How spontaneous or worked out are your improvisations? Tony Trischka

Tony TrischkaPhoto by Don Fisher, courtesy Rounder Records My improvisations take a number of forms. If I’m soloing on a traditional bluegrass tune, I’ll try to stick to the melody as closely as possible. Sometimes I’ll do something that John Hartford (great banjoist and fiddler and composer of “Gentle on my Mind”) suggested to me: […]

New Music and DVD-Audio: A Marriage Built to Last?

Immersion DVD [Author's note: When I first got my hands on Immersion, the new DVD-Audio from the Colorado-based Starkland, I was disappointed to find that there was no accompanying movie. After I missed the mark in last month’s SoundTracks column, Steve Smith, the classical music columnist at Billboard, was kind enough to drag me over […]

How spontaneous or worked out are your improvisations? David Krakauer

David KrakauerPhoto by Bogdan Krezel, courtesy Aleba Gartner Improvising in Klezmer Music falls basically into two categories. One is the ornamenting of set (traditional or original) melodies. The other is improvising in an open, rhapsodic form—most often the "doina" (a kind of cross between a Rumanian shepherd’s song and cantorial singing). In both instances there […]

Commissioning Consortia: Banding Together in the Name of New Music

Russell Peck What’s the only thing better than a performance of a new piece by an American composer? Two performances. And even better – two performances by two different ensembles. How about up to three performances by forty ensembles? That’s what’s happening with Russell Peck’s timpani concerto, Harmonic Rhythm, commissioned by a consortium of more […]

The Jazz Composers Collective on Creating and Performing

Photo by Lourdes Delgado February 8, 2001 at The Jazz Standard, NYC Members: Ben Allison Frank Kimbrough Ted Nash Michael Blake Ron Horton with Frank J. Oteri Conversation transcribed by Karyn Joaquino Precedents for the Collective Mutual Influence Ken Burns What is Jazz? Jazz Composition Herbie Nichols Reactions to Other People’s Interpretations Rights and Wrongs […]

How spontaneous or worked out are your improvisations?

Regina Carter“…If you try to do the same thing again, you wind up sounding forced and then it’s not improvisation anymore…” David Krakauer“…each improvisation develops a certain "worked out" quality that comes from the effort to achieve an emotional arc within a particular piece…” Tony Trischka“…I’ll often let my fingers lead my brain. In other […]

Soundtracks: March 2001

It’s a funny thing how our weaknesses work, sometimes. My improvising abilities are pitiful – put something down on paper, I’ll play it, but ask me to make it up, and I’m just reading the inside of my eyeballs. The good aspect of the situation is this: I stand in awe of composer-performers who improvise. […]

More Than a Coin Toss: Improvisation vs. Composition in Jazz

Howard MandelPhoto by Melissa Richard Improvisation and composition are two sides of one coin alloyed in the medium of form. At least it’s how it is in jazz — though maybe a coin is too static an image for anything so dynamic as music or so fluid as the relationship of improvisation and composition. Not […]