• Ben Allison: Jazz is a Social Music

    Yesterday on the blog, trumpeter Ambrose Akinmusire spoke about a community of jazz musicians and wanting jazz musicians "to socialize." In our ongoing series that showcases his journey and experience of making a Carnegie Hall debut, bassist Ben Allison expands on the concept of jazz as a social music, where fellow musicians are crucial to the composing process.

    When I write a piece of music, it's never completely finished. The musicians bring it to life again and again. In this way, jazz is social music—it's constantly evolving through rehearsals, recordings, and with each live performance.

    The initial seed of an idea for a new composition often arises out of an improvisation. I like to get together with one or two musicians at a time and just play without any preconceived ideas about what we might do. I often record these sessions and listen to them a few weeks later, picking out interesting moments and assembling a kind of "mental scrapbook" of fragments. Putting these fragments into shape takes time and involves a certain amount of technique and a well-developed aesthetic. When I have something that I'm excited about, I bring it to a rehearsal to see what the full band might do with it. The composition is like a landscape within which the musicians are free to explore. And I like to play with musicians who also are composers and band leaders in the own right precisely because they have fascinating and surprising things to add.

    I'm driven by collaboration. To act and react in real time with other musicians is one of the most thrilling experiences imaginable.


    The Carnegie Hall Debut
    February 3, Ben Allison
    May 11, Nadine Sierra and Carol Wong