Racer Sessions

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

Christian Pincock & Gus Carns - November 3, 2013



After a number of months of weekly practice, this is the first public performance we will make as a duo. Our set will be an improvisation based on two jazz standards linked by a structured improvisation section. We’ve chosen to use predetermined forms and structures as one part of our musical collaboration; since we both share deep musical roots in the jazz tradition of playing standard tunes, we decided to revisit this practice as a way to explore new directions.

The two pieces we will play are “Alone Together” (music by Arthur Schwartz; lyrics by Howard Dietz; originally from the Broadway musical “Flying Colors” premiered in 1932) and “Con Alma” (by Dizzy Gillespie; originally from the composer’s album “Afro” from 1954). These will be linked by a transition section exploring repetition and stasis.

When working with an established tradition such as jazz standards, there is a certain amount of stylistic expectation that comes into play. Jazz standards are usually tied closely with the language of bebop (which employs swung eighth note lines, accents, particular chord voicings, melodic vocabulary, harmonic substitutions and alterations, roles of soloist and accompanist, and so on) as well as related styles and idioms; while our musical roots are in these traditions, our goal with this project is to separate the musical content (stylistic language) from the structure (the push and pull created by the melody and harmony; in other words, the form). By separating these two elements, we are free to explore any musical content we choose including classical, romantic and modern styles of western classical music, injecting it into the structure of the standards in various way. Having separated the content from the structure, we are also free to explore the language of bebop itself as well but without any expectations dictated by history.

In most performances of jazz standards, the tempo remains constant throughout; one of the ideas we are currently working with is exploring both steady tempos and changing tempos. In this way, the tunes and composed sections are a blank canvas for the exploration of tempo (as well as other elements). We are exploring what it takes to intuitively and collectively come to an agreement without deciding in advance what tempos and feels we will play.


For the following open session, we invite people to form groups of varying sizes to try using particular ways of changing tempos.

For each piece, we will give out cards which show a graphic representation of a particular tempo change; the invitation is for the players to use the idea on the card(s) in the improvisation in any way they choose. We’re using iconic visual instructions rather than verbal because we thought it would allow the process of interpreting the cards to be more intuitive rather than intellectual.

For some pieces, individual players will choose cards; for other pieces, the group will choose cards for everyone to use. We will announce each set of instructions one group in advance so that players will have time to plan their participation.


The 4 different cards show the possibilities for combining how gradual the transition is with the amount of change. So, the card on the upper left represents subtle gradual changes, the card on the upper right represents dramatic gradual changes, the card on the lower left represents subtle immediate changes and the card on the lower right represents dramatic immediate changes.


1) Very large group. 2 cards for each individual.

2) Everyone play generally with the idea of tempo changes. (no cards)

3) Large group. One card for the whole group.

4) Small group. 2 cards for each individual.

5) Either static tempo or completely open. Players’ choice for whole piece. (no cards)

6) 2 cards for a group. Individuals choose one to interpret.

7) Large group. Generally stay in same pulse. At any time, anyone may change tempo. 1 card for the group.

8) Each individual chooses a different tempo and maintains it throughout. (no cards)

9) Any size group. 3 cards for the whole group to interpret.

10) Some individuals generally explore tempo changes and some use cards.