I have long considered my strongest point to be my improvising capabilities. Making up things on the spot is what I love doing. It is something that runs deep inside me. For years I worked as a chef in London, mostly for my very dear friend, sometimes boss and fellow gourmand Phil Owens in his various restaurant projects. What was I known for? The ability to create something, something magnificent as well, from either a minimum of ingredients or on the fly without a recipe, in the scorching heat of very busy kitchens. What do you do when you run out of your main course, or when the butcher or fishmonger delivers the wrong order, or when the vegetable truck arrives at noon? You improvise. I acquired the same reputation working here in Paris with another good friend, chef Jacques Brosse, who is now based in Annecy.
Improvising is taking fundamental knowledge and applying it to varying situations, twisting, manipulating and creating, not from nothing but from an enormous tool box of acquired knowledge and experience. I like to think of it as the ultimate test of what one knows. It is indeed challenging but oh so satisfying. Like having clay between my hands, as I sing I mould sounds and rhythms, histories, emotions, beauty, pain and joy. It is liberating, exhilarating. Yet it requires a deep understanding of the musical language, so that you can go far and wide, reaching down into your box of goodies and experimenting, rejecting some using others, rejecting others, using some. Only the moment decides, and the audience, because music for is about sharing, and the emotion they bring to the concert feeds you as well. I get such a thrill standing “naked” before a public ready to listen, to participate. What a thrill this journey we share.
The video below is from a concert with Aldridge Hansberry on drums and flute and Jobic Le Masson on piano. Totally improvised. Totally in the moment. Totally fun. Enjoy. I did.
Thanks to Corinne Conesa for the video. Bravo.