Upstream at 30 - Steven Naylor's Time Capsule

"In December 1989, I hired Jeff Reilly to play on a media score I was recording at Solar Audio. We had never played together before, so we went into the studio to briefly ‘warm up’ first. We then spent about an hour completely lost in joyful improvisation—stopping only when I remembered that I was paying for the studio time!

Soon after, he told me about a new improvising ensemble that was taking shape, and invited me to be part of it. The group already included some of my favourite Halifax-based musicians, and I was very excited to join. In May 1990, we produced our first collective concert, which included Nocturne—the first of many pieces I would end up composing for the Upstream ensemble and our collaborators. And now, 30 years later, I’m delighted to see that Upstream is still going strong!"

This little piece is titled ‘The Beneficial Blues’ – a title that perhaps describes how many of us feel, as we do our part to stay safe in these challenging times. 

It’s a structured improvisation on a theme I created for a CBC Radio drama, ‘The Benefit’ in 1995. 

It’s also one of several solo ‘blues’ piano pieces I’ve performed in Upstream events over the years – seizing an opportunity to blend a key part of my musical foundation with the open and forward-looking ethos we established for Upstream.

Over time, my performance of it has leaned more toward ‘structured’ and less toward ‘improvisation’. But this version, recorded in 1999, very much reflects the original exploratory spirit of the piece—and of Upstream.

Listen to The Beneficial Blues

Steven Naylor