Coltrane and rhythm changes aren’t the only things in this world that musicians improvise over. While blowing over “Giant Steps” in 13/4 at 400 bpm is definitely impressive, beat juggling and sampling a song on the spot requires just as much concentration. Improvisation isn’t exclusive to jazz. The practitioners and lineup featured at this year’s Red Bull Music Academy’s Night of Improvised Round Robin Duets is the perfect example of that.

Round Robin

Last year’s Night of Improvised Round Robin Duets saw jazz artists like Robert Glasper, Vijay Iyer, Don Byron, Roy Hargrove, and Joe Lovano rub elbows with Questlove, Andrew Bird, DJ Spinna, and more. This year’s lineup will include Terri Lynne Carrington, Dave Douglas, James Carter, and David Murray as they rock alongside Allen Toussaint, Amp Fiddler, Daedelus, Nels Cline, and more.

The format is not that different from any jam session that takes place at a jazz club on any given night. The main difference with the Round Robin Duet is that no one is calling standards. In fact, no one is calling anything. It’s a night where the best in jazz, avant-garde, and beat maestros combine heads to create music on the spot.

The Round Robin is a concept developed by jazz impresario Adam Schatz of Search and Restore and Undead Music Society. Schatz, alongside Winter Jazzfest founder Brice Rosenbloom, started the Undead Music Society as a way to, “dedicate [the] celebration of spontaneous music, unconcerned with genre, but instead focusing on what’s unique and special and human about the creative process.” Adam Schatz had this to say about RBMA’s Round Robin Duets:

“Last year the Red Bull Music Academy asked us to put together our Improvised Round Robin Duets event for them, and they’ve generously asked us to do it again this year, lining up with the other Undead events (included shows with Marc Ribot, and nights where improvisation and electronic music meet, featuring Son Lux, Daedelus, Shigeto, Graham Haynes & more).

The Round Robin was a concept I had come up with as a fundraiser for my organization Search & Restore in 2010 and we’ve since produced it six times, both in New York and in New Orleans. It’s an exceptional performance every time in that it requires every artist (sometimes as many as 20) to act as equal parts in the spontaneous creation of a longform-improvised piece of music. No one performs for more than 10 minutes, and no more than two people at once. And it is one of a kind. Everyone involved in the room experiences it once, and can remember it forever.”

This year’s Round Robin event is taking place on Wednesday, May 14th at New York’s Town Hall. You won’t want to miss this bananas night of music so get your tickets here.

 To win a pair of tickets to Red Bull Music Academy and Undead Music Series’ Night of Improvised Round Robin Duets, share and like our Facebook post, then send your full name over to


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