A story about musical vision

Recently, I had a band. My first band in years. A band I assembled mid-pandemic; no small feat. It lasted for about two months, mostly because I’m not a great band member and lack the ability to compromise where vision is concerned. Some, who are inspired by leadership books, might think this is admirable. Some others, who aren’t, might just think that I’m challenging (to put it nicely) to work with. I’ve been around long enough now to know who I am and I’m not above change, but when it comes to musical vision, I have a stubborn and uncompromising streak that’s very unZen and frequently has me getting in my own way. We live, we learn, we evolve. That’s the journey.

In an effort to communicate that musical vision, I drafted the story/note below. It’s not impertinent to my musical journey, so I thought I’d share it here:

Several years ago, when several of my longtime collaborators relocated, geographically or temporally, I started looking for other musical likeminds. My interests could be jazz, rock, jam bands, country, folk, what have you, but at the core was group improvisation. 

I stumbled upon this art quite by chance when I was sixteen. I was hit with a sudden moment of deep and profound awareness. I remember it very clearly: A dark and dingy basement. A gang of lackluster, wannabe, punk musicians trying to make art, trying to begin a journey of musical exploration by going in any direction, knowing only that the call was real and palpable, but otherwise clueless as to how to proceed. 

We were trash, mostly from broken homes. A couple us played in school band, but mostly we knew nothing about assembling a band, making music as a group or even making a go of such a thing. While we were trying to be punk, thinking that that was a skill level we could meet, we all loved and bonded over Pink Floyd. One night we decided to try and do “a Pink Floyd kind of song” – Whatever the hell that meant. We had no real effects, just a bass, drums, two guitar situation, so we got to it. It started with some cymbal washes and I played a droney bass guitar line. The guitar players tried a two guitar harmony thing. Neither of them knew their scales so after a series of wrong notes that didn’t help the vibe, they telepathically and mutually agreed to stick with the couple notes that they had learned through real-time trial and error and were in key. We jammed on this vibe for about forty minutes – We were stone cold sober as a deep harmony and resonance took us over. What we lacked in technique we made up for telepathically, each player knowing where the other player was going to go; playing, blending, truly in concert until we were musically one. Our connection to the music, the moment and each other was deep and palpable. After the jam, nobody spoke, nobody made eye contact, we just looked at the ground in awe. Silent. A couple of us lit up cigarettes and just let the vibe sink in. Finally, somebody made a joke to ease the awkwardness of such a vulnerable experience. We laughed, but shit had changed; we had just taken a ride on some celestial plane. 

For me, music would never be the same; it became a readily-accessible, substance-free, vehicle for transcendence and for thirty years, my life since that point, I’ve been driven by the pursuit of solo and group musical improvisation.