Jazz improvisation — especially free improvisation — happens as a deep, intimate connection of communication between its players. Improvisers feel what the others are feeling through intuition, inflection, tone, harmony, melody, tempo, facial expression, body language, and many other microscopic untraceable nuances. It happens in the moment — the shared moment — in a shared space and time.
The year 2020 brought to our population an unexpected and unprecedented level of isolation. For musicians, this meant that gigs were canceled, tours were scrapped, and recording sessions were indefinitely postponed. Musicians were suddenly unable to even co-locate to rehearse or collaborate. This new global constraint made the aforementioned constraints around improvisation obsolete.
Some musical genres lend themselves well to long periods of social isolation. Composers can sit alone writing, revising, and even listening to some soulless rendition of their work played by a computer. Electronic music creators typically work on computers, possibly collaborating with others from across the world.
The worst possible fit for social isolation in music is improvised jazz. But, the people of the world didn’t just stop talking to each other because of imposed social isolation, so we decided to try to keep talking musically.
Our first experiment started as the result of a conversation between Chad Fowler and Joel Futterman. Joel and Chad both live in, for most avant-garde jazz fans, would be considered perpetually socially isolated locations. Small towns in the South. In a phone conversation about how to further develop the art of free improvisation while alone, Joel suggested putting on “simulated concerts” at home along with existing records. Joel sent Chad a copy of his solo piano CD Pathways to play along with.
Chad recorded one of these simulated concert practice sessions to send to Joel. Having recorded into multi-track recording software, Chad decided to do an experiment. He sent his saxophone track, minus the original piano recording, to a friend to record a guitar track on. Then he sent that to another friend. Then to another. (One of these was WC Anderson). The final result was surprising. It’s beautiful, reactive, improvised jazz music. The performers seemed to be anticipating each other’s moves, and reacting to each other in real time. All this with the now-tacit influence of an original piece, no longer audible but still present in the essence of the music.
It was beautiful creative music. Why not make more? Chad and WC started recording short pieces for each other to “react” to. With the completion of each new piece, came the inevitable surprise — even elation — over what had happened when the two came together. What starts with just a solo saxophone or a solitary drummer comes together to transform into, as the overused saying goes, more than the sum of its parts. Over the course of a couple of months, an entire record formed.
Below, we list all of the tracks and which instrument formed the source material (i.e. who went first). But, we invite you to play a game with this. Listen and see if you can guess. In fact, see if you forget this is two people geographically separate who didn’t even do so much as talk on the phone once during the recording of these pieces. We think you might. We often forget this is even us when we listen.
With this record we hope to bring you some strange mix of the feelings of isolation, anxiety, anger, fear, and — most important — joy. What started as a heretical experiment, creating music that can only be created in person in the moment with real time communication, asynchronously with only one direction of true interaction. There are no rules in free jazz, but we were pretty sure we were breaking the rules anyway.
Chad Fowler - saxophones
WC Anderson - Percussion
Marc Franklin - Engineering
Jim Clouse - Engineering & Mastering
WC Anderson - Art & Design