Why Improvise? Why not? Or, perhaps i should start by clarifying some terms and concepts. “Improvise” and “Improvised Music” – with capital ‘I’ – are not the same as “playing over changes” or “shredding”. To “improvise” in the context of “Jazz” means to apply specific melodic/harmonic formulae to chord or static set of chord changes under strictly prescribed conditions that the soloist AND ensemble are required to maintain. I play “Free Jazz” – Jazz free of these rules and restrictions. So, what is Jazz? Jazz is a spirit. You know it when you hear it, don’t you? It’s that silver thread that connects Louis Armstrong to Albert Ayler. It’s the sonic impression of our history, our culture. I heard Jazz in my father’s voice before I learned to speak and felt it in my mother’s gait as she carried me to and from my crib. Jazz is the essence of – not the method of – the music. To play Free Jazz is to explore that essence and in so doing reveal the soul of a people.
Why? Because freedom is vital to the human spirit.
To Improvise is to return to our original source of joy. Children take great pleasure in spontaneous creation. We do not stop playing because we grow old – we grow old because we stop playing. A better name for the music I play would be “Free Joy”. The final Psalm says it all. I always thought that this being the last of the Psalms was no accident:
Praise the Lord!
Praise God in his Temple; praise him in his mighty heaven.
Praise him for his strength; praise him for his greatness.
Praise him with trumpet blasts; praise him with harps and lyres.
Praise him with tambourines and dancing; praise him with stringed instruments and flutes.
Praise him with loud cymbals; praise him with crashing cymbals.
Let everything that breathes praise the Lord.
Praise the Lord! (Psalm 150:1-6 NCV)