The term “instrumental impulse” was broached by the German musicologist Curt Sachs in his 1962 book The Wellsprings of Music and expounded upon by Derek Bailey in his 1980 treatise Musical Improvisation. Sachs uses the term to describe the virtuosic nature of instrumental music, and Bailey examines its implications in regard to the practice of improvisation. To sum it up in nonmusicological terms: We play fast for the same reason that seven-footers dunk the basketball-because we can. According to Bailey, the way the improviser deals with the instrumental impulse is the most important factor in his or her work.
Become a JazzTimes member to explore our complete archive of interviews, profiles, columns, and reviews written by music's best journalists and critics.