Tuesday, June 19, 2007

Quo Vadimus?

When I first discovered the community of free improvisers about 15 years ago I was shocked to find how divided they were into little camps. There seemed to be about a dozen distinct attitudes or approaches among free players in New York. Some of these methodologies were conciously decided on by the musicians, while others simply seemed to naturally find their place without much overt dogma attached. I was a young man of 25, burning with enthusiasm, and wanting to try everything. Being a bass player, it was relatively easy for me to mix in with nearly every clique. Somebody always needs a bass player. To me all of it was interesting, and I didn't want to choose a direction. I saw a useful purpose in pursuing everything that free improvisation offered. The divisions struck me as being largely about function. Whether to preserve old roles of line and accompaniment, comping and soloing, time or implied pulse, or no pulse at all? My own preference is to be involved in a music where everything is available. I don't want to be forced to play traditional bass function, nor do I want it to be dogmatically prohibited. I want the group music to lead me, and to use my taste and cooperation to decide what kindof contribution to make.

Models used to be very easy for me to come by. I obsessed on the bass playing of Mark Dresser, William Parker, Barry Guy, Joelle Leandre, Peter Kowald, Barre Phillips,and dozens of others. Nowadays though I don't see models for the way I want to play. I hear in my head, and feel in my imagination a way of playing, and a world of sounds that I don't hear anyone making on the bass. I get pretty close to it sometimes in my own playing, closer all the time, but I'm not there yet. I still have my heroes, to be sure, but what I want to do is no longer represented by their output. This realization has been frightening and lonely to me, while at the same time I feel like it's a good sign that I am moving towards making my own contribution, which really is the goal, right?

I would like to mention though how much I am enjoying checking out the many projects of Swiss bassist Christian Weber. I discovered him when I went to Downtown Music Gallery looking for some recordings by saxophonist Bertrand Denzler, who I had met and spent time hanging out with in Seattle. All I found that time was the fine Momentum 3 recording on Leo, and the group included Christian Weber, and his amazing percussionist friend Christian Wolfarth. Their playing on that CD was a real eye opener for me, and I thought about it a lot as I got ready to record my quartet record, FUGITIVE PIECES. I feel a real kinship with Weber, although we have never met. We have several mutual friends, and operate in a similar blend of projects, from idiomatic free jazz to minimalist sound improv, and I am in love with his sound. Recently I had some credit to spend at DMG, so I picked up several recordings of Christian's including his HatArt recording, "3 Suits & A Violin," and the Mersault CD on Quakebasket, and they're both completely brilliant. Meanwhile, I continue to re-examine my own work and try to answer the question: "where are we going?"


Janet said...

You're in uncharted territory? Excellent. Keep going. :)

Reuben Radding said...

Hah. I hope so. Time will tell...