Wednesday, March 30, 2011

The Slow Burn

Today I'm posting up a track from August 27th 2010 at Canterbury House, the day before the concert that Matt Endahl and Tim Cohen's duet came from.  For your listening pleasure:

Gary Prince (gtr) Matt Endahl (pno) Tim Cohen (drms)
Canterbury House 8.27.10

Gary Matt Tim Guitar Feature 8.27 by Gary Prince

Obviously I'm making up for the lack of guitar on Sunday's track by posting something extremely guitar centric tonight.  This piece is a free improvisation, and comes from the beginning of our session.  The section which comprises this track actually starts about 12 minutes into the first improvisation, and comes after a very dense section of atonality, a little bit of which I've left in for context.  It's worth noting Matt had been playing that same piano figure for at least two minutes before it ultimately emerged from the chaos.

Though this track is perhaps atypical, for us, in its adherence to conventional forms and instrumental roles, it should be remembered that playing free doesn't mean not playing conventionally.  It means not being required to play conventionally.

If you listen closely you can easily hear the amplified piano, particularly at the beginning, manifested as what I hear to be a kind of 'shimmer' surrounding the sound of the acoustic piano.  I'm playing my Ibanez Artcore AS83-VLS through Matt's Fender Hot Rod Deluxe.  A large part of my sound here comes from using my wah pedal, a Crybaby Classic.  I remained on a clean sound for much longer than I normally might, mostly because Matt didn't have a channel selector footswitch (used to shift between the clean sound and an overdriven sound on the amp), meaning I eventually had to manually reach over and hit the button to change to overdrive, at 7:55.  The effect is that the guitar remains held back for longer than I normally might have kept it, sounding as though it is struggling to break free of the band as the piece builds.

Speaking of which, I think I'm playing alright here, but the real joy and skill is in the rhythm section - the way Matt and Tim naturally and slowly develop and build and vary their accompaniment to both respond to and push my playing.  This is the slow burn - measured, unhurried, powerful, long but not tedious, intense without being overwhelming, building gently and gradually, all with a sense of space that is both liberating and exciting. The job of the soloist is to ride the crest, to hold back and to lead only gently, and to allow oneself to be pushed.  To me, the most effective pop ballads are the ones that create this sense of space in very short periods of time - giving the impression of the slow burn, even as the whole song might be only four or five minutes.  Truly this is an aspect of playing that is much more related to one's internal, non musical emotional development than to any instrument.  I don't pretend to be a master and I would hope nothing I write here is confused for conceit in any way. 

I had a lot more that I considered writing about free improvisation, but I think I'll leave things here for this rainy Wednesday night.  Spring can't be here soon enough for me.

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