Tuesday, December 11, 2007

the three ages of jazz pt. 0: middle age

free jazz central

This gig was, well, not exactly hard work, but it definitely wasn’t effortless. Fun and educational, but it kept me on my toes.
Just before we start, I confessed to JS (the other guitarist) that it’s been about ten years since I shared the stage with another guitarist. Before the gig, I’d expected that impressing (or at least not pissing-off) the elders (one of whom a friend referred to, half-tongue-in-cheek, as a ‘giant’) in the ensemble would be my main concern, but by the end of the first set, I’m surprised as anyone that just about all I was worried about was staying out of the other guitarist’s way.
Actually, that’s pretty much sums up my tactic for the evening (and, I believe, JS’ as well).
Electric guitars are mid-range heavy. That’s fine in that ’bop setting in which the ride fills up the top end, fine in ’metal where the mid’s scooped out, but in this drummer-less improv setting, JS and I are in danger of creating an oppressive sound (especially as neither the horns nor the bass are going to add much above a few kHz).
After the gig, MH (who was there listening) tells me that all guitarists seem to have a love-hate relationship with their instrument. I respond that I love the physical/physiological relationship with the guitar—not every instrument rests against (hugs) your body while allowing for more-or-less full mobility of your arms—but the ‘sound’ (the raw audio content), well, that’s the problem; it just doesn’t always sit very well in an ensemble.
By the beginning of the second set, both JS and I feel like we’re running out of ideas. Between, Arto, Berne, Bill, Derek and Fred, say… or Annette and Keith… or Jimi, David and Sonny… isn’t that pretty much the scope of improvising guitar(ists)? What I mean by that is, as far as breeds of latter-day improvisers go, electric guitarist have a relatively small pool of models. At one point JS plays something, and I think, wait, I could do that too. I stop myself; it’s tempting, but I don’t think I would have been adding anything to the mix by aping JS doing a pseudo-Derek.

By the way, how’s this for the economics of free jazz: I sold a few CDs, but gave away just as many. Conclusion: it’s a good thing I’m not an accountant.

After the gig, a few of us journey on to witness jazz’s adolescent stage…

1 comment:

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