A quick look at my profession over the past 30 years tells me I will continue to be handed these never ending situations to which I must face head on and, as the famous Clint Eastwood line from the movie Heartbreak Ridge states, “improvise, adapt and overcome”.

The importance of adapting to a variety of scenarios is crucial for me. No matter if I am performing as a soloist or with other players, recording a CD or video or simply traveling, novel opportunities always arise. The key to surviving these charted and uncharted paths of a career musician seem to be in employing new methods, developing tolerances, and learning different attitudes to use as my guides.

Recently I have had a lot more opportunities to perform with other musicians – keyboard, mandolin, guitar, percussion, violin, and banjo (did I say banjo?) players. These collaborations have been in duo and ensemble settings, during live performances and in recording sessions. Acknowledging my timing issues and adapting to a stricter eye on my playing was a key adjustment for me. Because I am primarily a soloist, I tend to use the availability of a bit more ebb and flow as I push or pull the beat. Swimming around the notes can be a major drawback when playing with others.

 

 

I have had to improvise when coming up with an effective way to quickly edit down my usual musical set when performing with others whether planned or just in case Elvis enters the building and jumps up on stage – those once in a lifetime spontaneous opportunities. Breathing room must be available to allow for the introduction and interspersion of another players’ repertoire and dialogue.

Performing with other players involves even the simple issue of sitting in a different spot on the stage. For the solo performer, such as myself who sits in a chair in the center of the stage, the very act of setting up in a different configuration can be an adjustment. Sound checks are more involved, there are more instruments on the stage, and the load in time and break down time is expanded. The changes a solo artist must make as the playing arena expands to include others are workable issues and as I improvise, adapt, and overcome, I am rewarded with a fresh opportunity to share in the music of others.

Photograph taken by Steven Goodman
© Taras Oceanographic Foundation

 

Originally posted 2010-12-12 20:52:26.