I’ve always been afraid of improvisation. It took me ten years, from 1996 to 2006, to get comfortable with playing from a lead sheet. The first time I saw a lead sheet I was thirteen years old, at summer music camp at William and Mary, and was the only pianist interested in playing keyboard with a jazz ensemble. They gave me a lead sheet for “Watermelon Man” (and if anyone can tell me the TV show that used this as a theme I will be eternally grateful) I looked at it and said “where are the notes?” (It wasn’t the Flip Wilson show, was it?)
I think the scary thing about improv is that you are so vulnerable when you’re doing it. Whatever comes out is 100% you. It will reflect the influences of the “rhythm and rhyme of the poem of your life (Michael Card)”. It makes you look in the mirror and see who you really are, listen to yourself. No way would I do this as a teenager. It’s somewhat easier now.
Anyway, I’ve been sitting at my dusty piano, making up stuff on the black keys that sounds Celtic, happy as a pig in mud.