Thanks for the comments last week. I’m feeling a lot better and I’ll be smiling again sometime this year!
I rehearsed with the HGT Trio today for our upcoming performance at the 21st-Century Schizoid Series at the Cornelia Street Café this Monday. The group consists of alto saxophone, 6-string upright bass, and drum set. We’ll be playing a set of music where all of our instruments are electronically enhanced and another set without electronic alteration (except to amplify the bass). The two sets are through-composed, but mostly improvised. We ran into an interesting problem, easily solved, but one I’d like to share.
We’ve been playing as a group for about a year and at first we created very long pieces that morphed from one idea to the next, but a decision was made early on to work on shorter pieces that focus on a single idea with the goal of presenting something palatable to a broader audience than just ourselves. This agenda allows us to play well-known pieces as well as free improvisations in our new home base at the Queen’s Vic (Wednesdays at 8pm) without putting off the jazz “purists” who are regulars there. But for Cornelia Street, we didn’t want to come in playing like it was a “jazz gig,” so I put together two 9-movement pieces, or sets, that only specify instrument combinations and a very general tempo assignment during tutti sections.
The problem came when we rehearsed the acoustic set, with no electronic alterations other than amplification of the instruments’ natural sound. Because we’ve been playing almost exclusively with electronic signal processing, we found ourselves at a loss for what to do. But on the second run-through, we were playing in ways we hadn’t before. I liken it to how, when you practice an instrument that isn’t your primary instrument for an extended period of time, and then return to your primary instrument, new ideas emerge that would have never come about if all you played was your primary instrument. Only it happened as a group.
Has anyone else had this kind of experience? I’d like to hear about it and how you think it works.