This week's commentary is as much a shout out to some musicians as much as the record they've made - Ken Aldcroft, Joe Sorbara and Evan Shaw. As our dirty, dirty summer settles in, please take some time to patronize the ongoing Friday night Leftover Daylight series put together by Sorbara, Nick Fraser, Colin Fisher and Geordie Haley at the Arraymusic space or the NOW Lounge series every Sunday, presented by the Association of Improvising Musicians of Toronto, put together by Aldcroft. Shaw doesn't run a series, but is another fine improviser who plays with St. Dirt Elementary School, among others. Sorbara and Aldcroft have worked for years to raise the profile of improvisers in this city, raising awareness, putting on events and somehow putting out records. Is it working? I hope so. Although various AIMT members certainly play in more jazz-oriented groups which are part of the 'jazz industry' in Canada (Jazz FM 91, Cool TV), non-idiomatic improv is never a life of luxury. I wonder whether the formalization of the jazz industry does more harm than good for free improvising. While jazz-centric media is an outlet for aspiring singers and players in the tradition, those who stretch the tradition still find themselves on the outside. A case can also be made that at this point, non-idiomatic improvising has more links with indie-noise than jazz. Nevertheless, this music doesn't seem to be an attractive proposition to that crowd either, judging by all too many reactions on the Toronto section of Stillepost indicating reluctance to attend free improv shows cause the crowds aren't there, and most audience members are - gasp! - older. Once again, the term indie CULTURE is too generous to describe the otherwise healthy indie rock SCENE.

So, facing the indifference of indie rock and jazz audiences, what level of success should free improvisers aspire to? I think it's the same level as any other career-oriented musician (as opposed to hobbyists): to keep working, to have the opportunity to develop their craft and hopefully make a living at what they're doing. But this kind of success requires worldwide recognition - few cities have the population to support these conditions for musicians at the margins. It's an endless race to pursue grants and make headway through international media to get gigs together. Which brings us back to this post - at least there are "healthy choices" for live events of this type in Toronto. Go check out these talented players whenever you see them listed!

Then again, maybe "Redemption Song" is the kind of breakout hit that Jazz FM is looking for...

-- David Dacks; The Abstract Index Blogspot (24/05/2006)

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