When I attended my first musical jam session in Nashville, Tennessee, and I was sitting behind the piano, terrified that I would not know any of the songs floating through the air, suggested by my fellow-musicians, I was rather delighted that I turned out to be somewhat able to keep up–grabbing a chord here and there and playing along.
It went along real well until one of the musicians shouted out, “Take it, Jon!”
It was time for me to express my solo soul, in context with the mutual band experience.
I needed a cadenza. I needed some sort of passage I could play for about eight bars that showed that I was worthy to be part of such a musical combo.
The first time this was shouted out, I brought things to a complete halt by turning to the room–having stopped playing altogether–and saying, “What?”
They found this hilarious, explaining that all they wanted was for me to take a “ride.”
After giggling because I didn’t know what “ride” meant, I then was informed that I was supposed to improvise.
God, I wanted to do good. I wanted these fellow-troubadours to be impressed with me.
So the next time they said, “Take it, Jon!” I did.
I took it so much that I over-played, lost the rhythm and brought the whole musical experience to a screeching halt. One of them counseled me, “Maybe just a few less notes…”
Therefore, the next time I was afforded the opportunity, I played so few notes that they thought I had missed my cue.
After that they were rather reluctant to have me “take it.”
Honestly, I think everybody walked out of the room that night thinking, “He seems to know the chords … but he sure can’t do a cadenza.”
Or some Nashville way of saying that.