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Dustin LindenSmith

father | musician | writer

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I had a really good time last night. A local producer and free-jazz afficionado (sp?) hosted an evening of improvisatory music at a local art café and social club. His idea was quite creative: he invited 9 other musicians apart from himself to form 5 duos who would perform sequentially throughout the evening. There was a twist, though: none of us knew whom we would be playing with until we arrived.

I arrived partway through the second set, which was a duo with a jazz guitarist whom I've played with several times and a latin percussionist whom I'd never seen before. They were pretty good, but I thought the next duo was the best. They were comprised of the host of the evening on tenor sax, along with another jazz guitarist I've only seen a couple of times who teaches at a university outside of town. Those two hadn't even met each other before last night, but they had an incredible synchronicity that made that fact hard to believe. They really sounded as though they had been playing together for years - it was a treat to listen to them.

I was next, also on tenor sax, and I was paired with a female baritone sax player whom I've played with about 5 times in the past five years, but always in the context of a 10- or 12-piece band. She and I get along well together, but we'd never done anything like this together before. Actually, last night was the first time I've ever done anything like this. It was quite an experience.

We didn't discuss anything about what we'd play before we started playing. We played three pieces, but we reached the climax of our exchange in the second piece. That one was fun - we called it "New Baby," and started it with a pleasant little frolic, like something out of a Disney movie. We became progressively more excited as we continued playing, and reached a frenetic climax near the end of the piece, during which we were both kind of yelling at each other in bursts, as if we were two kids throwing a tantrum about something - it was totally fun. We calmed down shortly after that, wiping away the tears, as it were, and finished our 30-odd minute set with a funky kind of blues with a very elastic form and tonality.

I found the experience to be quite rewarding in the richness of the exchange I shared with Dawn, my compatriot for the evening. One of the things that always drew me to jazz was the spontaneous yet understandable discussion that can be shared with a group of people in a band, speaking a language made up entirely of melodies and harmonies instead of words. When playing with sensitive and intuitive musicians, you can actually feel a tangible sense of exchange; that is, the exchange of phrases, the listening to one musician and the response to another, etc. Like a good conversation, jazz improvisation can be a very stimulating way to exchange ideas; or at the very least, to pass some time.

I have two more gigs coming up next week in more traditional settings, each with a traditional jazz quartet. One of those shows will be providing background music for an evening event at a conference for Optometrists, but the other will be a regular gig in a nightclub. I plan to take some of the spirit of last night's performance with me to that nightclub gig - I'm normally a lot more reserved in those settings, and I'm sure I could stand to mix it up a little more than I usually do. We'll see what happens when it happens.

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eatingart November 17th, 2001
WOW, that is so very cool. I have got to try that with our group when we get together with another group of drummers. And wow again because you did that during a performance.

iamom November 17th, 2001
Yeah, it was a gas. I totally want to do it again.

Do you play the drums?


eatingart November 17th, 2001
I play West African and Cuban rhythms. Have been playing for two years and believe it's coming along very nicely.

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