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Linsey Wellman: a jazz improviser explains how he constructed his CD

Linsey Wellman at Avant-Garde Bar ©Brett Delmage, 2008Linsey Wellman, an Ottawa saxophone/clarinet player well-known for his many projects and wide range of musical interests, was recently interviewed by OttawaJazzScene.ca publisher Brett Delmage. Linsey has just released an album for solo saxophone called Ephemera.

He told OttawaJazzScene.ca how he created the album and what he learned from the experience, and shared some of his thoughts about improvised music and free jazz. He also explained the influences and ideas that went into the album, and the saxophone techniques (such as circular breathing and multiphonics) he used on it. And he talked about how improvised music can simply be enjoyed as music, without having to worry about finding a structure within it.

Linsey will perform a solo presentation of Ephemera at Club SAW on Thursday, November 18.

Listen to the interview [mp3, 44 minutes, 20MB].

A few excerpts from the interview

A lot of the work was creating an arc between the movements. They are free but they are also guided. It's more of a direction than writing notes down on paper.

I do find it kind of funny that there's a sense that you have to 'get' improvised music or 'get' free jazz. Free improvised music – it's just music. [...] It's actually quite simple music. It's 1-2-3, Go! And the players who are playing it aren't working from some crazy logarithms or something. They're just playing music.

I don't want to tell people how to listen to my music because it's up to them. My goal isn't to make complicated music. I like some very complicated music, I have no problem with complicated music, but that's not what I set out to do when I play. I just want to make music that people will listen to, and go, "Oh, yeah".

Some sections are more taxing than others. Certain sections you just wouldn't want to hear more than 2 1/2 minutes or 2 3/4 minutes And certain sections I feel like I have more to say. But definitely I put a lot of thought into pacing: just being able to pace myself so that I could play the whole thing. Some of the sections that are in there: they're in for musical reasons but they're also partially there so I can rest. [It sounds very demanding to play in places.] It is quite. It's hard. But all of the tracks that made the album, as it turned out, were taken from full performances of the piece.

On the album, one of the challenges was making it not boring... to have one flat microphone sound for the whole piece with just one instrument would have felt like that talking head interview. They might be saying really interesting things but somehow you can fatigue a little bit... Ross set up microphones throughout the room... those kinds of things, to create more of a 3D space.

Circular breathing...I suppose the way that I think musically it's something that really works with my musical concepts that are based on soundscapes and grouping of notes that are more or less continuous.

For this project part of what I really wanted was some of what Pierre-Yves Martel got on his solo bass album... I was blow away by the playing but also the production...it was another way of keeping the audiences' interest when you're not in front of them.

Those are some of the ones that are important to me: timbre, texture, how my saxophone sounds regardless of notes. There's obviously melodic importance in there... It's just all about creating a nice sound.

There were a lot of things I wanted to do that didn't end up doing. Part of writing this and putting it together was very much a process of finding out the things I like best about my playing and what really goes with those things, which implies there are other things I do less well... It's a really good process to go through and I'm glad I did it.

[Making an album] really makes you take stock of where you're at. This was a very focusing experience for me.

You can read more about Linsey's music and upcoming performances at linseywellman.com .