Musical Group Improvisation

Marc Rebillet is one of my favorite new artists I discovered in the past several years. His energy is infectious, he exudes nothing but positive vibes and fun, and he's a musical improvisational genius. Normally he does solo live shows that he streams on YouTube (you can check them out here) where he messes around for an hour wearing nothing but a robe and some boxer briefs. It's quite a shtick to say the least. But where he really begins to shine is when he improvises with other talented musicians. The first time I really saw this was in this video of him, Reggie Watts, and Flying Lotus.

Earlier this week I stumbled on a new collaboration he did with Reggie Watts and Erykah Badu. It's exceptional. If you want a taste for what it's all about, start watching at the 17:50 mark (for around 10 minutes), and then again at the 34:30 mark.

I am a huge fan of musical improvisation. My favorite live bands, Phish and The Disco Biscuits, all focus on group improvisation. There's something uniquely incredible about a group of people making something out of nothing, listening and riffing off one another, and having both the patience and courage to explore uncharted territories together. But when it works, when the group gives it enough time to breathe and evolve, something magical happens. Something spectacular is extemporaneously created out of absolutely nothing.

There are several things I love about this segment with Marc, Erykah and Reggie. First, they're all remarkably talented musicians in their own right. Second, they are so authentically themselves. They give approximately zero fucks that there are cameras recording them. They just exist in the moment, bringing their uniqueness to the melting pot. And last, this really exemplifies the power of group improvisation. They begin with a prompt - a monkey shaped instrument that makes animal noises - and they fully embrace the weirdness, exploring the motif as they voyage across a whole slew of different musical genres. They're patient and fearlessly explore where the moment takes them. For me, that's the purest thing about music, and it's the thing I enjoy the most about it. Because when it works, magic is real.

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