The timing was right–I happened to be in Berkeley working on a project when my brother, Vincent, had an upcoming performance. Vince has been studying jazz guitar for about 3 years and he performs with 2 different groups. I was excited to see him perform, of course. Here’s our text conversation before my trip:
ViL: X (name redacted!) in this group likes to play faster than I can keep up with and people are not really on the same page all the time so it’s a challenge trying to figure out something to play and dealing with the unexpected. But hey that’s jazz.
VyL: Yes, out of the messiness and unpredictability can come great moments. It’s also very much about creating in the moment with what you have: Improv.
ViL: Sometimes Y drops a bar, Z and A rush the beat, I get lost in the form…it can get ugly. Just setting expectations. And seems like everyone can only play at one volume…11.
That’s the thing about live performances and improv. The risk is imperfection, bloopers that can’t be edited out, experiments that don’t work out. There are no filters and special angles, no second takes and zooming out. Improv in any art form is visceral. It requires guts, nerves and a heart open to connecting with the audience.
Vince was trying to “set expectations” but my expectations were already set. The excitement of a live performance and improv is that anything can happen. I watch these events like wrestling matches between order and entropy and bite my nails. Yes, it can be unexpected and it can get ugly but that’s sooooo much better than never letting the music out!