After talking to local violin overlord Christian Howes about his Creative Strings Festival for last week's paper, I was eager to see some of the improvisation unfurl. So I headed to the North Market on Tuesday afternoon to listen to one of the guerilla jazz ensembles play the patio.

After talking to local violin overlord Christian Howes about his Creative Strings Festival for last week's paper, I was eager to see some of the improvisation unfurl. So I headed to the North Market on Tuesday afternoon to listen to one of the guerilla jazz ensembles play the patio.

Creative Strings attracts classical string players from around the world looking to hone their inventive powers and broaden their stylistic horizons. They gather daily at Otterbein College for light-speed rehearsals. Then they're divided into groups, dispersed into different environments - from street corners to fancy theaters - and asked to cut loose and create.

Before perching at a picnic table to take in the tunes over some pad Thai, I met the hastily assembled crew who had known each other for less than a day and rehearsed for only a few hours before setting up to busk.

They were led by Billy Contreras, a Nashville violinist who was one of the dozen instructors Howes recruited to mentor the 25 or so registrants. The rest of the bunch hailed from as close as the Columbus suburbs and as far as New Mexico.

After opening up a violin case for tips - but of course - they huddled in a circle and started kicking out jazz tunes, the rhythm locked in by a plucky upright bassist named Marin. A trio of violinists, including Contreras, took turns riffing over a walking bassline.

It was loose and informal - exactly what Howes had in mind when he founded Creative Strings to get classically trained musicians "off the page" and into more casual situations.

Close attention revealed a bit of tentativeness on the players' parts, but based on a casual listen, this could have been a bunch of old pals who decided to goof around on their lunch hour. It was more pleasant than magical, but the potential for wonder was always lingering in the air.

And that's the point of Creative Strings. Music knows no bounds, and part of the magic is putting yourself in unusual contexts and seeing what emerges. They'll be reprising that quest around town through Saturday.