the band’s history.
The Duo with Mike Gordon | Foam (51:52)
Apr 27, 2005
[Video Credit: alexsh]
Just eight months after Phish’s second-hiatus-starting festival in Coventry, Vermont, bassist Mike Gordon embarked on a run of shows with the Benevento/Russo Duo. One of those pairings occurred on April 27, 2005 at The Georgia Theatre in Athens, Georgia.
Gordon, drummer Joe Russo and keyboardist Marco Benevento devoted the entire first set in Athens to the Phish classic “Foam.” First played live by Phish in 1988, the band recorded the fugue-esque song for their 1989 debut album, Junta. More recently, “Foam” fits squarely in the “rarity” category regarding its presence in setlists.
As Phish.net notes, The Duo and Gordon’s expansive instrumental version of “Foam” saw Marco bring in elements of Phish’s “Lengthwise” and “a tease of ‘The Chain’” by Mike. An officially released recording of the full set “Foam” is available via LivePhish.com.
Mike, The Duo and Phish guitarist Trey Anastasio toured together in summer 2006. Dubbed the G.R.A.B. tour based on the participants’ last names, shows did not feature “Foam.”
Neil Young | Down By The River (36:02)
Apr 26, 2016
[Video Credit: runme69 (JFI Productions) ]
For decades Neil Young has liked to jam. He also likes to write long songs. Often, the veteran rocker pairs his penchant for long jams with his tendency to write expanded songs, taking the likes of “Cortez The Killer,” “Like A Hurricane,” “No Hidden Path,” “Cowgirl In The Sand,” “Walk Like A Giant” and “Like An Inca” out for psych-rock workouts.
Young’s first album with Crazy Horse contained the nine-minute “Down By The River,” which was outpaced by the album’s closer, the aforementioned 10-minute “Cowgirl In The Sand.” When Young joined Phish at the 1998 Farm Aid concert, the pair of jam titans (with Young playing one of Trey Anastasio’s custom Languedoc guitarist) linked up on “Down By The River” that when paired with the leading “Arc” jam *only* reached about 23 minutes in length.
More than 17 years later, Young led an even more expansive performance of “Down By The River” — this time while backed by frequent recent collaborators Promise Of The Real. Young and POTR began their headlining set at the 2016 Beale Street Music Festival in Memphis with a 36-minute “Down By The River.”
Though initial reports placed the timing at 40-minutes, the slightly shorter rendition nonetheless saw Young on his 1953 Gibson Les Paul – “Old Black” – and POTR guitarist Lukas Nelson spending several minutes in an intense exchange of six-string expression. Here’s how JamBase called it back in 2016:
[Neil & POTR] start off with walls of feedback before finally starting the recognizable “Down By The River” intro around the six-minute mark. Young and POTR take their time working through each portion of the song with Neil engaging in duels with Lukas Nelson for long periods of time. The last six minutes of “Down By The River” features more feedback as it appeared the band just didn’t want to end the tune. It isn’t until after the 36-minute mark that the musicians stop playing to huddle up about the next song, which wound up being “Country Home.”
Electric Beethoven | In Memory Of A Great Man (49:55)
Sep 24, 2016
In 2016, bassist Reed Mathis debuted a new project he called Electric Beethoven, describing the endeavor as “the world’s first CDM (classical dance music) band.” That year Mathis released the guest-filled Beathoven that contained reinterpretations of Ludwig van Beethoven’s Symphony No. 3 and Symphony No. 6. The years-in-the-making album boasted an all-star group of collaborators during sessions held over the course of several years as Mathis traveled to meet and record with the participating musicians in their hometowns.
The fall of 2016 saw Mathis take the project on the road with a lineup of himself along with Jay Lane (Primus/Ratdog) on drums, Todd Stoops (RAQ/Kung Fu) on keyboards and Clay Welch on guitar. That tour stopped at Nectar’s in Burlington, Vermont on September 24.
A nearly 50-minute “In Memory Of A Great Man” opened the show. The song is an improvisation on the first movement of Beethoven’s 3rd that on Beathoven featured Mike Gordon and Joe Russo. Mathis remixed the live sequence and later officially released the jammed-out recording from Burlington.
Umphrey’s McGee | Improvised Set (67:40)
Jan 21, 2017
On January 28, 2016, Umphrey’s McGee utilized the second set during their show at The Orpheum Theatre in Madison, Wisconsin to not only scrap a setlist but to scrap pre-written songs all-together. UMLive, the band’s official live release platform, broke the continuous sequence into 10 distinguishable “Chapters.” Acclaimed saxophonist Joshua Redman sat in for a portion of the improvised set (“Chapters 3 – 7”) which from start to finish spanned 64:23.
Nearly one year to the day, on January 27, 2017 at the State Theatre in Portland, Maine, UM devoted another set entirely to improvisation. This time the band was without their ailing guitarist Jake Cinninger who was sidelined by a bout of “wicked flu.” But Redman was again on stage with the band, this time throughout the impromptu performance. Portland was treated to an additional 11 “Chapters” while the nonstop jam lasted 67:40.
From JamBase’s 2017 report:
Umphrey’s McGee’s second set was 65 minutes of pure improv. The band and their guest would find a groove and ride it hard before moving on to the next groove. At times the music sounded like Traffic at times Prince at times Pink Floyd. Drummer Kris Myers and bassist Ryan Stasik were crucial in the maneuvering through multiple jam spaces, while guitarist Brendan Bayliss showed off Zappa-esque riffs and led to a few huge peaks. He also sang at points for lyrical “Jimmy Stewarts.” The band then finished off the night with a “Much Obliged” > “Ophelia” (The Band) encore.
[Audio Source: opsopcopolis]
Tedeschi Trucks Band with Trey Anastasio | Mountain Jam (33:23)
Oct 14, 2017
[Video Credit: Marc Millman]
Tedeschi Trucks Band‘s annual run at New York City’s Beacon Theatre ended with a particularly special performance in October 2017. Phish guitarist Trey Anstasio joined the band for a memorable sit-in that saw TTB play their longest song to date.
Let’s let JamBase’s Scott Bernstein detail the collab:
A little after 10:45 Susan stepped to the mic and welcomed “our friend Trey.” Anastasio emerged from the wings to front the group on a cover of Leon Russell’s “Delta Lady.” The Tedeschi Trucks Band had been using “Delta Lady” as a vehicle for guests since their debut performance of the song as part of a Mad Dogs & Englishmen: Celebrate Joe Cocker set at Lockn’ in 2015. Anastasio unveiled his rendition of “Delta Lady” earlier this year with his TAB project in Russell’s home state of Oklahoma. The TTB’s singers and horn players then left the stage as Anastasio, Tedeschi, Trucks, Burbridge, bassist Tim Lefebvre and drummers J.J. Johnson and Tyler Greenwell lit into “Mountain Jam.”
Saturday marked the debut Tedeschi Trucks Band version of “Mountain Jam” and TTAB were true to the multiple movements found in versions from the early and late lineups of the Allman Brothers Band. The Allman Brothers Band featuring Derek Trucks and Jimmy Herring revived “Mountain Jam” during Herring’s tour of duty with the group in the Summer of 2000 after only playing small portions of the song since the ABB’s 1989 reunion. Some of the 2000 takes were so free-form, Gregg Allman infamously yelled “OK, who’s the fucking Phish fan? That was too much” after a particularly insane version in Holmdel, New Jersey. Trey sat-in with the Allmans on “Mountain Jam” in Vermont on August 28, 2005; years after Haynes returned to the spot Herring occupied for a tour. Anastasio has also become fond of teasing the main theme at Phish shows of late.
And what a “Mountain Jam” it was on Saturday night. The septet patiently worked through each and every segment of the instrumental based on Donovan’s “There Is A Mountain” and subsequent improvisations on his versions by the Grateful Dead and Herbie Mann. Anastasio had held back at some previous Allman family sit-ins, yet Trey let it rip in a tasteful way at the Beacon. There were few sour notes throughout the truly epic 32-minute “Mountain Jam.” Trey and Derek played off each other impeccably and both sported huge smiles as they hit the song’s main theme towards the start and for the grand finale. Lefevbre’s solo was inspired and true to Berry Oakley’s approach to the bass solo and bass bridge. Another standout moment of the wild “Mountain Jam” was the ethereal blues-soul progression the seven-piece hit ahead of the final run of the main theme. Trucks worked in hints of “Will The Circle Be Unbroken” that Anastasio quickly picked up on.
The Beacon crowd roared with approval at the end of “Mountain Jam” and didn’t relent until Susan and Kofi returned to the stage.
[Video Credit: Tedeschi Trucks Band]
Spafford | Bee Jam (55:30)
Oct 19, 2017
Spafford’s first set at Rose Music Hall in Columbia, Missouri on a Thursday night in October 2017 turned out to be a landmark event for the Arizona-based band. The quartet opened the show with their original “All My Friends” and followed with the instrumental theme they call “Bee Jam,” which was used as launching pad for 55 minutes and 30 seconds of improvisation.
Bassist Jordan Fairless spoke to JamBase about the lengthy jam:
It was Thursday night and right about the middle of the tour, we were definitely tired and in uncharted territory. That’s usually the perfect recipe for an improv session. It’s a relief to break away from song structure and just create spontaneously when you’ve been playing night after night.
Going in to it we weren’t really sure the mojo would be there, so we left it open to chance after our huddle before the show and took the stage with no written setlist. As soon as we swung into the ‘jam’ of “Bee Jam,” it started to head a different direction than some of the more familiar approaches the tune lends itself to and we were off.
The crowd hung in with every note and allowed us the space to figure things out which is important, it can be a challenge to let the music take over completely. It’s entering into a state of mindless mindfulness where reaction becomes intention and the music becomes a conversation. Those are the moments we live for.
A few months before the Rose Music Hall show, Spafford released an hour-long studio improvisation, Abaculus.
Dopapod | Trickery (56:31)
Nov 1, 2017
Back on October 5, 2016, Dopapod introduced their fans to a new original entitled “Trickery.” The debut performance at 1904 Music Hall in Jacksonville, Florida came in at one second shy of eight minutes.
The band featuring guitarist Rob Compa, bassist Chuck Jones, keyboardist Eli Winderman and durmmer Neal “Fro” Evans have yet to track “Trickery” in the studio, leaving it off their 2017 studio album Megagem. They did include a six-minute version of “Trickery” on the 2017 live release, II Saw Live Dopapod Evil Was II.
While on their fall tour in 2017, leading up to a New Year’s Eve concert that December that would begin a year-long hiatus, Dopapod played a Halloween show on October 31, 2017, at the Putnam Den in Saratoga Springs, New York. Following the celebratory occasion that featured Grateful Dead and Black Sabbath mashups, Dopapod wasted little time getting back on stage, holding a concert on November 1 at Buffalo Iron Works in Buffalo, New York.
The band treated fans in attendance who came out while potentially nursing Halloween hangovers to a memorable second set. The entire second half consisted of an immensely stretched out edition of “Trickery.”
The nearly-hour long single-song delivery wove in teases of the Grateful Dead/Jerry Garcia’s “They Love Each Other,” Herbie Hancock’s “Watermelon Man” and Nirvana’s “Smells Like Teen Spirit.” The quartet also worked in teases of their own “PLSS.”
Pigeons Playing Ping Pong | Funk E Zekiel (64:05)
Apr 15, 2018
“Never miss a Sunday show” is a commonly heard refrain around the jam scene and there are plenty of examples to support the theory that Sunday’s produce memorable not-to-be-missed concerts. One such exampled of the concept in action took place during Pigeons Playing Ping Pong‘s spring tour in 2018.
Dubbed by fans of Pigeons Playing Ping Pong known as The Flock as “Funk E 63” soon after the band’s second set on Sunday, April 15, 2018, the performance of “Funk E Zekiel” that night was a thorough display of the quartet’s improv skills. The jammed-out “Funk E Zekiel” played at Port City Music Hall in Portland, Maine took up the entire second set and lasted more than an hour.
Released in 2010 on the band’s debut release, the Funk EP, the studio version of “Funk E Zekiel” times out at 3:45. Live recordings of the funky instrumental date back to 2008.
Following the full-set version of “Funk E Zekiel,” The Flock made fan art and pins about to commemorate monumental jam. And about that jam …
Guitarists Greg Ormont and Jeremy Schon, bassist Ben Carrey and drummer Alex Petropulos soared through the multi-faceted improvisation, incorporating elements of “Chariots Of Fire” during a portion of the jam. Thanks to the band for sharing the entire hour-long “Funk E 63” track, which can be streamed below:
STS9 | Wave Spell Improv Set (115:13)
Dec 30, 2018
On September 17, 2017, –- days after completing another Red Rocks run — electronica jammers STS9 convened at their then recently established recording facility. The band shared the improvised studio recordings on their 2018 album, Wave Spell, which contained a track called “Wave Spell.” As STS9 explains:
For those who don’t know, Wave Spell is STS9 in its rawest form. Where there are no setlists or conversations about what to play, just tap into the moment and let the music happen. It’s a conversation where the speaking is solely done with instruments. A time for complete exploration. It’s a series dedicated to the belief that music is one of the most powerful forces in nature. It casts its spell through waveforms carrying sound and light, moving energy and frequencies through our mind, body and soul.
Since then, STS9 expanded the use of “Wave Spell” to label a second studio release, completely improvised live sets and the band’s two-year old Wave Spell festival held in 2018 and 2019 in Belden Town, California. STS9 has also brought the Wave Spell experience to Denver’s Paramount Theatre on September 5, 2019. Prior to that the group played a Wave Spell improvised set as part of their New Year’s Run 2018.
The four-show run leading up to 2019 saw STS9 play Denver’s The Fillmore Auditorium on December 28, 29 and 31. The instrumental quintet also staged a performance at Denver’s more intimate Summit on December 30. The night at the Summit presented a Wave Spell set that’s impressive not only for its longevity. Broken into nine parts on the official release, the Wave Spell set at the Summit totals one hour and 55 minutes of all out Tribe improv that’s among the finest displays of one of the things the band does best.
Tom Hamilton/Holly Bowling | Don’t Come Apart (48:07)
Jul 27, 2019
Ghost Light band mates Holly Bowling and Tom Hamilton played a set for VIPs at The Peach Music Festival at Montage Mountain in Scranton, Pennsylvania on July 27, 2019. The pair’s acoustic performance spanned 48 minutes and featured just one song within the well-jammed set.
Holly and Tom started by jamming on a theme Hamilton came up with. Eventually, the guitarist settled in on Ghost Light original “Don’t Come Apart Just Yet, My Dear” and the keyboardist followed along. Yet, the duo would quickly go off on a tangent, a pattern that would repeat itself over the course of the set.
Bowling and Hamilton used “Don’t Come Apart Just Yet, My Dear” as a reference point throughout their improv-heavy performance and touched on the song’s melodies at various moments. “Our original plan was to not have a plan,” Holly told JamBase about the set. “A couple of minutes before we went on stage we went, ‘eh’ maybe we should throw one song in there as a bookend.”
Ghost Light formed in early-2018, toured hard over the remainder of the year and into 2019. The band released a studio version of “Don’t Come Apart Just Yet, My Dear” on their debut album, Best Kept Secrets. ”We had so much fun playing that,” Bowling explained of the set at The Peach. “Just to be able to take freedom with a song we play and do it in a very different context is fun, too.”
[Audio source: Keith Litzenberger]
Aqueous | Improvised Set (65:00)
Mar 15, 2019
[Video Credit: MKDevo – Improv set begins at 1:16:00]
Part of a three set show in Rochester, New York earlier this year, Buffalo-based Aqueous used the extra stage time to perfrom their first completely improvised set. Guitarist Mike Gantzer, multi-instrumentalist Dave Loss, bassist Evan McPhaden and drummer Rob Houk played before a sold-out Anthology — a room nearly three times the size of the venue in Rochester that they peroformed at only 11 months before.
Here’s how JamBase previously described the second set that night:
The 65-minute all-improv set began simply enough with a riff from Gantzer. Houk provided a funky beat and Aqueous was on their way. AQ explored more than a dozen themes over the course of the set ranging from a dark prog progression to an intense metal foray to a smooth and jazzy jam space to Red Hot Chili Peppers-esque funk to blissful rock to an upbeat ska section to a grungy climax in which Mike lovingly gave the crowd the finger and a bit of the blues. Hundreds of shows together paid massive dividends for the band as they were able to keep the set moving and interesting throughout without saying a word to each other. The last 10 minutes of the set featured one peak after another to the delight of the crowd.
Gantzer shared the following with JamBase about the set:
The AQ improv set was one of my favorite experiences playing music, maybe ever! We kind of just said “fuck it” and decided not to discuss anything about it ahead of time in favor of creating something totally real and organic for (and with) the audience.
With this being our first time ever doing this, we literally had no expectations, and it was re-affirming that there really is joy in the unknown, and the energy in the room was like nothing I’ve ever experienced before! There were so many themes, moods, feelings and moments expressed between the band and audience throughout the straight 65 minutes of improvised music that just had all four of us cheesin’ super hard up there! It felt like new ground to us.
Twiddle | Nicodemus Portulay (47:39)
Mar 12, 2019
On April 1, 2017, Twiddle debut “Nicodemus Portulay” during a show at New York City’s PlayStation Theater. The debut clocked in at modest 6:57 that night, which also saw Mihali Savoulidis, Ryan Dempsey, Brook Jordan and Zdenek Gubb debut fellow new originals “Milk” and “Fat Country Baby.”
A studio version of “Nicodemus Portulay” was included on the band’s 2017 double album, Plump Chapters 1 & 2. That version also kept an even more modest approach, the track timing landing at 5:43. At the Summer Camp Music Festival in May 2017 when Twiddle stretched “Nicodemus Potulay” beyond the 10-minute mark. The official timing for the performance on May 25 in Chillicothe, Illinois was 12:26.
The Vermont-born Twiddle held a concert at Humboldt Brews in Arcata, California on March 12, 2019. The quartet opened the first set with “Nicodemus Portulay” and closed the set with “Tiberius.” No songs were played between. Instead, the opener was jammed out well beyond its typical presentation.
The official release separates out 11-minutes of the 47-minute “Nicodemus.” The jam sequence features Mihali’s improvised vocals and the made-up lyrics inspired the band’s archivist Edmund Edwards to label the portion “Smirkus Jam” (the Circus Smirkus is a Vermont-based circus) .
[Adio Source: SBD/Aud Matrix. Taped by Sam Johnson. Transferred by Edmund Edwards.]
The String Cheese Incident | Rosie (73:23)
Jun 27, 2019
The String Cheese Incident setlist that night read simply, “Rosie.” The band introduced the Kyle Hollingsworth-written original in early-2011. Hollingsworth discussed the song with That Drop, telling the outlet in 2014:
“Rosie” was written as I played in my basement. I wanted to do an afro-funk thing more like The Motet so I wrote a riff and wrote some melodies and had a little drill machine going. My daughter walks in and goes “That kind of sounds like Rosie.” The spider from the Butterfly Pavilion. It’s a place where kids can go and they have a bunch of butterflies and insects along with this spider that you can hold named Rosie. She said “That sounds like Rosie,” so I thought “Great!” and brought it into the band. They were like “Now we have to find words.”
Nodding to the stage where the set was held, SCI labeled the improvisation within the 73+ minute “Rosie” a “Jubilee Jam.” Guitarist Bill Nershi worked in elements of “Jellyfish” during a trance-heavy part of the jam. An official recording of the 73-minute “Rosie” can be purchased via LiveCheese.com.