Room to Improv: A Sonic Journey Through Spontaneity - The Echo
When one hears the word improv, especially in relation to those that occupy the middle of the country, I would imagine the first thing that comes to mind is a show hosted by Drew Carey. This show had a mixed cast, that among others prominently featured Wayne Brady and his musical prowess as he made up songs on the spot with the assistance of a musician and at times a pair of musicians. Though Wayne had the main focus during these spots, the improvisations of his musical cohorts is what I’m here to connect, albeit briefly, with a local collaboration of musicians you have surely seen around, from local jams to the digital pages of this publication.


While the idea of “Jam bands” is nothing new, along with the weekly jams that occur at a myriad of bars and venues around the QCA, this scene may be new to many of you. I am surely someone who views this scene from the outside far more than I participate in it directly, but it unquestionably holds the hearts and ears of thousands who call these cities straddling the state lines between Iowa and Illinois home

When the average person thinks of a jam band, I think it’s safe to assume The Grateful Dead is the first thing that comes to mind. Unfortunately many see that scene as something more about the party than the music, but with this style of playing the music itself is the party. It can appear as though these jam band musicians on are simply noodling around, with reasoning to their playing between the opening and closing notes of a song. Though much as it is in life, with this style of music the path that leads one to their final sonic destination is more important than that final destination itself. This approach to a song, and to performing, makes for a reliance on improvisation that results in unique shows every night and keeps caravans following the likes of The Dead and Phish around the country for decades.


Taking inspiration from the long-practiced technique of free improvisation, Room to Improv rose from the local QC scene in September of 2022, playing and recording several performances that are concocted spontaneously on the spot by a bevy of musicians you would surely recognize if you frequent the weekly jams that occur along the Illinois edge of the river. The band currently consists of Michael Brock on percussion, Beth Lizano provides vocals, Jack Hill brings the bass, Logan McDaniel on guitar, with Joe McKinney and Jacob Palmer on drums and keyboards respectively.  Several members actually help host the Wednesday Night Open Jam at Bent River Rock Island, and percussionist Brock helps with the Monday Night jam at O’Keefes, the latter being the host of a 3 part concert series that Room to Improv put on across the summer months. There’s a chance you unknowingly walked into one of these planned, unplanned performances, as the group created a musical triptych beginning in June and July, with the final audio “rubber match” of sorts coming to blows at the end of August. All three of these performances can be listened to and watched online through their YouTube page ( In addition to the music each of these three events featured live painting from Kate Zimmerman, with each night coming to a close with completed pieces of art that surpassed the confines of a single medium. 

Room to Improv aims to create a unique and immersively spontaneous experience during each performance, with no show being the same as the previous. If you missed out on them this summer, never fear as you’ll have another chance to witness what they bring when they grace The Redstone Room stage on September 29th opening for Organ Fairchild.
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Tickets To Their Upcoming show with Organ Fairchild



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