This Sunday, Racer Sessions curator and emcee Haley Freedlund will present the opening set. Haley Freedlund is a trombonist and vocalist, working primarily in free improvisation, jazz, pop, and new works. She also does a lot of wrangling for the music scene at large, within and beyond the scope of Racer Sessions: producer, road manager, booker, arts administrator, photographer, and arranger are some of the hats she wears when not wrangling all of us on Sunday nights.
Haley will be presenting a solo performance, and has written a thoughtful and deliberate blog for us, which you can find below. Read on, and make sure to find yourself at Cafe Racer on Sunday at 8pm for the session!
“I avoided solo performance for a very long time. Usually, I still do. Here are some reasons why:
The trombone is monophonic and acoustic, making it harder to traditionally accompany oneself.
Most solo horn sets are expected to use electronic effects. I am not proficient with pedals or music software. The times I’ve tried to use them have felt cumbersome - only once publicly, to play a cover at Second Wednesdays that quickly went awry.
I spent many years as a student believing that I was not a good or proficient trombonist, so playing alone sounded like a great way to prove that to a listening audience.
Despite a career onstage performing and MC’ing, I don’t like the spotlight that much.
I spent many years believing that what I could bring to the table wasn’t new or exciting. Sometimes I still believe this.
So! Why am I doing a solo performance now? The answer is two-fold.
On a personal level, I stopped caring about musical expectations of myself or others (Bebop! Robust athleticism! Density!). This is a constant practice of challenging myself and my instrument in an at-large community that expects trombone performance to look and sound a certain way. I work at this by putting my money where my mouth is, or, putting my practice on the stage.
But specific to the Racer Sessions, I’ve been feeling a little riled up and at times even frustrated by our Sunday jam sessions, which I don’t want when I’m running the dang thing. I am a firm believer that free improvisation is for all of us, no matter our musical creed. But I am also a firm believer in listening, and the greater good lifting up the music. Collective improvisation rests in a delicate balance. You’re playing your instrument the way you want to play it, but you’re playing alongside others with their own instruments and ideas. You want to play this one thing, but the ensemble has another idea. It’s really cool to build up a piece to climax, but what about the tiny sounds that the drummer is making underneath the sea of noise, or the violist who can’t compete? Why would you want to create a playing environment where the person next to you has to fight to be heard?
This Sunday I will play a handful of short improvisations for solo trombone and voice. I have no specific plans, other than a return to the cover I fudged at Second Wednesdays. But for the jam session, all improvisations will also be solos. We’ve done this at the Racer Sessions once, many years ago. Solo improvising is a great opportunity to be vulnerable among the musicians you’ve been getting to know each week for months or years now, to check in with yourself about your playing and how you feel about it, to think outside the box, and to remember that your instrument extends beyond the traditional confines of itself and your embouchure or posture. When you play solo, you’re completely exposed, and you have no choice but to listen to the person playing (you) and think about the effects of your creative choices.
Much love, HF”