Racer Sessions

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

Chris Icasiano - February 28th, 2010


Phrasing and Malleable time

Having worked intensively on free-improvisation over the past few years, I found that my approach is continuously influenced by what I consider to be the malleable nature of phrasing and time.  While playing in a “free” setting in which no one particular instrument is allotted to the strict role of “time keeper,” I came to realize that time is actually always present, whether it is clearly defined or not, and is largely determined by the pace of the group’s collective phrasing.   In the instances where no instrument is keeping a steady pulse, it is important to realize that there is still a pulse, which is dictated by the forward momentum of the improvising group.

Many factors can dictate the pulse; among them are the speed and duration of each individual performer’s phrases, but most importantly, it is established through listening.  If each performer is listening intently enough, the group can begin to move collectively; beginning and ending phrases based solely on the momentum that each member produces.

In terms of “time,” I have been really interested lately in the effect produced by hinting at the presence of regular time, and using this to change the vibe or pacing of the improvisation.   In this composition, my goal is to exploit all of these facets of time and phrasing, and to employ them in improvisation in a way that can be equally as satisfying as any typical melodic or harmonic convention.


Gateway – John Abercrombie, Dave Holland, Jack DeJohnette

While this piece is mostly “in time,” it is an excellent example of a group’s ability to extend phrases, which don’t necessarily fall into the strict confines of the regular meter, and to find the spot where they collectively want to end the phrase.

Kathelin Gray

Paul Motian Trio – Paul Motian, Bill Frisell, Joe Lovano

Totally rad example of a group moving as a single unit.  In this piece, it is very obvious that there is a pulse, but no regular tempo.