Improvising for the first time publically, in front of 7000 people.

It was a gorgeous night to play an outdoor concert. But the weather isn't the only reason I am in a good mood right now.

Tonight I challenged myself to improvise a little 12 bar solo in a simple boogie-blues tune. Usually we play parts which have written out solos, for those of us who do not have experience improvising. It was tough for me, since I have never improvised in public before!

I practiced the changes all afternoon, planning, yes planning, the way I would structure the solo. Our principal trumpet player, Tom Battenberg, who played his own after my solo, has been improvising for 40 years, so he probably didn't have to think about it. But I did.

My self-honesty and preparation paid off. All the repetitions of the simple 12 bar blues progression helped anchor the feeling of the changes in my head. I felt pretty confident, and succeeded in pulling off a decent first public solo improve in my life. Yay!

I actually had three "jazz" solos, but only really improvised the one. The other two, I just hammed it up.

peter cetera


The second half of tonight's Picnic with the Pops outdoor concert featured Peter Cetera (who is 66; can you believe it?) He played in the band Chicago. I remember slow dancing to their tunes in High School!

Their orchestral arranger and conductor for the second half is Arnie Roth, who did a terrific job of keeping us alert and focused through all the mellow, but often tricky, tunes.

Other than Peter, who still sings like he did in the 70s, his current band included two fantastic players. They were all good, but guitarist Glenn Miller and pianists Buau Cooper jammed with easy confidence. Both are from Nashville. There must be something in the water down there! Great musicians.

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3 comments for “Improvising for the first time publically, in front of 7000 people.

  1. July 13, 2010 at

    David that's great! You definitely did the right thing by working it out ahead of time. It's always seemed to me that improvisation is the same as composing really fast.

    • July 13, 2010 at

      lol. I love that, "composing really fast"! When I learned how much Eric Dolphy practiced scales and chords, I knew improvising was a skill, to be developed and learned, and not just whimsical playing. I am inspired to re-try playing along with some of the Kenny Werner Jazz learning CDs I have. But also to practice the necessary chords and scales beforehand!

  2. July 11, 2010 at

    Yes, I've been to Nashville and heard the music of the musicians that town nurtures. There definitely is something in the water down there!

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