People think that free-jazz/free-improvisation is self-indulgent. I agree – but I think it misses the point. A virtuoso (Lang Lang banging away at Rachmaninov) is self-indulgent too. He indulges the worst features of a performer and the basest desires of the audience. Everyone might as well have gone to the circus and watched the trapeze act.
But free-jazz/free-improvisation indulges one person’s pure musicality against another person’s pure musicality. If an audience wants to be there, to hear the music and to hear connection, they are welcome. But the music does not depend on an audience – all that is needed are two players and the will to play.
I do most of my music making at home, alone. I overdub, cut and paste, pretend I can play the accordion and hopefully at the end of an afternoon I may have a track that sounds nice. But I long for the interaction that continually draws me to listen to free music.
This week I met with an old acquaintance who has an interest in free music and plays the drums. Here is a snippet of what we did:
I also made some recordings of myself playing the drums. And when I had some time later on in the week I put a bass vamp over the drums and did my best Cecil Taylor imitation over top of them:
I’m quite pleased with my piano playing on this. The piano is my favourite instrument, but I think it is the instrument I’m worst at. Practicing the piano is a very public thing to do and when the only material you have to play is what is inside of you, that’s hard.
The piano is also the hardest instrument to mic – but with the aid of my handy new Zoom Handy Recorder H2 I have actually been able to record some good piano sounds.
This also lacks the visceral punch of music played in the moment by a group of people. One day I might just have the balls to start a piano trio.
I know it’s self-indulgent to put seven minutes of yourself free-improvising on your music blog. But I have over 30 minutes of recordings of drums-saxophone duets, so I don’t think I was as indulgent as I could have been.
(The wonderful drums on the duet are played by Matthew Dunn.)