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  1. #1

    Approaches To Free Improvisation?

    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?

  2. #2
    Nice. Where are you doing this?
    Free playing is a huge genre and the "rules" are largely determined by the people you're playing with. I have a free improvisational gathering once a week and the presence of tonality and meter is a part of the process as long as there's a reason for it. I've played some situations where that's not the case.
    Depending on the instrumentation, lines can be created with harmonic instruments that have a very different set of tension elements. For instance, the use of dyads gives you great control of consonance and dissonance. Once a third note is added, it creates harmonic implication that can lead to key area or harmonic juxtaposition and the tension therein.
    Keep in mind that Keith Jarrett's solo work and trio work includes a fair amount of free playing, as does Bill Frisell, but it's not the same space filling aesthetic as Cecil Taylor, Last Exit, Ayler or other "Fire in the petshop" free jazz that some associate with the name.

    Listen to recordings, and I'd say just immerse yourself in the experience on the first day. The music is, by nature a cooperative and evolutionary collective. The first notes will change you. Let those you play with be a part of that.



    Matthew Shipp also has some really nice interviews. I'll see if I can hunt them down when I have more time.
    Have fun and good luck!

    David

  3. #3
    You might want to check out Marc Ribot and Albert Ayler. Ayler has been a huge influence on Ribot and his playing, and Ribot openly acknowledges the influence. Ribot has produced some amazing work - the album "Spiritual Unity" has Ayler compositions that show the influence very well.

  4. #4
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    Julian Bream once asked why so much 12-tone music sounded on the guitar like it was in E minor... He had a point, in that the open strings run the risk of the spectre of E minor hovering over everything. That's why Derek Bailey started off with 12-tone composition (I know you've studied his Three Pieces) but then largely discarded it. However, I've noticed that he has his fav licks, and some of them can be traced back to his 3 Pieces - but bits that don't imply Em. The 12-tone technique gave him a chromatic language, chord clusters, etc, which he has used in subsequent "free" performances. Just a few thoughts.

  5. #5
    David,

    Always great to hear William Parker tell stories, he's done and seen so much.
    So when you suggest get out and play with people...............

    I bought my first guitar (Fender Jagaur) from Bronens Music in the Bronx, same shop as where he got his bass.
    He and I possibly overlapped at Jazzmobile because the same teachers were there although he's a few years older.

  6. #6
    I've posted this before, Barney Kessel with Bobby Hutcherson and Elvin Jones. Not exactly the New York Art Quartet but a lot more out than BK is usually known for. A good example of how the free thing can impact more conservative playing.


  7. #7

  8. #8
    David, please keep those comments and videos coming. It sounds like you have some experience improvising in this context. The dyad tip is very helpful. I don't know all the other musicians in the group but I guess I'll learn how we collectively navigate harmonic or non harmonic terrain together.

    Rob, that's right and I'll definitely be looking back to Bailey for inspiration. I've learned some ways to create clusters where they don't seem immediately feasible from Bailey by using harmonics. I remember you also had some experience in the genre from your playing in the 70s. Do you have anything to add about extended techniques or composers you recommend for inspiration? I've been drawing ideas lately from Toru Takemitsu.

    Robert, thanks for the recommendation. I bought and am listening to the ribot album as I write this. I'm impressed by the range of timbres he gets from his guitar. I recall in an interview that Pat Metheny lamented the limited dynamic range of the electric jazz guitar. Does anyone have a sense on technical advice for how to expand the range of my instrument? I think the mellow jazz tone will be slightly out of place in this setting.

    Jack thanks for the video lessons. The content is much more tonal than what I expect to play but I think there's a lot of valuable information on how to organize pitches. Looking forward to digging in further.


    thanks everyone for your input. I'll try to share my experience here in case others are interested. It definitely feels like I'm undergoing some sort of experiment.

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    Approaches To Free Improvisation?

    Quote Originally Posted by Rob MacKillop View Post
    Julian Bream once asked why so much 12-tone music sounded on the guitar like it was in E minor... He had a point, in that the open strings run the risk of the spectre of E minor hovering over everything. That's why Derek Bailey started off with 12-tone composition (I know you've studied his Three Pieces) but then largely discarded it. However, I've noticed that he has his fav licks, and some of them can be traced back to his 3 Pieces - but bits that don't imply Em. The 12-tone technique gave him a chromatic language, chord clusters, etc, which he has used in subsequent "free" performances. Just a few thoughts.
    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?
    Last edited by christianm77; 09-14-2017 at 06:03 AM.

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    Btw Bailey is kind of the Charlie Christian of free guitar. I know I tend to reference him when i do this type of stuff.

    Don't be limited by conventional sounds on the instrument. There's a lot you can do outside of playing notes.

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    Theres some analysis on Schoenberg's early orchestral pieces that more or less determines a central pedal point for each piece.
    I think Im programmed to hear a tonal centre and the 12 tones just 'enclose' around the tonality - but it begs the discussion about when chromaticism as heard becomes atonality. It probably differs from person to person.
    I still hear tonal stuff in Schoenberg from Verklarte Nacht to The Hanging Gardens. It's Webern who seems to successfully snuff out the pesky tonality.

    John Gallagher's book is a fantastic introduction for improvisors into tone rows

    John O'Gallagher - Book

    Don't be limited by conventional sounds on the instrument. There's a lot you can do outside of playing notes.
    Yep - one of the greatest things about playing 'free' is the opportunity to improvise/explore with sound/timbre.
    "I thought I was in Heaven, but I was only up a tree"

  12. The way i understand free jazz, it 's not about playing without form, but rather about being able to recognize, react and create form on the spot, whether it is melodic, harmonic, rhythmic, or all combined. I 've always found it extremely difficult to do decently, and for me a startup point would be, to be able to recognize most scales, progressions and rhythm structures by ear, and play along with them. A fun thing to do is record yourself playing for a few minutes, random stuff or stuff that's challenging for you to hear at the moment, and later play along with the recording, trying to figure out what you were doing. It's a great every day habit to have.
    Last edited by Alter; 09-14-2017 at 08:05 AM.

  13. #13
    "Anything goes"... whether it's jazz inside the tradition, or "free", it's how this idea is embraced, misunderstood, abused or dismissed by players and audience that colours the process. At a talk recently with Matthew Shipp and William Parker, they said they never like the term "Free Jazz", it's just music. The label and the genre mindset is what hurts the music and players in general don't identify with "jazz" because it was either reductionist or just culturally insulting. I learned so much from Archie Shepp and one thing he didn't allow was the term "jazz". That's so much a part of the attitude or philosophy of the music that's labeled "free jazz". It's ironic.
    More than anything, it was important to me to learn this music not as a type of music you can learn in a class with rules or grades, but as a process of discovery and development of a voice. That's where it came from. That's where it's going. That's what needs to be understood.



    David

  14. #14
    I gotta sound off

    Sorry I have tried to hear free improv music a few times
    Derek Bailey etc
    I just can't dig it ...
    I need the geography of a song form to know where
    my home is ...
    Like , you can go 'out' for a while , make beautiful shapes
    out of nothing but you've gotta come back to earth (the form)
    at some point ...
    At least I have to ....

    If you don't have a home , how do you know where you been
    when you went out ?

    If people dig it that's cool , I'm not saying don't do it ...
    I love all the spiritual ideas , searching , non-materialism ,
    and being free stuff , absolutely right , right-on ....

    All music is free
    Its just like this , to me , the tune is like the floor and
    gravity keeping the dancer on it

    If you take away the gravity and the floor from the dancer
    Yeah he could make some shapes in space for a while
    but after a while it would be like hmmm
    he's not moving anywhere geographically
    I mean he's not moving relative to anything else

    But I may well be wrong/just not got big enough ears/soul
    to dig it !
    Carry on

  15. #15
    OK I take it all back ....

    I was listening to all that stuff on the free guitar thread

    Some of that stuff is fabulous ...

    Pingu the shmuk

  16. #16
    All judgements aside, I'll turn to the original question and some very personal strategies in approaching an improvisational situation where the form isn't given. Understand that even this question is radically different from one players' collective to another. I happen to hold the idea of space as sacred; it informs about half of the critiques we discuss of our process. Other groups might value the expression of sonic texture and their sense of the purpose in music may include a different sense of space, so this is just one person's set of playing sense and group dynamic.

    For me, I strive for a sense of composition. A musical episode should have a sense of beginning, a sense of development (or change or transformation) and a sense of end. These should all reflect some sense of intention and draw upon the sum total of knowledge each player brings to the experience. So if you get in there and just hesitate, copy and mirror the ideas of others, stay on one figure, retreat into timid figures that have no ultimate goal, then sure, you are playing free, but your contribution is not using the musical potential that it can. But it also speaks to an inability to take initiative. That's the difference between a good experience and just treading water until the end. Of course in playing on a song form, like soloing on a standard, the form provides this arc for you so in some ways, you can avoid compositional initiative if you want.
    That's the obligation of form.

    Then there's line. Line is informed by choices of direction, of rhythm, of space, of texture, of tension, of release, of breath, of dynamics, of continuity, of motif, of sympatico... and that's just for starters. All these things are known on some level to the good soloist... because they're compositional tools. Yeah, you can cop licks and plug them into a song form but again, I'd say that has a different sense of line initiative than your potential holds.

    Now to your question of how to create tension, or line... well my strategy is to keep your ideas clear, focused and short to begin with. You might want to avoid jumping in and letting loose with all your best licks just to fill the space. If your ideas are short, or have something to work with in the way of rhythm, or a melody you can create variations and develop, then you've got a good start. Good ideas are also wasted if they're unrecognized, and priceless if you know what to do with two notes.
    In a non tonal situation, you're free to avoid tonality, or embrace it too. A triad followed by a chromatic note that leads to another triad creates tension of varying degrees depending on the implied key juxtaposition. If you're thinking "that's a lot to hear...on the fly!" Damn straight. That's why good improvisors spend so much time developing their ears, so they can see the potential (12 keys at once) in one note. This takes time and a life time's study. And it means don't tolerate BS even if you think you can get away with it.
    One note against one note: That's an interval. There is more tension in a minor 9th than in a perfect fifth. 12 combinations. Learn the value of each interval and use it. Practice lines of contrasting tight and loose tension, practice and get to know specific intervals. Lars Eklund's Modus Novus was a huge help for me in this. It is studies of compositional exercises designed to address intervals in atonal contexts but with beautiful sense of melody. The book kicks ass. That's intervallic line construction.
    You can also create lines from interval pairs. A major 7th followed by a perfect 4th will give you a certain chordal structure. Don't put them in a key, per say, but use them as structures that follow one another as harmonic units to be used for a sound. A 6th followed by a 2nd will have another "tool" you can use. Study these outside of a key context and develop your sonic vocabulary. Hey here's a neat one, use this technique to create compositional tension, rhythmicize it and you create the framework for playing "outside" in a tonal or song form situation. That's the idea behind some of Jerry Bergonzi's improvisational studies.

    There's tons more. Sequences, non harmonic sequences (I did a thread on this somewhere in the forum archives) and things like triads over bass notes. Chromatically.

    I can find something new that I like every time I pick up the instrument. Really. And you can build your lexicon the same way. These are just three of the very almost infinite strategies for line construction outside of a harmonic situation.

    You see why I said just do it with your class? You can't cram this stuff over night, and even if you came up with things you are partial to, it can all be rendered moot by a drummer or fellow ensemble member who has no sense of space. I was in a free ensemble at the music school I went to. Everyone was trying to play at once. Nobody was listening. Even one busy clueless player can cause a situation where it doesn't really matter if you're playing or not. That's musical bullying. SO easy to do when playing "free". That's why I work with the duo as the nuclear unit. A dyad and one note from another player and you've got a universe of options to go in. Then it's a test of your musical abilities to create something real.

    Does any of this help you or make any sense?

    Good luck. Be musical.

    David

  17. #17
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    Often a group that gets together to play free improv will discuss some concepts that might be useful as a guide. Free jazz tuba is like opium.

  18. #18
    Quote Originally Posted by ragman1 View Post
    (This is a copy of a post on another thread, rather than do two posts on the same thing. I want to provoke a discussion!)

    So when does it stop being pretentious and self-indulgent and start being music? Just plinking some sounds out is NOT music as far as I'm concerned. A chimpanzee can do that, or a computer, or a 2-year old.

    I'm quite sure I'm not being a dinosaur, stuck in tradition. I've done enough non-trad stuff to know. But I also know that a continuous diet of it would only satisfy an eccentric or a weirdo. The human brain/mind prefers orderliness, harmony, balance. Only the strange or abnormal brain does not. It's like continuous tension without the release - it's only the release that gives the tension meaning.

    As I said, I've done quite a bit of it but I know why. It's good sometimes to break away from the restrictions of set harmonies. But it's a release, a temporary freedom which isn't really freedom at all. Most people need to go out now and again and get plastered, get the water off the chest, and all that. But that's not the same as living that way or doing it over-frequently.

    I think the 'free' stuff has its place but I'm not sure what that place is, not as a serious art form, anyway. And not for very long.

    I do wish you'd discuss this!
    Bill Evans said "Freedom with responsibility"

  19. #19
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    A couple of more resources:



    A Listener's Guide to Free Improvisation
    by John Corbett

    A Listener's Guide to Free Improvisation: John Corbett: 9780226353807: Amazon.com: Books

  20. #20
    Quote Originally Posted by ragman1 View Post
    (This is a copy of a post on another thread, rather than do two posts on the same thing. I want to provoke a discussion!)

    So when does it stop being pretentious and self-indulgent and start being music? Just plinking some sounds out is NOT music as far as I'm concerned. A chimpanzee can do that, or a computer, or a 2-year old.



    I think the 'free' stuff has its place but I'm not sure what that place is, not as a serious art form, anyway. And not for very long.

    I do wish you'd discuss this!
    It's a point of perspective ragman1. For as long as there's been jazz, this very criticism has been a point of contention from the western classical camp: If you can play anything, it's not serious, it's indulgence or just plain bullshit. I've heard this. "When we play Chopin, or Bach, we have the notes and we know when you're playing something wrong. Jazz is full of wrong. Jazz is stupid."

    Of course the judgements of the outsider are full of ignorance until you can appreciate the internal structure that governs an artform (or social mores, or language...).

    When music is created on the spot, it can be a product of practice, knowledge, cooperation, shared inspiration and a meticulous use of an established lexicon, syntactical guidelines and semantic meaning, in other words it can be a codified language by which a group of musicians are communicating in a manner based on historical traditions and to a meaningful result. Or it can be indulgence, imitation, childish soundings or at best a search for formless catharsis. The difference is integrity of the creative form.

    Look at the history of this music "jazz". It came from a compositional and creative process that had a basis in the unwritten and taking place in the now. To many, that is called "illiterate" and pejoratively dismissable. But to the insider, the music shares the same considerations of contour, linear design, dynamics, rhythmic space, arc/architecture, motif, theme/variation, subject development, recapitulation, summation, beginning and end, not to mention nuance and inflexion that marks the western classical genre... save the real time creative frame.

    Now in the outsider's judgement, that is grounds for dismissal. But to Ellington, Monk, Brad Meldhau, Lennie Tristano, Wes, or Dave Leibman, thank goodness they didn't rely on the blessings of the establishment to write their own evolutionary rulebook. We call it jazz tradition, but they called it the music they made.

    "But how can it be jazz if it's not using a song I know to improvise on?"
    Song form has changed over the years. The earliest players used the popular forms of the days. We still hold them as the standards, but as time passed, some chose to augment that static model with contemporary and original composition. This formed another rift with tradition. But Tristano, Shorter, Andrew Hill, Nichols and so many contemporaries needed vehicles that allowed for an extended vocabulary of expression. Song form grew to accomodate new solo forms and it was reduced to create new time frames. So What? My Favourite Things. Greensleeves. They were evolutionary and revolutionary in their reductionist vehicles with greater weight on the solo development, an ever more complex compositional improvisation. Less on the page; more in the horn. The balance was shifting and again more dismissal from the outsiders.
    So we ask, what replaced the form of the soloing process if the song form got so simple? Internal composition. Listen to Coltrane. Listen to Jack DeJohnette's Gateway. Listen to Sonny Rollins. Simple forms, composition based in the greater decision set of the improvisor. Huge potential for bullshit. In the end, great music.

    The next logical step was the creation of the improvisation by people fluent in the traditions, but making the decision to change the course of the "vehicle" by consensus as a musical cooperative, where the SONGFORM itself is an extra player. Form is invited in on the same grounds as each player and like an invited player, it's reflective of the aggregate. "We" decide to be tonal, we're tonal. "We" decide to be soft for the moment, we are. "We" decide to be loud for the moment, and we are. But how often is loud taken out of context by the outsider and used as evidence of indulgence? How many of those who've judged, have even taken part in a performance by being in an audience where the entire arc of a piece, performed by players of integrity, took form to completion?
    Again, the judgement of the outsider to the rules.

    That's where the emergence of good and bad real time improvisation or composition has come to. Sure, lots of people feel really uncomfortable without tonal center, without song form, without recognizable melodic rendering, without a written score, without a concert hall... those are all judgements leveled by people who are not insiders to the Music.


    Finally, if you have a set of parameters and rules you live/play by, do you really need the justification and sanction of someone else to do what you know is true?

    David

  21. #21
    Quote Originally Posted by cosmic gumbo View Post
    Often a group that gets together to play free improv will discuss some concepts that might be useful as a guide. Free jazz tuba is like opium.
    Hey, where can I get a free jazz tuba of my own? And is shipping included?

    David

  22. #22
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    Thanks for that great post TruthHertz.

    I would reiterate that the 'rude' sounds of instruments were there at the outset of jazz - in New Orleans, and in the blues.
    The 'rude' sounds were around in baroque times too (a gut string violin is a less tameable beast than its modern counterpart) , and of course made their way into the modern orchestra via Berlioz, Debussy, Varese,Messaien, Ligeti, Xenakis and others...
    Sound is one of the great horizons of music - and I'm glad all bets are off.
    There's an almost absurd emphasis made on the value of composed music in the modern/post modern era - I dont like to make comparisons but for me, I would rather hear a band of improvisers coming up with something 'uncomposable' from their own nexus of musical desire and discipline , than listen to yet another algorithmically generated composition for orchestra that the composer themselves couldnt hear....
    Last edited by gator811; 09-15-2017 at 08:30 AM.
    "I thought I was in Heaven, but I was only up a tree"

  23. #23
    Quote Originally Posted by gator811 View Post
    The 'rude' sounds were around in baroque times too (a gut string violin is a less tameable beast than its modern counterpart) , and of course made their way into the modern orchestra via Berlioz, Debussy, Varese,Messaien, Ligeti, Xenakis and others...
    Sound is one of the great horizons of music - and I'm glad all bets are off.
    So reaffirming to see the joy in an open mind.
    I love your choice of composers. I'll add Ferheyhough and run for cover!
    By the way, Lucas Foss taught on the university level and encouraged free improvisation as an exercise in real time compositional skills. Reports were that results were extraordinary and quite reminiscent of remarkably good contemporary chamber music.
    I wish other institutions were so open minded.

    David


  24. #24
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    I wish other institutions were so open minded.
    Oh for sure. Dont get me started.
    "I thought I was in Heaven, but I was only up a tree"

  25. #25
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    There are many approaches that can be utilized
    Karl Berger: Freedom within structure
    Ornette Coleman: Composed Theme with free solos
    Bill Dixon: Freedom to do something rather than Freedom from something
    Sam Rivers: Spontaneous Creativity

  26. #26
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    Quote Originally Posted by TruthHertz View Post
    So reaffirming to see the joy in an open mind.
    I love your choice of composers. I'll add Ferheyhough and run for cover!
    By the way, Lucas Foss taught on the university level and encouraged free improvisation as an exercise in real time compositional skills. Reports were that results were extraordinary and quite reminiscent of remarkably good contemporary chamber music.
    I wish other institutions were so open minded.

    David

    Well isn't part of the reason why Ferneyhough is so mental and impossible looking that it creates a certain attitude and energy in the performer?

    The missus performed Ligeti Requiem, and after a few pages of narrow compass chromatics in odd groupings, the score basically goes 'sing this sort of thing.' The expectation is not accuracy but a general effect.

    Bonkers shit anyway.

    Earle Brown was into black oblongs, which were areas of improvisation, in scores.

    Stockhausen's text pieces are cool too. I have used those in workshops.

    I would recommend Derek Bailey's book Improvisation BTW.

  27. #27
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    BTW One of the first times I played free music I got told off for playing jazz.

    It's not jazz

    Free music is meant to be a space outside of classical, jazz etc.

    But if the aim is to play free jazz, might be different - pulse and jazz inflection can enter into things a bit more.

    TBH I enjoy doing free improvisation much more than listening to it. It's a great thing to do... Really opens up the musical imagination and the ears in a different way.

  28. #28
    I think I enjoy free "jazz" more than free music. I'll be honest and snobby, the players are of a much higher caliber.

    Although it's hard for me to articulate what exactly that is...sometimes the jazz elements are pretty far removed...but it's still jazz players...jazz player ears, communication.

    There's a free-noise scene here in Chicago. It's not for me. Mostly rock type volume, and I don't hear any real listening.
    Jeff Matz, Jazz Guitar:
    http://www.youtube.com/user/jeffreymatz

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  29. #29
    Ragman, thanks for also posting this here. I think David gave a fantastic response, but I'll add the little insight I can append.


    "The human ear favors consonance"


    I think you're indulging an argument that has been made against every new development in music since the 18th century (if not sooner). Your essentialist argument is comparable to stating that the admiration of Wagner is Unnatural. Perhaps there are a number of us engaging in unnatural activity, but I am not qualified to enter a discussion of metaphysics. What's interesting to me is that we can be be engaged by different sounds, whether "musical" or otherwise. Think of the sound of rain, or the sound (and memory) of waiting at a platform for a train. I think some of this free stuff, as well as the composed stuff by artists like Ligeti, Varese, Ferneyhough, Carter, to name a few, doesn't necessarily aim to dismiss harmony entirely. Instead it acknowledges that, just as there is a spectrum between harmonic consonance and harmonic dissonance, there is also a spectrum between harmonic sounds and non-harmonic sounds. Within that spectrum of sounds, there are different degrees of 'musical enjoyment' (if you want to call it that), I suppose, but there are also different respective ways to digest and engage with the sonic content. For this reason, playing harmonically consonant passages isn't precluded from free improvisation. In fact, many of the examples I posted on the other page (Jeff Parker, Bill Frisell) show artists engaging in an unconstrained interaction and choosing to contribute to harmonic dimension of the piece.

    In response to Christian and Jeff, that's a very interesting point. Much like in visual art of the 20th century, artists who wanted to highlight 'freedom' of form or concept used extremes of expression to emphasize the supposed freedom. I like to think there has been enough acceptance of new content to allow for the full spectrum and not just the extremes. When you are restricted by principle from ever playing in your dialect, it feels to me, that your freedom is inhibited. Maybe these are the same people ragman refers to as pretentious. I know many musicians in that camp. In fact, I lived with a composer who, when I told him about how I want to approach reharmonization of a standard, he responded (from his intellectual throne) "I am so done with harmony".

    Jeff, I know some of the guys you're talking about in Chicago, and I agree. But Chicago also is home to a great free jazz scene. In fact I'm going to be in town next weekend for the Hyde Park Jazz festival. Thought I'd put it on your radar if you're interested.
    Last edited by omphalopsychos; 09-15-2017 at 11:41 AM.

  30. #30
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    Quote Originally Posted by mr. beaumont View Post
    I think I enjoy free "jazz" more than free music. I'll be honest and snobby, the players are of a much higher caliber.

    Although it's hard for me to articulate what exactly that is...sometimes the jazz elements are pretty far removed...but it's still jazz players...jazz player ears, communication.

    There's a free-noise scene here in Chicago. It's not for me. Mostly rock type volume, and I don't hear any real listening.
    Definitely not the AACM though--- my only gripe is that can't really play Indian classical instruments well . Other than that, we are very lucky to have them here .

    Probably one of the best straightahead guitar players on the scene today, Russell Malone, went to go hear William Parker play last year and was very impressed. He made special mention of William's drummer, Hamid Drake , I don't know if he has ever seen him before, but he commented, " that hamid Drake, he is a very bad man ".

    As in completely badass.

    Russell Malone is a great player, and is nobodies fool. He knows what he's talking about.

    I always tell people, find me a better drummer and percussionist and Hamid, you could travel the world and not come up with a better drummer and percussionist . Why ?

    His ability to listen intensely and in the moment is off the charts. He is also one of the nicest people you could probably ever hope to meet.

    We are very lucky to have him here, even as he travels the world nonstop playing in Europe, Asia and New York.




    Hamid ----"One of my greatest lessons was with Don Cherry. I worked with him for quite some time. It was a concert in Paris - one of the first concerts I did with Don - with Don Cherry, Charlie Haden, myself, another percussionist called Adam Rudolph, another percussionist called Trilok Gurtu and this French saxophone player called Doudou Gouirand. It was right after living with Don in Sweden for five months. So we were playing this song, a composition, I was doing the rhythm and Don told us that the way we’re going to end it was that he was going to repeat – this thing that they have in Indian music called 'tihai' - it’s a phrase that you repeat three times and then you have the one that you stop. And the phrase was ‘’ta ti ta, ta ti ta, da digidi tun, da digidi tun, da digidi tun, ta ti ta, ta ti ta, da digidi tun, da digidi tun, da digidi tun, ta ti ta, ta ti ta, da digidi tun, da digidi tun, da digidi tun! And that was it; it stops. And I was playing the rhythm, really into it, and so Don starts playing, he sings the rhythm (‘ta ti da, …) and after that, the whole band stops except me. I was still playing. And then I realize that I was the only one still playing. So Don brings the group back in and we do it again and then we stop. And so, after that, at the end of concert, Don walks up to me and says ‘Yeah, Hamid, that’s beautiful man, I see you like to go in a trance sometimes. But it’s also good to listen’. That was all he said. When that happened, I became terrified, because I realized ‘wow, the whole group stopped and I was the only person that didn’t stop'; and you could tell it was a mistake on my part, you know? It wasn’t like ‘ok, I was doing this creative thing’. That was a big lesson for me.


    I learned a lot of things from Fred Anderson also, like how to approach drumming in a very melodic way, he turned me into that. The first group I was in with Fred it was Fred Anderson, myself, George Lewis, another saxophone played called Douglas Ewart, electric bass player Felix Blackman. And Fred was playing these compositions and I didn’t really know at the time how to really approach it. What he did was, he had me listen to Ed Blackwell, who became my favorite drummer and also one of my friends. So Fred said ‘listen to Ed Blackwell, because when he’s playing with Ornette Coleman, he would play the melody that the group was playing it, on the drums’. He always approached playing the front portion of the composition as though the drums were also like a melodic instrument. And that opened a whole door of possibilities for me. So that was a big lesson that Fred gave me. "
    Navdeep Singh.

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