Solo improvisations - a 1-month reflection

Sometime in the last few days I hit the 4-week mark of having done a 10 minute solo improvisation every day, and with only one or two exceptions in the morning fairly soon after waking up.

I've been improvising for over 10 years, first on keyboards and then on accordion as it became my primary instrument. But improvising solo had never been a huge priority for me - I had done it as a way to assist in composition, or sporadically to prepare for gigs where improvisation was a primary focus. In performing, I had always done it groups - first with various configurations of the New Haven Improvisers Collective, and then primarily with Broadcloth, as well as various duo and trio configurations with folks in New Haven and New York City. I've learned a lot from these experiences, but always had a certain frustration in not always being perceptive in the moment of what was good improvising - what in my playing enabled the type of interplay and dialogue that I value most as a listener and consumer of improvised music.

So I started working on a solo set around March of 2014, trying to see what, if anything, I could learn about my improvising when I didn't have other people to play off of. I learned a lot from the first performance of that material and the week or so of work leading up to that date, most notably that in many cases I had a vocabulary more than I had a language - a lot of techniques and approaches that worked well on the accordion, but were in many cases bound to certain contexts and approaches, rather than being able to be fluidly spoken, understood and reacted to.  Between then and now, I've had the chance to perform that material on two other occasions, and having the chance to revisit it has given me a solid marker on which to judge some of my progress in that regard - even as this awareness started working its way into my practice, into my solo An Historic sets, and all around my consciousness. The goal was very clearly to discover how to respond to myself as well as I sometimes responded to others - when to push, when to pull, when to allow heart or head to take the lead interchangeably, and how to be aware of time and shape while I was playing.

So this practice of daily improvisations has helped in trying to increase my awareness of all these things both as a solo performer and as a group improviser. The collaborative playing I've done since beginning this practice seems to have benefited from it as much as my solo playing has - both in playing with new people (like Friday 2/27 at XFest) or with long-time collaborators.

I've been uploading two of these a week (what I consider the best of them) to my Bandcamp page as a subscriber bonus. Here is an 'outtake' from the practice, not one of the two uploaded this week, to give some idea of what I'm talking about:

The other motivation for this practice of daily improvisations has been to gear up for the recording of this material that first took shape about a year ago. The plans are slowly coming together, and I'm excited to talk more about that in the future.

If any of this means anything to you, I ask that you consider subscribing - not only because you'll have exclusive access to these improvisations, but also because you'll help me be able to afford a proper recording and release of this material. Thanks for reading!

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