Hunter Godby

Ever since I was a child I can recall experiencing an immense sense of astonishment at the wit and intelligence it takes to successfully improvise almost any kind of performance. Perhaps it began with the intuitive tomfoolery that I witnessed watching old Whose Line is it Anyway? episodes; specifically the sketches in which the keyboardist arranged a comprehensive song of any genre at the drop of the hat- only for a comedian to adlib lyrics in line with the melodic and rhythmic texture of the piece, and on top of all of that, make it humorous. The culture of improvisation is rooted most substantially, though perhaps not most obviously, in the conception of Jazz music in the United States. For the first time, an entire genre of art was centered around a group of people’s ability to compose on the spot in a synchronized yet extemporaneous fashion. I found this chaotic freedom at what I thought at the time to be its peak of existence the first time I listened to John Coltrane’s A Love Supreme, but recently have departed from the rebellious and often dark nature of jazz as it dealt with poverty, expression, and racial equality. In its place I have found a fascination with the culture and stylings of jam bands- the whimsical story telling paired with the virtuosic instrumentation rivals that of the free jazz artists from the 50’s and 60’s. Furthermore, my connection with both forms of improvisation has been an intimate one as I have been playing bass- both standup and electric- from a young age. By either chance or choice, I found myself connected with a guitarist and a drummer who would become my best friends as we grew as musicians. Our sort of delinquent jazz fusion trio grew tired of playing small jazz venues in which improvisation to the extent we sought to take it was frowned upon, and we found ourselves instead finding more enjoyment playing 40+ minute songs in a basement somewhere; where we could experiment with syncopation, odd time signatures, and the presence and absence of any sort of tonality whatsoever. There is nothing more liberating than improvisation.