I quickly discovered that London has a robust improvised music scene. The work forged by seminal improvising musicians such as Evan Parker, Derek Bailey, and Keith Rowe since the 1960s has also contributed greatly to the richness of said scene, and the fruits of their efforts are palpable today. The London Improvisers Orchestra, one of the most active free-improv groups in the world since the late 1990s, boasts a membership in the hundreds. The venues Cafe Oto and I’klectik offer curated improvised music events nearly every night during the week. I even saw Jamal Moss, who is known for making electronic house music as Hieroglyphic Being, relinquish his turntables and participate in the tradition with a trio of improvisers who played drums, vibraphone and saxophone, forming an unlikely quartet.
A relative newcomer to this scene in London, I ended up improvising with a number of musicians in a variety of configurations on a few occasions during my stay, including Rea Dubach, Stefan Krausen, Norman Ypsmael, and Tim Yates. Yates is particularly notable because he organizes a festival called Hackoustic which features improvised music strictly of the acoustic variety, with musicians often employing self-built instruments. All of this I experienced without making much effort to seek it out. Overall, the musical current that is improvised music in London remains highly visible today, is relatively easy to access, and is admirably free from pretense and elitism.