• Alistair Smith

Freedom in the Vortex


The Freedom Sessions are on the 2nd Monday of every month at the Vortex Jazz club in Dalston, London. They are a meeting of musicians that wish to explore freedom of expression and improvisation with new faces and new voices. Every night and every single ensemble is different. Performers of all kinds are drawn to this unique situation of uncertainty and excitement in the face of the unknown. The ideal of freedom is upheld by the curators and they choose characters to collaborate that offer new potentials. As each new group clusters on the stage, an undecided and unspoken arrangement and dynamic is forced to emerge and find itself. Sometimes democratic, other times led by a bold few or even an individual, the vast range of every possible manner of relationship can manifest. From unity to fracture, fellowship to friction, dialogue to dispute, a social, cultural and political soundscape of human interaction is explored on this platform.

To speak of language, that is of musical material, is to speak also of an individual's tradition, training, taste and experience and these are at once witnessed, welcomed and at times challenged on stage. Depending on the personalities and approaches of the performers, each participant may find themselves in both a new situation and sound world. Each must decide how to navigate, whether to dominate or acquiesce, contrast or compliment, and crucially how to find their own voice. The entire process and outcome is in fact a discourse on the notion of freedom. When your ability, skill and musical sensibilities meet with another, just how much freedom is possible? The canvas is rarely a blank one, as each player brings their own colours and modes of expression with them.

It is richly rewarding to witness and participate, as long as you can handle the uncertainty and uneasiness that this approach to creativity engenders. To me it is one of the exciting elements of improvisation and vital to the fertility of this form of music making. It is both uplifting and humbling as each new interaction can serve to either inhibit or inspire your own capacities and creative approach.


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