Bassist Nick Benoit is booking the Instant Opus Improvised Series, a concept that aims at putting musicians who have never played together on a stage to improvise, which gave birth to a different series called Common Tone Music Series.
Describe what was passed down to you in the Instant Opus Series.
I started becoming more interested in the experimental and improvised music scenes in New Orleans. The first time I ever played an improvised show was because Jason [Van Ness] booked me on Instant Opus. When Jason knew he’d be leaving town he asked me if I’d look after the Opus for him. I’ve been doing my best to book as many musicians who have never played the series before, and as many under-represented people, as I can.
How did that give birth to Common Tone?
Unlike Instant Opus, Common Tone is not an exclusively improvised music series, although that is more than allowed and encouraged. The only hard and fast rule I really have for it is to please play no outright covers, there are a ton of places in New Orleans where that’s basically mandatory.
What is it that you seek in the music scene?
Shortly after I got to New Orleans nine years ago, I started immersing myself in as much of the city’s culture, particularly musically, as I could. I love the music we typically associate with New Orleans but there’s so much more to music here. If we can appreciate the inherent value in more than one form of expression, it shouldn’t be too hard to find diversity of them.
How do you approach playing and booking?
It’s an incredibly difficult balance to strike. It’s absolutely a labor of love and the root of much stress for me. I’ve had the pleasure of working with so many incredible professional musicians in town, and a lot of them love blowing off steam and being able to escape the public eye for just a night.
What is the value of having space for experimentation in a music scene?
There is a relative dearth of places to really be adventurous and take chances. It’s important to remember and keep alive the spirit of innovation that led to the creation of these unique forms of expression. I sometimes find myself wondering what Louis Armstrong would make of the music. Would he find it to be incoherent, at odds with what music is even about, or a logical continuation of something he helped found?
Instant Opus takes place every Monday night at SideBar Nola. Common Tone occurs every Tuesday night at Hi-Ho Lounge.