Disappointed by the lack of a coherent improvised music scene in Portland, JP Jenkins (Ja Ja Quartet) and Bryan Eubanks (Beds) began the bi-weekly Improvised Music Workshop in the basement of It's a Beautiful Pizza. Their hope was to bring free improvisers from around the city together to see if they could interact, share ideas, and create a community around musical freedom. "The whole point is to give every person who comes a completely open framework to express themselves and to interact with other people," explains Jenkins.
Typically, the night opens with three to four local musicians who have expressed interest and been contacted by Jenkins and Eubanks. From percussion ensembles to solo knob tweakers, these adhoc ensembles may have years of experience behind, them or be playing for the first time. The second set is usually by a more experienced local or national group.
The organization of the workshop begs the question: If I show up just to listen, will I like it? This amount of freedom in music can be challenging and disappointing to people used to bands that have well-rehearsed sets. Free music requires a different kind of listening and an openness to what might happen at any given moment. Sometimes dismissed as "music for musicians," free improvisation can be much more exciting to watch than to play. "I have had an amazing time watching. I learn so much from people who don't play that well, or in situations where it doesn't work at all," says Jenkins. "It's about creation, and creation happens when you have no idea that it's actually going to happen. All of a sudden everything clicks, and there it is, this moment of pure perfect music. And then it goes away and turns into shit."
Either way, it won't ever happen again.