There was a musician who loved sorting through their habits and later played at avoiding them. Their favourite personal contributions were whatever didn’t sound like them. This frustrated many people who wanted to hear them play things they originally liked. They wrote pissed off letters or showed up to their gigs to complain. Critics wrote negatively about how much they didn’t sound like who they were before. So they changed their name.
Used to drive on the left and faster than the pack but experience altered me. Now the slow lane, no guarantee but better odds for longevity. Hard to not play fast when you know how to play fast, it often impresses everyone, except maybe you. Sitting with Jonnie Bakan yesterday discussing his thesis about cafe culture and Harlem and how politics and music intersect and that other more important school he graduated from, Freddie Stone school. He directed me towards spicey books I now need to eat: Adorno, Attali, Denning. Left music school in the 80s because of how much money I owed from having a student loan and what to do with my relationship to the piano. There is no substantial audience for what I’m drawn to do, freely improvised music, might as well pack it in rethink what to do with life and then I met John Oswald. Sometimes you have imaginary ideas about someone when you meet them. He hosted a jam session of improvisers in the back room of the Cameron and invited me to come. I agreed but internally imagined he wouldn’t be up to my speed. Turns out I was the inferior one. Lucky about Blue Rodeo but luckier to befriend John. Those years I played with him every Saturday afternoon I could, often just us. Loved our molecules smashing round the space while trying to keep up, the free draft beer from Herb, Handsome Ned painting bandanas in the other room, an audience of maybe 2 people and other guest musicians. Changed my driving, golden lessons.
In the improvising world you work at listening (which changes what passes for thought). The extent to which you continue thinking is proportional to what is accomplished musically. That probably a big part of the draw for those who can’t stop, relief from ping pong of ordinary thinking. When is the bus going to arrive, what’s the forecast, what kind of wallpaper should we get, I need a new shirt, what’s for dinner. And anyone can get that by just tuning into experiencing all sound unfolding with the same attention they might give when meditation leaders tell people to just concentrate on their breath, in and out and let the thoughts just come and go like the current of a river. The attention of not being off in a fantasy but experiencing now-ness.