GenJam (short for Genetic Jammer) is an interactive genetic algorithm that learns to improvise jazz. It may well be the only evolutionary computation system that is a "working musician." I developed the original version during my sabbatical leave in the 1993-94 academic year and have been extending it ever since. In addition to playing full-chorus improvised solos, GenJam listens to what I play on trumpet and responds interactively when we trade fours or eights. It also engages in collective improvisation, where we both solo simultaneously and GenJam performs a smart echo of my improvisation, delayed by anywhere from a beat to a measure. Finally, it listens to me as I solo and play the "head" of a tune and breeds my measures with its ideas, which steers its improvisations on a tune in the direction of what I've just played on that tune.

GenJam's current repertoire includes over 380 tunes in a wide variety of jazz-influenced styles, and I play a couple of gigs a month with it, formerly under the billing of the Al Biles Virtual Quintet, but these days, simply as Al Biles & GenJam. For holiday gigs, I've worked up a bunch of Christmas tunes so that I can do three sets without repeating. "Holly Jolly Christmas" as a 7/4 mambo, anyone?

For a quick overview of GenJam, start with the captioned version of the Ignite presentation I prepared to illustrate what an Ignite presentation was for the students in our Intro to Interactive Media class. For a 19-minute video demonstration and discussion of the GenJam project, check out my TEDx talk from March, 2012.

GenJam Logo To hear what we sound like together, you can scroll down and hear some older recordings, but I've set up a Soundcloud Stream. Most of these recordings started as student record/edit/mix projects in my Digital Audio Production course, where, if students don't have access to talent they can record, they're stuck with me and GenJam. While the results are "mixed" so to speak, the recordings are a fair indication of what we sound like. All were done in one take, and while the trumpet player hit some clams, these provided opportunities for the students to do some editing. Specifically, if I hit a clam on either the in or the out head, the students could usually find that moment in the other head, and paste the less flawed version over the more flawed version. The clams I hit when improvising in the middle presented greater challenges...

I was invited to audition for America's Got Talent in 2015, which prompted this audition video. To download the file (for the AGT folks), right click on the link (control-click on a Mac), select "Save link as...", and save it wherever you'd like. Many thanks to Evan Miller, a student in my Digital Audio class who brought his gear to class twice, recorded the audio and video, and put it all together. Thanks also to the entire class for putting up with the technical issues and other rigamarole. At least it only took two takes once we got everything in the classroom working! To see how the audition process worked out, here's my Five Minutes of Fame presentation on the experience from the 2016 New Media Consortium Summer Conference in Rochester.

For an in-depth description of how the current version of GenJam works, check out my chapter, "Genetic Algorithms for Improvisation: GenJam," one of two chapters I wrote for the book, Evolutionary Computer Music, which I co-edited and which was launched by Springer in April, 2007 (available at Amazon).

For a more succinct (and freely available) summary of the latest version of GenJam and my experiences performing with it, check out these two papers from MUME 2013:
Straight-Ahead Jazz with GenJam: A Quick Demonstration
Performing with Technology: Lessons Learned from the GenJam Project

Here's the original paper from ICMC 1994, which has been cited over 700 times (according to Google Scholar): GenJam: A Genetic Algorithm for Generating Jazz Solos. GenJam has come a long way since then, but the foundation laid in the original system has been solid enough to support a lot of enhancements over the years.

When he was in high school, my son Dave Biles created the logo above, which captures the way GenJam and I listen to and play off of one another as we perform. It also hints at how GenJam represents melodic material (licks) as chromosomes that evolve in the computer. By the way, the specific laptop in the graphic is accurate. I still use a Mac Powerbook 180 as GenJam's official (and only) computing platform because I built it on top of the CMU MIDI Toolkit, which has, alas, become a legacy environment. I hope to publish GenJam as an open source title through the RIT's MAGIC Center.

The other gear I currently use include a Yamaha MU-128 tone generator, a Roland GI-10 pitch-to-MIDI converter, an AMT mic that uses the Samson Airline wireless setup, and a Rolls WPM61 wireless monitor system. The wireless setup allows me to wander around a performing venue while still being able to hear the rest of the band.

Gigs - Selected Upcoming and Past Performances

Al performing at President Destler's inauguration


Virtual Quintet at New City Art Gallery

My most recent recordings are on my Soundcloud Stream, and were produced at least in part by students in my Digital Audio Production course. I had tried this kind of assignment about 10 years ago (see below), but I'd dropped it in favor of other production assignments. I decided to bring it back in 2013, and the current stuff on Soundcloud is from 2014. The tunes are essentially single take performances with me and GenJam in IGM's modest recording studio. Some minor editing of the trumpet track may exist on the heads to eliminate replaceable clams, but the tunes are pretty much as played.

In the summer of 2003, my friend and colleague Jay Jackson and his wife Jiu Li graciously recorded and produced a 15-minute DVD of GenJam and me playing tunes while I wandered around the New City Art Gallery in Easthampton, MA. Jiu Li's camera work adds much-needed visual interest (see image at right), and Jay did a great job mixing and producing the final product. The clams I hit are all mine...

I've compressed the video to a 17.4 mb Quicktime movie, which eventually will download if you're patient. The three tunes are:
Bb Demo Blues, a simple arrangement that I often use to demonstrate GenJam's abilities to take solo choruses, trade fours and collectively improvise with me.
Open Wide, my scaled-back arrangement of a great Don Ellis big band chart.
Milestones, the mid-60's modal Miles Davis tune, which I do in 7. Several years after I recorded this track, I got a CD of an obscure Don Ellis live recording that included his version of Milestones in 7. It seems we arrived at the same conclusion on adapting the tune to 7/4 time...

Back in January, 2005 I made my students record GenJam and me as a mixing exercise for my Digital Audio and Computer Music class. Each student had to record a complete tune, with GenJam and the rhythm section on a stereo pair (left and right) coming directly from the tone generator, and the trumpet recorded with one or more mics (their choice) at the same time. As the alleged talent, I did my best to nail the first take, which I pretty much did, but I hit at least one clam on each tune (only once on purpose) to give them some experience editing in a correction. The goal was to mix the "live" trumpet track(s) to blend nicely with the pre-mixed synthesized tracks from the tone generator, which is more difficult than you might think. The results were mixed, so to speak, but here are some tunes that came out pretty well:

Jeru: Gerry Mulligan's chart for Miles Davis's Birth of the Cool band, produced by Dave Duncan
Lovey: A 5/4 Bossa I wrote to commemorate the passing of a family cat, produced by Nattapong Ratanapongsakorn
I Dream of Jeannie: My arrangement of Hugo Montenegro's theme for the old TV sitcom, produced by Ryan Peterson
Jeanne: A Gato Barbieri tune from his soundtrack for Last Tango in Paris, the notorious Marlon Brando film ("Bring me da buddah!"), produced by Rod Razavi
Street Singer: A classic Tina Brooks tune from the Blue Note vaults, produced by Dereck Padden
Thetis: A Hank Levy tune for the Don Ellis Orchestra, produced by Regan Messenger

In 2001 I composed and recorded two demo tunes that appeared on the CD-ROM accommpanying the book, Creative Evolutionary Systems, edited by Peter Bentley and David Corne, which includes a chapter I contributed on GenJam. The tunes are Lady Bug, which uses the chords to Tadd Dameron's Lady Bird, and The Rake, which is named for the garden implement that always comes to mind when I play the chord changes I used for this tune.

I also composed a minor blues line at the request of Robert Rowe, which was intended for the CD accompanying his book, Machine Musicianship, in which he discussed GenJam. The tune, Here's How, is a musical answer to the question I get all the time, "Well, how does it sound?"

For yet another sound sample, check out our arrangement of the Dizzy Gillespie and Chano Pozzo tune, Manteca which features GenJam and me trading eights.

Finally, I've ripped Analog Blues, an original track from the 1996 GenJam CD, which is featured at the end of this page, so scroll down and check it out!


The papers and other stuff below cover most of my work on GenJam from an academic perspective. For a more complete set of downloads of the GenJam papers, go my space on

Publicity (Radio, TV, Print)

GenJam has attracted some media attention over the years, which includes:


Tuesday at the Clock GenJam and I are certainly available for bookings. We are especially effective in background and mid-ground settings like receptions, dinners, parties and coffee houses. If you want a live jazz quintet, can only afford a single musician, and don't want to settle for a pianist, harpist, guitarist, or (heaven forbid) a DJ, give me a call (585-301-8367) or an email ( I also do a fun presentation/demo for clubs and organizations, and I have done several gigs where the quintet played during a pre-dinner reception and I explained the technology in an after-dinner talk. The following lists are a representative sample of the gigs we've played over the years.

GenJam and I have performed in concert at:

The Virtual Quintet has performed at well over a hundred private receptions for (among others):

Computer History Museum U of R 25th Anniversary Gala

The Virtual Quintet has appeared at several venues in the Rochester area, including:

GenJam as Recording Star

I completed a CD project in 1996 (cover image at left) featuring GenJam in the Virtual Quintet, which consists of me on trumpet/flugelhorn and GenJam on tenor sax and other instruments. The material is mostly jazz, ranging from straight ahead to (please don't gag, it's just a term, not a way of life) "new age." GenJam and I trade choruses and fours, and I, at least, have a good time anticipating and responding to GenJam's ideas. Check out the liner notes from the CD booklet for more details. Also check out the lovely review written by Jeff Spevak in Rochester's Democrat and Chronicle.

The CDs are still available, and here's an MP3 sample track, specifically an original called Analog Blues, which is named after the instruments I used in the arrangement.

For more info on the CD, including a list of tunes, better quality sound samples, and ordering information, visit GenJam's page at Dynamic Recording Studios. In the Rochester area, the CD used to be available at the new Barnes and Noble @ RIT (the RIT Bookstore) and several area music stores, including Barnes and Noble in Pittsford, CD Exchange, and Record Archive.

Al Biles < >
Last modified: April 28, 2019