It's no secret that the noise and improvised music scenes are flourishing in Oakland, but in many senses they're still fairly insular — limited to a small clutch of ever-incestuous ensembles, and featured mostly in warehouse shows or people's living rooms. This year, drummer Sam Ospovat sought to rectify the problem and make the Bay Area's avant-garde scene a little more accessible. A member of Beep!, Kapowski, Oakland Active Orchestra, Anteater, and several other outfits — and a frequent sideman for (fellow Best Of winner) Nate Brenner — Ospovat is one of the more prolific instrumentalists around, and he was eager to refashion himself as an arts booster. In March, he devised a new jam session that would mix straight-ahead be-bop with "outsider" free jazz, in a way that would remain palatable. He was more interested in producing great improvised music than in providing jazz neophytes with a primer. Thus, the Improvised Music Session was born. It happens every first Sunday of the month and features an hour-long set by Anteater, followed by a free-for-all that lasts way into the night. Because of the bar's central location, a genuinely mixed crowd shows up, which is unusual for improvised music. To some of them, it's still just noise; to others, it's a great addition to the arts district. For Ospovat, it's a welcome opportunity to play.
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