Listen on Apple Podcasts Logo
Listen on Spotify link
Listen on Stitcher Link
Listen on Google Podcasts Link

The episode in which anything can happen but mostly doesn’t…

In episodic television (Seinfeld, Friends, etc.), a bottle episode is one in which the writers mostly take leave of the regular format,  opting for a cheaply produced, one-set show that often features secondary characters.  

Infinity times Zero

I tried to do that with this episode, not so much because I needed a break from the regular show themes, as because I had absolutely no clue going in what I was going to talk about. But as is usual with free improvisations, themes have a way of establishing themselves  by a)  sheer force of my monomaniacal personality; b) the fact that I talk about the same basic three things over and over; c) the fact that just because the universe is random, doesn’t mean everything isn’t connected, and therefore as soon as you begin talking, all sorts of connections start forming automatically in your mind; D) all of the above.

Memory + Forgetting = The Future

And so it is that I delve into the role that memory plays in improvisation, how it creates a dialogue—sometimes an argument—between the past and present, the result of which is the future. Memory, of course, is imperfect: we remember bits of tunes, conversations, events, but we remember them imperfectly. I find that the imperfection of remembering is itself a creative tool: I will be improvising, and a bit of some tune I played years ago comes up, but I only remember the first part. So what do I do? I’m forced to take the idea in another direction. Or stop.

But going in another direction, in some ways, is the definition of creativity. So why stop?

Eventually, of course, you do have to stop.


Bloom School of Jazz:  David is a wonderful, iconoclastic teacher, not just of jazz, but the meaning of music itself.

Episode #17 Transcription


In episodic television shows like Friends Seinfeld, the first iteration of Star Trek, there is a thing called the bottle episode. A bottle episode is a kind of cheaply produced, usually on one set, more often than not with secondary. Tertiary characters being featured, tends to leave behind the main structure format of the regular show that you’re used to. It’s this independent little entity of a show.

So that’s what I’m going to do today. Of course, this is not a television show. It’s not truly episodic either for that matter. Even though each podcast has a kind of episodic tendency, there are themes that build up over time, but this episode is going to be a independent little thing in itself. And the reason for that is because I had no idea coming in what I was going to do and it’s cheaply produced. Well, it’s produced exactly like all the others now they think about it. I put a microphone in front of the piano. I have two microphones inside the piano and I talk and play. So in that sense, it’s exactly like every other episode.


Bottle episode or you could call it the whatever episode, whatever is on my mind that may seem irrelevant to everything else. Well, that’s impossible.


Angular Blues or asymmetrical blues.


After all. The premise of this show is free improvisation. It’s called improvisations on the ledge, which seems to imply the possibility of falling off, which I can edit out or leave in. As I’ve said in other episodes, mistakes often lead you down paths you weren’t expecting, which in itself makes free improvisation a worthwhile endeavor. Now that doesn’t mean it’s necessarily a worthwhile endeavor for the listener. It this, well, it’s worth it for me because I get to experiment with new ideas. It doesn’t mean you would want to hear it.


Well, that’s the way with all free improvisation, not just in music, free improvisation in comedy or whatever it is.

In that case also used as a tool to explore one’s technique, to go further with it, to get you out of perhaps patterns, and I’ve talked about this before in my avant garde episodes, that’s episodes 15 and 13 and I talked about the avant garde as being a useful technique for those who are otherwise mainstream in their approach, as a useful technique to break out of certain patterns. And free improvisation, whether it’s avant-garde or not,is the same way. And I suppose in television then a bottle episode is a chance for the writers to just go, what the hell! So this is the whatever, what the hell bottle episode where anything can happen but mostly won’t. And the Nice thing is I can edit it all out. I can edit it all out. I can edit…


Since we’re on the topic of doing whatever the problem is.

When you’re this old 58 and you’ve had a life in music and a life in general, everything you do, everything you say, everything you play, every move you make. See, this is what I’m talking about. Every move: I start saying that and I think of Sting’s Every Breath You Take because I just said every, every, every. So every thing I play has some association with something else, whether it’s by me or somebody else. And sometimes I get the two confused, I’ll start playing something and I’d go, oh, did I write that? No, that was by Sting. You begin to play on your own memory. Your memory starts intermingling with the present and then the problem becomes do you go with the memory or do you deny it or do you do something somewhere in between those worlds?


So for instance, right there, I was thinking as soon as I played it of a tune and I knew exactly what it was, it was by an old mentor of mine, David Bloom, who has for many years had the Bloom school of jazz here in Chicago.

And David wrote this tune that he would play for me in his smokey old school on Rush Street in Chicago. And I believe it was called Shadow of a Soul. The tune, I mean not the school, though God knows that the school had kind of a shadowy vibe to it and it went something like that. But I don’t remember it perfectly cause this was when I was 17 years old, so 41 years ago. And so I started playing it. And inevitably I’m aware of this past, these moments where I see David up there with a cigarette in his mouth, on his Acrosonic piano with cigarette burns probably on the keys because he’d leave the cigarette dangling over the edge. And I have this memory of him playing that. He was not a very proficient pianist. He’s a guitarist and flutist, and I don’t remember where, what chords it was, but I know the tune basically.


So when I’m doing something like that, I’m in the mode of interacting with the past, the present, and trying to create something for the future. This is really what all music is. When you’re playing, you think you’re in the moment, but you’re also in the past, you’re drawing on the past to create the future.


So what I normally do in free improvisation, because there are all of these free associations going on, is I get into kind of a dialogue with my past, other people’s pasts, other music. But I, I try not to do a literal representation of what I remember, partly because I don’t remember it perfectly. And so I try to build on that and create something new out of it. So …


That’s somewhat the beginning of that. David Blum tuned, but I don’t remember where it’s gonna go. So I just do something else with it.


David would never do that. Maybe he would.


He would definitely never do that.

Share This

Share this post with your friends!