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  1. #61
    A very wide spectrum of styles are fair game in Free Improvisation. SO much of it depends on who you're playing with and your mutual agreement on what music is; what's in your hands as well as what is in your imagination. I've played duo with Mick Goodrick and there was no agreed upon song form, but it included tonality as well as open non centred chromaticism. It can only be described as non metrical counterpoint. It felt a little like Bach, Charles Ives and Webern on an outing. The form reflected our love for many traditions. It was immensely satisfying and beautiful. It also didn't feel very different from running a really good reading of Stella on many levels.

    I've also played with someone who had no respect for space or conversation. I felt like I was being run over by a truck. I felt like it didn't matter whether I was playing or not. This too was free improvisation and the form reflected two personalities, and like meeting someone you understand but don't find pleasant to be around, I will not play with him again. And in a strange way, it reminded me of people I've played standards with for whom it never occurs to listen and interact.

    Free improvisation, and the free improvisation that comes from people with a deep and thorough working knowledge of more traditional jazz can take many forms. But one thing it does create is an expression of the individual. Even in the case of wannabee Ayler clones and fire-in-a-petshop wankers, that desire to hide behind the personality of another is a personal choice.

    So, with so much untapped and beautiful potential, so much of an artform that has a respectful spirit of continuum with the creative and compositional aspects of the jazz tradition, it always gets me just how just the mention of the term "Free Jazz" stirs up the judgemental and close minded prejudice based on an unexplored ignorance of so much of the genre.
    Isn't that kind of anti-jazz?

    David

  2. #62
    Quote Originally Posted by ragman1 View Post
    No, they just might not like that kind of thing. That's okay, they don't have to, it's their taste. They certainly shouldn't affect to like it for fear of being labelled closed-minded.

    Incidentally, I wouldn't necessarily describe those who do like it, or even play it, as wonderfully open-minded and enlightened either. That's not necessarily true. We'd have to examine the motivations behind it.
    Likes/dislikes are one thing. That's taste. Dismissal of an entire genre is another. That's prejudice.

    This tendency to group all free jazz in a trash bin because something in there smells bad, that's what I've got a problem with.
    When I was a kid, I used to laugh about "modern art" too, scribble crayons on a paper and laugh at modern art. There's still a lot of it I don't like, but that constitutes a fractional part of the whole, and I don't consider the ability to create parody the basis for intelligent criticism.

    I do welcome opinion, and I appreciate discussion. I like feeling there's a reason for someone's words or actions. That's jazz.

    David

  3. #63
    I wonder if I can start a thread asking for help from practitioners without receiving criticism from non practitioners.

  4. #64
    'Fire in the petshop'
    That's classic !
    Love that , so descriptive ...

    Is that your phrase ?

  5. #65
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    Quote Originally Posted by TruthHertz View Post
    I've also played with someone who had no respect for space or conversation. I felt like I was being run over by a truck. I felt like it didn't matter whether I was playing or not. This too was free improvisation and the form reflected two personalities, and like meeting someone you understand but don't find pleasant to be around, I will not play with him again. And in a strange way, it reminded me of people I've played standards with for whom it never occurs to listen and interact.

    David
    This part in particular struck me. No matter the genre, I've long thought that the most important skill a musician can have is the ability to listen. Those who listen, I think of them as inside the song, even if they're playing outside. Those who don't listen, it doesn't matter that their every note is consonant -- it's the fact that they can't STFU and let the song breathe which is irritating.

    And how much harder it is when it's a duo- or group-improv! The ability to lay back and let someone else feed the music their own feelings is a hard thing to learn -- but when we get to that point where we can listen and then play (again, no matter the genre), that's where the music stops being entertainment and becomes instead transporting. Everyone benefits from that approach -- listeners and musicians both.

    A little off-topic, but my little riff here.

  6. #66
    Quote Originally Posted by ragman1 View Post
    Nothing to stop you starting it. Whether non-practitioners will comply with your request is another matter. There's always the simple act of ignoring them. Mind you, you'd have to be able to tell one from the other - unless they confess it first.
    He did start it.
    Reminder: This thread is called "Approaches To Free Improvisation".

    opening post:

    This month, I will start playing in a Free Jazz ensemble. Over the fall we're going to be working on the music of Albert Ayler. I thought I'd see if I can crowdsource some insights from the people here. I know free jazz isn't the most popular style here, but I welcome anyone's input on ideas to create musical phrases, tension, resolution, without necessarily referring to functional harmonic relationships. David Liebman has a couple of great books on the subject, but I don't know where else to go from there. Does anyone have any experience playing in this context?
    This is a request for supportive communal intelligence and not for our opinions on what music we like or
    what we consider artistically valid.

  7. #67
    Quote Originally Posted by ragman1 View Post
    I really must stop this.



    I quite like Mary Halverston too. She should count herself lucky
    I really liked that, ragman. Props. Nice use of the timbral quality of the muted string.

  8. #68
    Quote Originally Posted by ragman1 View Post
    Then why say 'I wonder if I can...'? It seems to refer to another thread which he has not yet started. Anyway, I think he can answer for himself.
    When I wrote that, I meant it rhetorically, but I'm sure I actually will try another thread as my experience with the band goes on. I'll try to be more explicit with my questions.

    I find it ironic that your first comment was a criticism of the masturbatory nature of free improv, yet you managed to dissolve the thread's discourse with the force of your self-gratifying monologue.

  9. #69
    omphalopstcos,

    How soon is your first meeting with the band?
    It sounds like a fantastic opportunity.

  10. #70
    ragman1,

    Sorry. Sometimes I talk strange.

    "supportive communal intelligence"

    The forum is a large assemblage of people gathered around the common interest of topics pertaining to jazz guitar.
    Collectively, we are an amazing resource of information and experiences. It is a great place to ask questions.
    Members are generally very supportive and generous.

  11. #71
    Quote Originally Posted by bako View Post
    This is a request for supportive communal intelligence
    Yes, the thread seems to have gone in that direction. And I'm guilty of forgetting the original premise, I agree.

    Very well, but I can only speak from doing it myself, not with others, so it may not be relevant. But some of it might be.

    The thing about free improv is that it's free. That is, it defies traditional patterns. Possibly when omphalopsychos asks for ideas on musical phrases etc he may still be thinking traditionally. He may also, faced with the prospect of patternless playing, be thinking in terms of a certain safety net, which is fairly understandable given one has to play in public.

    One's brain is necessarily wired after years of playing to subliminally detect certain patterns and follow them. It can be quite suprising when your fingers just do something you hadn't been very conscious of - and it works.

    So if it's a matter of breaking that conditioning and playing without it, I can only think that probably the answer is listening. If one is completely with the sound and movement of the music is as it's actually taking place then what happens happens.

    Having done that quite a lot I can tell you that works. That very intense listening diminishes the habitual responses. BUT - that can also become a habit, playing without a pattern.

    I'm not completely sure that's a good thing, either. One may find it harder to get back into playing 'proper' music again. But you'd have to experiment with it to find out.

    I'd say just go out there and play. It's free improv so it doesn't matter. Let go and just try it. What more can you do?

  12. #72
    omphalopsychos

    I was just looking at some of Albert Ayler on YouTube. It's not entirely formless although it can become so.



    As I said to bako, I think you just have to let go and let the spirit move you, as it were. There's no 'way', you just have to do it.

  13. #73
    Quote Originally Posted by christianm77 View Post
    That's really interesting.

    When I listen to serial works I often feel there's a central tonality on any instrument

    Was it actually Schoenberg's aim to write music without a central tonality though? Did he say that was his goal or is it something that was attributed to him by others?
    I know that he disliked the term "atonal", preferring "pantonal" to describe his music.

  14. #74
    Quote Originally Posted by christianm77 View Post
    When I studied free improvisation with Keith Tippet briefly, he was keen to point out that it was possible for a small child with no musical training to make a valid contribution in free improvisation. I feel - like him - that's one of its strengths.

    BTW Tippet's improvisations (with his wife and other collaborators) I do actually really enjoy as a listener.

    Speaking of Keith Tippett, here's a rare appearance with King Crimson on Top of the Pops:


  15. #75
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    Some heavies.


  16. #76
    I love this thread! So many great artists and ways to make great free improv have been mentioned and talked about. I am surprised that this forum has so many real fans of the genre.

    I have had a funny relationship with the music over my life.

    I am really a rock guitarist that wants to play jazz and have chased the dragon for many many years.

    After a period of trying to be a good traditional player, I sort of threw up my hands and said, why do I train so hard to do something that feels unnatural to me. I was listening to lot of "free jazz", I love the energy and noise and sounds, and I thought why not get immersed in this type music. Never mind that nobody was doing it in my area or that it was hard to convince guys to go out on that limb and play with me, but for years I never played a tune or thought about chord progressions, just energy noise and sound. I took a lot of cues from Derek Bailey, Ornette Coleman, late Coletrane, John Zorn, and classical music like Elliott Carter and George Crumb. I made a lot great noise and attracted some fine friends to play fun music.

    Then I left that pursuit to start making rock music again, I made the best stab at a fun rock band with fun music, even recorded a good record at a nice studio. It was great. I even incorporated the free elements in this too, but it was composed for the most part.

    Then as that group dissolved, I realized I loved certain composers more than other, especially Monk. So for several years I learned his music, especially about 45 tunes that a trio I put together performed around town. I learned the backbone of bebop and really got excited about harmony and melody in jazz. Now I'm back slogging through books and learning bop tunes, deja vu!!

    But free has a special place in my life and the players that take it serious and make great music are just terrific.

    It just that I see both sides now, how to be free inside all the form and structure and how to knock down form and structure and still say something meaningful. I notice some players can work all of it, like Metheny, compose, straight ahead, free-ish, to all out mayhem. Thats talent and I give props to that kind of depth.

    I love finding unique players that breathe life into the music, some finds that turned my ear on guitar are

    Derek Bailey
    Sonny Sharrock
    Eugene Chadbourne
    Joe Morris
    Marc Ribot
    Mary Halvorson

  17. #77
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    I enjoyed cubistguitar's post. I have come across a few players over the years who have discovered Bebop via Free Jazz. There's been a bit of "learn to play properly first" rhetoric around even since I was a youngster but it didnt always sit right with me - and wasnt always based on anything other than a few generalisations.
    That someone hears the connection is reaffirming and makes me happy.
    The first time I heard John Gilmore play for instance was with the Jazz Messengers, but he had been with Sun Ra before that - that guy could play anything. Metheny - is much more of a hardcore jazzer now than he was 30-40 years ago when he was really exploring jazz ala Ornette (It's a personal thing but I know which era of PM I prefer). I heard Archie Shepp playing standards back in the 80's and loved it . The idea of a horse before the cart is never that simple in this music.
    Last edited by gator811; 09-19-2017 at 10:44 PM.
    "I thought I was in Heaven, but I was only up a tree"

  18. #78
    Quote Originally Posted by gator811 View Post
    I enjoyed cubistguitar's post. I have come across a few players over the years who have discovered Bebop via Free Jazz. There's been a bit of "learn to play properly first" rhetoric around even since I was a youngster but it didnt always sit right with me - and wasnt always based on anything other than a few generalisations.
    That someone hears the connection is reaffirming and makes me happy.
    The first time I heard John Gilmore play for instance was with the Jazz Messengers, but he had been with Sun Ra before that - that guy could play anything. Metheny - is much more of a hardcore jazzer now than he was 30-40 years ago when he was really exploring jazz ala Ornette (It's a personal thing but I know which era of PM I prefer). I heard Archie Shepp playing standards back in the 80's and loved it . The idea of a horse before the cart is never that simple in this music.
    I have never heard a free-er player than Thelonious, he is making the music in his head, having a blast doing it. Thats free to me. That he has a sophisticated harmonic sense is just mo' better, more sounds, more feelings. That has been a revelation to me, I want as full a toolbox as I can pack, so when I unpack it I dont just have one or two tools to work with. But when I first heard Monk I had so little in my bag, I was just confused and not capable of playing anything but the melodies and trying to make a solos based on bending those melodies. I did not fully understand playing the changes and especially not the way someone as accomplished as Monk did it.

    But foolishly I dove headfirst into noise blasting without all the skills I should have gathered, but that was where my head was at. Now as I gather those skills, I wait much longer to make that noise blast, its like another tool in the box. My head is older and the "fire in the petshop" is only going to work if it contrasts with melody and rhythm, like the way Threadgill makes such a heady stew that isn't traditional, but isn't a mess of uncoordinated blasting either, a genius that walk the free and composer line with ease. Improvised counterpoint is one of my favorite sounds to hear done well.

  19. #79
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    Threadgill makes such a heady stew that isn't traditional, but isn't a mess of uncoordinated blasting either, a genius that walk the free and composer line with ease. Improvised counterpoint is one of my favorite sounds to hear done well.
    Absolutely. A master - as all of those AACM guys are in their own ways. And Liberty Ellman's playing is another great example of that free/bop nexus IMO.
    It's been mentioned before, but I think its an affirmation that whatever "bop" is - the harmony specific and formal part of the syntax gets a lot of attention - whereas the syntactical elements of the melodic content and the rhythmic content in particular are really compelling - Ornette (and his band) captured it - so did Don Cherry, Archie Shepp, Dolphy et al.
    "I thought I was in Heaven, but I was only up a tree"

  20. #80

    Weekly sessions focusing on free improvisation in duo setting. Boston. All welcome

    Just as a public service announcement, anyone within reach of Boston and interested in playing with others and working on a free improvisational approach, language and chops, I've got a space close to Symphony Hall that I open the doors to for weekly hangs Tuesdays and Wednesday evenings.

    Here's information on that or you can PM me if you'd like.
    David

    The free improvisors group meets every week at Westland Music, located at 54B Westland Ave. That's right over there by Symphony Hall, and we're just below street level, so look down when you're on the street.
    Some FAQs
    What is Free Improvisation?
    This is playing without restriction on form. It's not formless, or random, but rather it's you using an instrument to control sound, form, line, direction, harmony if you choose, rhythm, in short, those elements of composition, but in real time. If you can make sound on your instrument, you can improvise.
    Do I need any experience?
    Absolutely not. As a matter of fact, this is a process of meeting those things that keep you from being a good composer/musician: Getting rid of habit playing. An open mind and open ears.
    The more you do it, the more natural you become with your voice.
    What do I need?
    Bring your instrument. I'm sorry, I don't have drums here nor am I set up for them, it's a quiet space and just about any other instrument is welcome. I have two electric pianos here, and amps for guitar and bass, and the space is good for voice (vocalists SO welcome!)
    How does it work?
    We have series of duos. You can discuss what you want to do, or you just begin the conversation. What comes out is made up of what you can imagine, what you hear from your duo partner and where you can go given all you know about yourself as a musician. And what you'll discover!Then what?
    After each duo, I will often ask the players, then the listeners what they thought. What you felt happened, what opportunities you discovered, what you missed in hindsight, and we all talk about what we heard being composed and what happened when. It's great for the ears, the creative voice and great for your sense of musical self.
    Who can attend?
    THese sessions are open to everyone. Just drop in. We often have Berklee students, Boston Con students, Mass art students, NEC students. It's very equal in the world of music.
    When do we meet

    Tuesdays are Free Improvisational sessions 6-8
    Wednesdays are the same format but often we will also work with song form, to practice fluency with our creative and artistic compositional abilities on a song form. Picture free form over the song form of Stella... or bitonal treatment of Days of Wine and Roses or any tune. It's free improvisation where the third player is the form.
    That's Wednesday 6-8

    Send me any questions you have, come see what we're about and come explore the music spirit you never meet in a classroom.

  21. #81
    Quote Originally Posted by ragman1 View Post
    The thing about free improv is that it's free. That is, it defies traditional patterns. Possibly when omphalopsychos asks for ideas on musical phrases etc he may still be thinking traditionally. He may also, faced with the prospect of patternless playing, be thinking in terms of a certain safety net, which is fairly understandable given one has to play in public.

    One's brain is necessarily wired after years of playing to subliminally detect certain patterns and follow them. It can be quite suprising when your fingers just do something you hadn't been very conscious of - and it works.

    I'd say just go out there and play. It's free improv so it doesn't matter.
    No.

    Hope that helps.

  22. #82
    Just to go back to the OP for a minute, Ayler's (wonderful) music does have some structure and plenty of outside influence to latch on to...Blues...spirituals...New Orleans street bands...I hear all of that. I'd start by picking up on the rhythmic inflections you want to express...the pitches aren't as important...
    Jeff Matz, Jazz Guitar:
    http://www.youtube.com/user/jeffreymatz

    "Of what use is a dream, if not a blueprint for courageous action?"

    --Adam West, as Batman, 1966.

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