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Thinking Spaces: Thursday February 20, 2014

Please join us tomorrow, Thursday, February 20, 2014 for a Thinking Spaces session with David Lee. David is an accomplished improviser, writer, and PhD Candidate at the University of Guelph. The session will run from 4-6 pm in the Boardroom (top of the stairs, second floor) at the main branch of the Guelph Public Library (100 Norfolk Street).

Here is a short description of David's talk: Jazz, modernism and the bohemian

I have started working on my PhD dissertation, working title "The Age of Enthusiasm: Improvised Music in Toronto 1962-1988." I am in the course of researching and identifying the activating principles behind the growth of a small but vital improvising community in Toronto, beginning in the 1960s. Since the first Toronto “free jazz” group is generally acknowledged to be the Artists’ Jazz Band (AJB – founded 1962), I have been researching the arrival of modernism in Toronto via the visual arts starting in the 1950s. I would like to introduce my work, play some music samples, and talk about some of the questions that my research has raised—in the hope that participants will offer questions of their own. For example, what sorts of values were implied by improvisation in this community—why did they improvise? Why did the pursuit of abstract expressionist art and the playing of improvised music seem to go hand in hand? In its first years, Toronto improvisation was a rigorously (even exclusively) male activity—why would this be?

For the upcoming reissue of my book The Battle of the Five Spot, I have revised a passage on the relationships between African American music and white bohemianism. This is one of the readings for today’s group, along with a section on the Artists’ Jazz Band from A.J. Wainwright’s biography of painter Robert Markle.

For a copy of the readings, please email Lauren Michelle Levesque at:

As always, the group is free and open to everyone!

Improvisation implies a deep connection between the personal and the communal, self and world. A “good” improviser successfully navigates musical and institutional boundaries and the desire for self-expression, pleasing not only herself but the listener as well.

– Rob Wallace