Jam sessions- the mad scientist at the threshold

I just got back from a bad jam session. I didn't have any gigs this weekend so I wanted to play a little. It was at one of those clubs that is so smoky that you have to leave your clothes on the porch when you get home and run straight to the shower. For some reason I thought that it was going to be good. As I unpacked my horn a saw that there was a conga player sitting in on just about every tune, no matter what style. He had but a single evil conga drum and he knew how to instantly destroy any groove with it. Even without Dr.Chaos on the conga, the band wasn't locking up. I wondered why I torture myself over and over again. Why do I think that it is easier to go out to a shitty session than to call guys over to my house to play? Laziness of course. An evening of Aebersold would have been more productive. I feel so empty after a playing experience like that. I rationalize to myself that jam sessions are a good place to experiment with new concepts. I did plenty of experimenting there tonight. I was working on my chromatic concept all evening. Because in my mind the music was already sucking I went ahead with some major research.

Here were the parameters of my experiment:
  • Don't try to gravitate to any note just because it is consonant
  • Don't think about what the changes actually are, ignore them as much as possible
  • Dissonance needs no resolution unless it happens totally by chance
  • The longer dissonance can be maintained the better
  • Odd groupings of notes should be used to destroy a sense of bar lines
  • Strange shapes should be the rule
  • Try to hear the next note, it can be anything
Hey, Call Steve Colman I just discovered M-Base!

If you don't make a point to practice giving up rational control and turning it over to your ears then it will never happen on it's own. Don't wait for a modern modal tune to practice navigating in the ozone, do it on a Blues or Stella. It takes a conscious decision let the reigns go. It is a different mode of thinking altogether and a very definite shift needs to happen when the rational mind takes a holiday and the reactive ears dictate. Of course you can't give a shit what other people are thinking of your playing if you want to do this. Usually we only go out to the outer realms when we go all the way 'outside'. It's rare for a player to be able to drift back and forth between these two modes, from the dream state to waking consciousness and back.

Think about that time when you are on the sofa fighting off a full nap while watching TV. First the words coming from the TV are making sense, then all of a sudden the words do not have a strict meaning, they are only tones carrying emotion. These tones may also connect with images or the may bring images into being. Even the images that start to form in your mind do not have a particular meaning. They may have emotional content but they are not related to anything solid. Then all of a sudden you wake up a little and the words lose their abstract quality. Now they are talking about beauty pageants for young girls or how to fry a turkey. The words were so much more artistic and beautiful when they were drawing images out of the unseen and across the threshold of your consciousness.

Music can drift across this threshold of abstraction too. First every note is related in some way to the the chords, then each note may or may not have direct relation to the harmony. It is a shift into an abstract realm that is like the moment when you drift off to sleep. You can of course wake yourself up at anytime and enter back into to chord/scale universe, but isn't it nice just to drift off a little.

If I was going to totally take it totally outside I'd just go to bed and take a full siesta and dream about Albert Ayler or Archie Schepp. Instead, I'll just recline here on the couch with the TV on and pretend that I'm awake, sliding effortlessly between Bebop and clouds that look like farm animals.

1 comment:

Unknown said...

very good dear friend, really good