Don’t leave your instrument at home if you plan to attend the 86 Ensemble CD-release party tonight.

Held at Space Gallery in Portland, the event features a jazz and spoken-word performance followed by an open call for everyone in the house to join the band for a free-for-all set of improvisation.

The all-ages party showcases the work of Maine poet Gil Helmick and New York City pianist Jesse Lynch, who collaborated on the “Crimes Against Inhumanity” album released under their former band name, snowmonks. They’re now known as 86 Ensemble, which reflects a radio program the duo is working on together.

The other CD being released is “Intuition” by the Jesse Lynch Trio.

Lynch and Helmick cast 22 actors to work with the Jesse Lynch Trio — which includes Lynch, percussionist Matt Smallscomb and bassist Joseph Michaels — to create a radio comedy called “Club 86.”

“Set in a mill town, Club 86 is being brought into existence by a guy from away,” Helmick said.

Highlighting an existing rivalry between two Maine cities, the program’s “mill town” is Lewiston and “away” is Portland. He said they hope to have the pilots ready by fall and then shop them around to radio networks.

Tonight’s party won’t feature these humorous sketches, but it will offer up the inventive blend of Helmick’s poetry and the 86 Ensemble’s jazz, both of which work in an improv format.

Writing for the Huffington Post, Michael Simmons said the group’s “music swings underneath Helmick’s words.”

Helmick waxed philosophical when asked what themes he may address in his poetry. Beyond his assessment that he likes “to morph the transcendental with the existential,” he didn’t offer any specifics about what he may address, other than to say his words may relate to current events.

“The real magic with improvisation is listening,” Helmick said. “If the musicians get into some fast riffs, then I’ll follow.”

And what happens when the audience joins in the improvisation is anyone’s guess.

“We’re hoping to have an amazing session,” Helmick said of the open improv portion of the evening. “It goes until they’re either in a state of bliss or ready to kill each other.”

Let’s hope for the former.

Staff Writer Avery Yale Kamila can be contacted at 791-6297 or at:

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