This weekend, the True Love Coffeehouse in Sacramento will host the first In The Flow music festival, a weekend of modern and improvisational jazz, rock, blues and more.
Performances will be held on two outdoor stages throughout the event. More than 15 groups are scheduled to perform, including local and regional musicians of varied styles of music and improvisation.
The event was put together and organized by guitarist Ross Hammond with the help of bassist Byron Blackburn and East Bay musician Rob Woodworth.
“Most, if not all of these folks are musicians I’ve either played with and/or booked at whatever series I’m curating in Sacramento,” Hammond said in an e-mail interview. “The Sacramento jazz scene — and I’m using “jazz” very loosely, since there really isn’t a word for “sometimes jazz-influenced improvised music” — is really incestuous, and most players have collaborated with one another at one time or another.”
While the primary roots of the festival rest in improvisational jazz forms, groups are not stuck to any one particular sect of music. Audiences should expect anything but uniformity, with styles including rock, standard jazz, poetry and spoken word, blues and even ambient noise.
Even so, audiences shouldn’t expect a myriad of various unconventional or mainstream styles. The performers aim for a cohesive link behind their musical diversity, despite the largely collective nature of the event.
“Anything goes, but you’re not going to see a punk band or the typical chorus-verse-chorus-bridge, and don’t come out to see Kenny G,” Blackburn said. “It will be more in the mode of Miles Davis.”
The unique nature of improvisational performance is a distinguishing feature of the festival and the style in general. When asked about the differences between improv and other live music, Blackburn stressed the significance of the communicative aspect of performance.
“Audiences always attempt to communicate with musicians; it’s just that musicians generally aren’t receptive to noticing the fellow communication,” Blackburn said. “[Most musicians] think the show is about them, and we have exactly the opposite attitude — we do the show for the audience, and we’re glad and lucky for anyone who takes the time to see us play. By observing the reaction to what we’re playing, they give us information.”
Drummer Tom Monson also mentioned the sharp divide between improvisational and pop-oriented music. Monson, who in the past has briefly toured with Cake, noted the challenges of the on-the-spot creative process involved with improvisation.
“[They’re] pretty much the polar opposites — with pop music everything has got to be in its right place,” Monson said. “It’s hard to go out without any pre-conceived material and be creative time after time, but it’s also hard to learn a lot of material and have to play it perfectly, and not deviate from what you’ve learned.”
Hammond noted a conservative pattern in musical depth when asked about the local improv scene and other similar festivals. He said that the festival is somewhat of a unique experience, as the modern improv scene can be seen as small and close-knit.
“Most ‘jazz’ festivals are stuck in the same mode of standards, standards, standards and then maybe a blues band,” Hammond said. “I love standards, but after a while one has to stop and realize that there is no evolution there. That’s what the collective vision of this festival is.”
“I feel that we’re more on the cutting edge of creating in real time something new [and] culturally unique to his time frame,” Blackburn said. “It’s just a really good time — our scene is small but it’s strong, and it’s getting stronger. I’m looking forward to the next one.”
The In The Flow Festival will take place Saturday and Sunday at the True Love Coffeehouse at 2315 K St. Tickets for both days are $10. For more information, visit rosshammond.com or myspace.com/truelovesacto.
JUSTIN T. HO can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.