Somewhere near the surface lay an impulse to let go – to give in to the knowledge of the body we often take for granted. When overtaken by these spurs, what is it that takes the lead? How do my appendages determine their trajectories, their arcs and lines in space? These days, on a regular basis I let down my guard to the rapture of these impulses whenever I dance. And this freedom would undoubtedly not be as able bodied if it weren’t for the many years of studying and playing improvised music.
Several of the bands and music projects that account for my time as a collaborative musician contained much or all improvisation. Two of the more recent bands I played with were dedicated to improvisation and were held together by a few simple principles. Show up to practice when you have the time, little emphasis on seeking out shows, try out whatever instruments you like and most of all, play for the love of the music. These were incredibly fun times and the love was palpable. Some nights were off, yet many were right on. We never looked back, simply carried on to our collective beat.
The unexpected was our close friend always ready for us to join up with it and take a ride. Sometimes other friends would join us too, bringing their spirits into the mix and we’d all just fly off into the night. Without expectation, we would summon the essence of whatever was in our midst. It fused into something we never would have written, and in the prime moments it was otherworldly – a higher consciousness was being exposed through our shared vision. These dances with the other side were why we explored the moment. As we shaped them, they shaped us.
I miss these instantaneous pursuits, these living dreams. And yet, they are only a collaboration away and certainly are not over. Improvisation is life after all. Sometimes we call it ‘taking a walk or ‘making breakfast’ or working in the garden,’ yet we can never know what may be contained or unearthed in the next moment. It is but chance that you are reading this and that I wrote it, for originally I was hoping to record another cover of a song. Then I realized more time was needed if it were to be a cover that respected the original artist. Perchance improvisation is all we can know and to let go is the native action that always has its way – we simply give it a name and pretend that we knew it was going to happen.
However you feel it, let it be and then… well, who knows. Let go of the reins and enjoy the ride, it’s the only one you’ve got.
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Artwork featured above: MURAKAMI Saburo – Work Painted by Throwing A Ball (Tokyu taiga) 1954 – Ink on paper
From my days in Brooklyn with the ever changing and ever talented, Stars In A Harp, also known by countless other names as we also improvised that for nearly every practice. In this case it was, Inspector F and the Three Beards, creating an unexpected ambient jam. Still a favorite to this day.
And shout out to The Deep featured in the video below. This was the last improvised project I partook in. Great times.