Black House

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Drew Williams

As someone who composes a lot, I've spent way too much time thinking about this. I've been studying with Ralph Alessi and he is really into the idea that all of the REALLY good shit comes from improvisation. If it's done right, improvisation should be risky! I doesn't always pay off but when it does the reward is much greater.

I've taken something else from this point. Some composers write really specific material for everyone while others leave more room for players to do what they hear. Most of the time, the music where there is more space is just as good, if not better. In other words, if you set up a scenario where everyone is allowed to trust their instincts and be themselves, the music will sound as good or better then what you would have written.

Here's a good example. A few months ago, John Hollenbeck put out a record that features poetry and singing called "What is the Beautiful?" that I'm obsessed with. John Hollenbeck composes as much as any jazz composer on the scene right now. Almost every single detail on this record feels written composed. It's a really incredible record. Right as I was getting into it, I had the chance to see Ralph Alessi's band Modular Theater which also features poetry except that in this group almost everything is improvised. They are playing compositions but everything is fair game and it was just as interesting as the music that was completley composed. What made it even more interesting was the fact that if you heard the group the next night, all of those tunes would sound completely different.

Of course, this only really works if you are playing with the right musicians. When you are playing with real creative improvisers who are willing to let everything go and take the music to different places, that's when the music benefits from improvisation. If you aren't playing with those people, then improvisation doesn't do that much for anybody.

I'm not sure if any of what I am saying makes any sense. Don't get the impression that I have any of this figured out at all. I've been spending a lot of time thinking about this lately and had some thoughts to share. Thanks for playing creative music in KC! Hopefully someday I can come back and be a part of your organization!

-Drew Williams


I think what draws people is the familiarity. fans respect and follow new and interesting bands as much as they a new and exciting composer. There is a comfort in knowing what's coming next. I was at that show as well, and for being someone who may have heard their music only a handful more times than you, I also noticed that they sounded a lot like the recorded material. They seemed to pride themselves on the fact that they could re create the album and allow a. very subtle space for embellishment. I'd say it was a great show minus the fact that all of their songs were on the same key and the lead singer was pretty stoic. If they could play like they did on the encore, then I'd probably want to see them again.

Joe Klopus

All music begins as improvised music. The false idol might be composition.


i think its more imposition than comprovisation.

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