Jam-Band Timeline

Greg Kot

1 Min Read

The term “jamming” had been applied for decades to loose, largely improvised interactions among musicians, usually in an informal setting. In the 1920s, jazz musicians would interact after their regular gigs to drink, laugh and play. This aesthetic also became integral to the development of bluegrass in America and Cuban music in Havana, and has since informed rock, soul and hip-hop. The roots of the rock jam-band scene can be traced to the mid-‘60s with the Grateful Dead and Cream, and developed into a genre in the ‘90s when a new wave of rock improvisers arrived. In the late ‘90s, the Soulquarians — a loose collective of artists rooted in the hip-hop and neo-soul movements — collaborated on a series of musical jams that resulted in groundbreaking albums for artists such as the Roots (“Things Fall Apart”), D’Angelo (“Voodoo”) and Erykah Badu (“Mama’s Gun”). Here’s a timeline of the modern-day jam-band scene in rock, soul and hip-hop:

The Grateful Dead, led by jug-band multi-instrumentalist Jerry Garcia, debut in Palo Alto, California, and become featured performers at Ken Kesey’s Acid Tests in San Francisco. The band’s free-form playing is accompanied by a mind-twisting cocktail of lights, video and acid.

Live from Madison Square Garden 12/30/2019

December 30th remains the most storied date in Phish history. The trend continued in a big way in 2019 at Madison Square Garden in New York City, where the band delivers a set worthy of hyperbolic praise. The epic show has a special feeling right from the start, as Phish opens with “Wilson,” just as it did 25 years prior at its Madison Square Garden debut.

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Greg Kot is the editorial director of The Coda Collection. He is also the cohost of the nationally syndicated public-radio show and podcast “Sound Opinions” with Jim DeRogatis, and previously the music critic at the Chicago Tribune for 30 years. His books include acclaimed biographies of Mavis Staples (“I’ll Take You There”) and Wilco (“Learning How to Die”) and a history of the digital music revolution (“Ripped”). He also coauthored “The Beatles vs. the Rolling Stones: Sound Opinions on the Great Rock ‘N’ Roll Rivalry” and has written extensively for Rolling Stone, BBC Culture and Encyclopedia Britannica. When he takes off the headphones, Kot coaches in his Chicago-based youth travel basketball program (OTEhoops.com). In addition, he has coauthored two best-selling editions of the book “Survival Guide to Coaching Youth Basketball.”

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