The title of this post may be a bit overstated, but I did want to write a bit about the playing I did this weekend.
My boys are back east with family for two weeks, so I took the opportunity to travel solo to God’s country in northern Arizona this weekend. Besides playing some pick-up jazz with a couple of friends in Prescott Arizona including the mad scientist and saxophonist Bill Lieske, I drove two hours further north both days to do some playing in my favorite practice spots. I play throughout several places along Lake Mary road looking over both Mormon Lake and Lake Mary. See the photo for the view I called my own this weekend.
The Zen of it? Well, for me, it starts with finding the perfect spot that fulfills my five criteria for optimal outdoor playing:
- Beautiful view
- Good acoustics
- Relatively easy access
Once I locate a place that fits the bill, I find that my mind and body go into full inspiration mode. If I neglect one or more of them, I usually can’t get into that state. For instance if I’m in the middle of the deep woods (not safe), I may get distracted by keeping an eye/ear out for bear. Or if I drove too many miles on rough road (not easy access) I might be distracted by the thought of the difficult drive back. Certainly some good practicing can still be had in these circumstances, but I try to find the ideal spot to free my mind so that I can take my playing to a higher level.
These northern Arizona spots are perfect because they are off the main road far enough to be secluded from traffic and the noise, but close enough for easy return back to the road. The only large wildlife are the herds of elk in the distance. The view speaks for itself and as far as acoustics go, most of the sound goes out into the void, which allows me to play at 100 percent full body – and hear the pure unadulterated sound.
I find that playing unencumbered this way inspires me to try new things and to fully exhaust my chops. I think that playing into the void demands the fullest use of the muscles and therefore, best puts them through their paces. I finished feeling good about my playing and in the knowledge that I left everything I had in that beautiful golden field.
Zen? In certain moments perhaps. But great fun for sure!
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