How To Play Free Jazz

Written by on September 22, 2015

Matthew Shipp
(Matthew Shipp, Photo: Frank Stewart)

If you’re accustomed to playing standards, approaching a freely improvised performance can be a bit daunting. How do you approach playing with others in the absence of chord changes? How do you even begin?

If you’re not familiar with Free Jazz, we posted an intro video on our YouTube page. Additionally, we invited the guitarist Mary Halvorson to offer insights into how to begin working in free improvisation, posted here.

But once you start play with other artists, free improvisation can be challenging. However, we invited Matthew Shipp and Darius Jones to join us and demonstrate some tools you can apply towards free improvisation with a group. In the end, successful free improvisation boils down to careful listening and engaging in a musical dialogue with your bandmates.

Watch Part One of their discussion below, and click here to watch the full series.

Want to learn more? Be sure to check out some of Free Jazz’s great seminal recordings, including
Ornette Coleman The Shape of Jazz to Come
Cecil Taylor Unit Structures
John Coltrane Ascension
Lennie Tristano Intuition and Digression
Albert Ayler Spiritual Unity

You can hear some of this music and more on a Spotify Playlist we’ve created. Check it out here.