Racer Sessions

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

Lorin Benedict - February 10, 2013


A good friend of mine, a guitarist named Chris, lived in NYC for a spell. While he was there, he studied for a brief period with the monumentally fantabulous improvising violinist/violist Mat Maneri. At first, the lessons focused on Chris’ individual playing, but after a few of those, they moved on to the analysis of group improvising; Mat even had Chris bring in some of his musical cohorts, and the whole lot of them played a series of short improvisations together. After each piece, Mat would ask Chris and his buddies, “OK… what did you think of that?… Let’s talk about what happened in that piece”, and this would lead them into a blow-by-blow dissection of the preceding improvisation, where each participant would weigh in on what he/she intended at a given moment. Also discussed was what COULD have happened but didn’t, etc. I know about the inner workings of these particular lessons not because I was in attendance, but because I prevailed upon Chris to record them and send them to me. 

One of the main things that struck me about Mat’s thinking was that he stressed exercising one’s memory to aid in the real-time shaping of a piece of music. He was clearly VERY conscious of what HAD happened in relation to what was CURRENTLY happening, which then shaped his understanding of what could/should logically happen next. To me, it seemed as if he approached free improvisation with the same degree of rigor with which a composer of premeditated music would approach the analysis of methodical, editable composition. I find this to be of much merit.

So… here’s what I’d like to do for the “session” part of the Racer thing, on Sunday, Feb.10, 2013: Let’s do a number of short-ish group improvisations… maybe we don’t have everyone playing all the time, depending on how many folks show up… and then for SOME of them, those who wish to (meaning NOT EVERYONE, ONLY THOSE WHO WISH TO) can have a brief discussion in which we talk about what we thought was happening, what we each were thinking when we did this or that, etc. I know this may seem somewhat “workshoppy” and therefore LAME. Fine, then we don’t have to do this, we’ll just play. I mean, honestly, what the fuck do I know (damned little, really)? We certainly don’t have to dissect the shit… really, we don’t. But if we can dissect at least a one or a few of our little pieces, it would make me SO happy! I’m always dying to know what other cats are thinking/feeling when they spontaneously create. And to be honest, I find that many musicians tend to be very cagy about discussing things related to open improvisation. I guess I feel that I’d like to discuss it… at least a little bit. I’d like to see what we can get out of this. And another thing is that I imagine that our playing might be very different (better or worse, depending) if we KNOW that we MIGHT discuss it- and I think that’s also interesting. OK?

Now a little about me: I’m a scat singer (for lack of a better term) living in Oakland, CA. Here is a link to my website, on which you will find more sonic examples of me than any twenty-three people can stand: http://www.lorinbenedict.com  Much of what I do is fairly structured in a premeditated way, rather than what would typically be termed “free improvisation”, hence my general orientation exhibited above. But my collaborators and I are quite influenced by the whole “free” scene in the Bay Area, and this manifests in us attempting to infuse our larger structured “suites” with less overtly-structured elements. We think of these interludes as scenes in improvisational theater: We start at this place, and after a couple of minutes we have to make it to this other area over there. How we get there is open, but here’s where we start and that’s where we must end up. An example of this kind of thing is here: http://www.lorinbenedict.com/music-47.html  So I’m REALLY not an expert in anything remotely resembling free improvisation, but I’d love to get better at the real-time analysis of more open musical situations, so that I may take better advantage of musical opportunities as they arise, in the moment.

Before the “session” part of the Racer Session, I will play a few tunes with Seattle’s own alto saxophonist Jacob Zimmerman. We’ll be playing standards from the American songbook, so to speak. We like this kind of thing. But this is not meant to influence in any way the goings on of the set that is to follow.