Racer Sessions

Sundays, 8-10pm at Cafe Racer in Seattle, WA

Gregg Belisle-Chi presents this Sunday

Greetings fans of the Avant,

This Sunday, we are thrilled to welcome our dear friend Gregg Belisle-Chi back to the Racer Sessions! Gregg is a guitarist and composer, once based here and now based in Brooklyn. He maintains an active career in music as a leader, sideman, and educator, performing frequently on both coasts. Throughout his career, he has performed with Bill Frisell, Cuong Vu, Steve Swallow, Reid Anderson, Ted Poor, Eyvind Kang, Wayne Horvitz, Tom Varner, Bob Sheppard, Jay Clayton, and Jessica Dobson.

Gregg’s compositional expression is as strong and multifaceted as his playing, and it’s a wonderful treat to be able to bring him back to present new works. We’ll start things off at 8pm with an opening set by Gregg, featuring Xavier Lecouturier on drums and Chris Symer on bass. We’ll follow that with the open jam session. Make sure to come through! And read on for Gregg’s thoughtful blog on the occasion.


“This will be my fourth curation for Racer Sessions, the first being in 2013.

Throughout my composing history, I have had two tendencies: to write in large batches, or sets, of music, and to limit improvisation in my music. For the former, I find that it has been very useful to have a project in mind before writing, to have a general picture of what it is I’m trying to accomplish, so as to frame my ideas before trying to write something that doesn’t necessarily fit within that picture. 

For the latter, my improvisation limitation hasn’t been out of fear or dislike of improvising, but that the music that I was writing either didn’t necessarily require improvising or didn’t fit within the scope of the compositions. 

My first set of music was for my record Tenebrae, which was an all through-composed solo guitar music or duo with vocals. No improvisation. 

The second set was entitled “I Sang to you and the Moon” which feature vocals, trumpet, guitar, and bass. Though the trumpet does improvise some, it is very limited. And there is only one guitar improvisation. 

The third set was “Book of Hours” which was an all instrumental, through-composed piece based on the five movements of the Mass Ordinary. This piece featured two guitar improvisations. 

Gregg Belisle-Chi

Gregg Belisle-Chi

My new set of music for trio has opened up for much more improvisation. Though the focus is mainly on extended forms, I feel that I’ve finally found a way to make improvised sections make sense within the context of the composition. My writing has never really been “tune based,” where the melody and changes are meant only as bookends to the piece, so sections featuring improvisation have needed to be a necessity to the integrity of the composition, rather than the point of it. 

Reflecting on this, two thoughts come to mind. 

  1. Improvisation is only one facet of music. There are other dimensions to music that require just as much attention and, if our goals are to be complete musicians/composers, we need to take note where we have been spending most of our time, and what areas need more focus. 

  2. The trend now, for me, seems to be sliding towards playing music that is more improvised. Questions I’m asking myself now are: if that’s the case, how does that change my composing methods? If improvised music is the end result, what is the progression to getting there? Who am I as a person, and what implications of that answer inform my improvised music? How do I make that music compelling and clear to others? 


Though I don’t have any recommendations for the jam session to follow, I would ask any musician who reads this to take time to reflect on their musical history and where they are heading. How has your past informed your present, and what are you going to do about your future?”

Gregg Belisle-Chi
Brooklyn, NY