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Leaves and Snows Antoine Berthiaume, Quentin SirJacq, Norman Teale

Antoine Berthiaume est un musicien en pleine ascension qui n’a pas froid aux yeux. Ici Montréal, Québec

Quelque chose irriguant et fluidifiant la sphère et qui nous touche en plein cœur. ImproJazz, France

The young guitarist Antoine Berthiaume, who released in 2002 an album of duets with Fred Frith and Derek Bailey titled Soshin, unveils his second effort for Ambiances Magnétiques, Leaves and Snows, a project also featuring pianist Quentin Sirjacq and sound engineer Norman Teale. This meeting of fresh talents has given birth to a brilliant, highly open, poetry-filled collaboration.

Certain meetings give such good results that one wonders if something more than luck was at play. In the wonderful setting of Mills College, California, Quentin Sirjacq and Antoine Berthiaume are both in Joëlle Léandre’s improvisation class. They are both native French speakers, they both lead a jazz group and they share a taste for adventure — enough common points to spark the beginning of a great collaboration. Piano and guitar: a rather unusual, often eschewed pairing that delivers at their fingertips a ground for new explorations; a license to discover new sounds and try out new musical ideas.

Norman Teale will be the cement that will make this album possible. Teale’s talent was unveiled in the course of the collaboration and it became gradually obvious that his work with electronics and mixing was becoming an integral part of the group. And so Sirjacq and Berthiaume gave him carte blanche.

It is often said that jazz is about innovation while paying due respect to tradition. Leaves and Snows is the work of three young musicians eager to make their voices heard and to share their music — very “actual” music, because it successfully brings together their diverse musical identities (jazz, contemporary music, rock…) in a free improvisation context. The result: music that addresses the listener, inviting him/her to widen his/her musical perception through countless variations and colors, without ever weakening the coherence of its poetical approach.

Guitarist, improviser and composer Antoine Berthiaume is active on the jazz, “musique actuelle” and contemporary music scenes. He performs live regularly at the helm of a number of groups, including Les Chemins de la route, the Berthiaume-Donato-Tanguay Trio, and L’Hexacorde. He will be performing at the next Montréal Jazz Festival. Pianist and composer Quentin Sirjacq hails from France. His eclectic musical interests keep him active as an improviser, a new music performer, and a composer of incidental music for film and dance. American sound engineer, producer and composer Norman Teale is a graduate student in Mills College’s “Electronic Music and Recording Media” program.

Leaves and Snows

Antoine Berthiaume, Quentin SirJacq, Norman Teale

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In the press

  • Mike Chamberlain, Hour, January 11, 2007
  • Alan Freeman, Audion, no. 51, March 1, 2006
  • François Nadon, Ici Montréal, January 5, 2006
    Antoine Berthiaume est un musicien en pleine ascension qui n’a pas froid aux yeux.
  • Francesca Odilia Bellino, All About Jazz Italy, December 1, 2005
  • Luc Bouquet, ImproJazz, no. 58, December 1, 2005
    Quelque chose irriguant et fluidifiant la sphère et qui nous touche en plein cœur.
  • Bart Plantenga, wReck thiS MeSS, October 25, 2005
    Enchanting improv…
  • Roald Baudoux, Les Cahiers de l’ACME, no. 224, September 17, 2005
    … sobre et juste réalisé par des musiciens qui — tout simplement — (s’)écoutent.
  • Brian Marley, The Wire, no. 258, August 1, 2005
    Leaves and Snows is a great success.
  • Paul Bijlsma, Phosphor, no. 118, August 1, 2005
    Fourteen tracks that bring a pleasant listening experience.
  • Phillip Buchan, Splendid E-Zine, July 25, 2005
    The musicians’ deft economy of space recalls the finest minimalists, while their bursts of swarming, high volume skree makes wading through the album’s dark recesses anything but unrewarding.
  • Marc Chénard, La Scena Musicale, no. 10:10, July 1, 2005
  • Nicola Catalano, Blow Up, no. 86-87, July 1, 2005
    Grevi implosioni improvvisative, sempre in bilico tra calore cromatico e astrazione…
  • BLG, Downtown Music Gallery, June 24, 2005
    Too marvelous for words, no, just marvelous enough.
  • Dolf Mulder, Vital, no. 480, June 22, 2005
    … a fresh approach…
  • Irwin Block, The Gazette, May 12, 2005
    … a tasty and intriguing mix.
  • Réjean Beaucage, Voir, January 6, 2005
    Le résultat est très abstrait, mais jamais décousu, et la prise de son interventionniste de Teale donne un relief étonnant aux sons produits par les deux autres.

Adventures with Antoine. Ambiances Magnétiques’s Antoine Berthiaume proves he’s up to the task

Mike Chamberlain, Hour, January 11, 2007

Musicians in Montréal’s Ambiances Magnétiques orbit have historically been musical adventurers unconstrained by considerations of style (or the possibility of fame and fortune).

Guitarist Antoine Berthiaume is a relative newcomer to that circle, at least as far as recorded output goes. He has put out three albums in the last couple of years, but even within that number, one gets a sense of an artist committed to wide-ranging explorations.

Over the years he has benefited from the inspiration of the likes of Derek Bailey, Fred Frith, Jean Derome and especially Pierre Tanguay.

”Montréal is open in terms of so many things. I’ve been able to play with many older musicians just by calling them. Pierre Tanguay is the one who led me to so many different kinds of music. I started playing with him when I was about 19,” says the 29-year-old. “He got me into René Lussier, Jean Derome, Joane Hétu and Derek Bailey… That was how I ended up meeting Derek Bailey and doing my first CD,” he says, referring to Soshin, a set of improvised duos with Bailey and Frith.

Since then, Berthiaume has issued Leaves and Snows with Quentin Sirjacq and Norman Teale, as well as Ellen’s Bar with Michel Donato and Tanguay, pretty much a straight-up jazz outing.

Berthiaume prefers not to dwell on projects once they’re done, so it’s not surprising that he has three very different CD releases planned for 2007: Rodéoscopique, which he describes as folk/avant-garde/western; PantyTron, a duet with MaryClare Brzytwa from California on guitar, flute and electronics; and guitar duets with Elliott Sharp coming in September.

Next week you can catch Berthiaume in two settings. At Casa del Popolo he’s playing with drummer Robbie Kuster and bassist Morgan Moore (“It’s kind of jazz and rock, and it’ll be loud”), and after that he’s at Divan Orange with Donato and Tanguay.

Têtes fortes 2006, musiques…

François Nadon, Ici Montréal, January 5, 2006

Le jeune guitariste Antoine Berthiaume a fait paraître cette année son 2e album sur Amblances Magnétiques. Et pour ce Leaves and Snows, Berthiaume s’est entouré de musiciens qu’il a rencontrés lors de son séjour au Mills College en Californie, là même où l’incontournable Fred Frith «enseigne» la musique actuelle. Avec le Français Quentin Sir Jacq au piano et percussions et l’États-Unien Norman Teale au mixage et aux électroniques, Berthiaume a prouvé hors de tout doute que, malgré sa courte expérience dans l’univers de la musique actuelle, on pouvait s’attendre à de grandes choses de lui.

Mais c’est en 2002 que Berthiaume a frappé fort avec Soshin, son premier album. Il s’est rapidement donné une solide crédibilité en enregistrant avec les deux maîtres de la six-cordes, Dereck Bailey et Fred Frith. La critique a salué la venue du guitariste sur la scène free jazz avec enthousiasme. Ce disque est une compitation de duos improvisés où nous retrouvons quatre pièces en compagnie de Frith et deux avec Bailey en plus d’une composition solo de Berthiaume.

Le jeune musicien figure également sur Visitors Book de Derek Bailey, un album constitué de cartes de visite sonores.

Antoine Berthiaume est un musicien en pleine ascension qui n’a pas froid aux yeux. On ne peut que se réjouir à l’avance de la suite.

Antoine Berthiaume est un musicien en pleine ascension qui n’a pas froid aux yeux.

Recensione

Francesca Odilia Bellino, All About Jazz Italy, December 1, 2005

Le presenti quattro novità della canadese Ambiances Magnétiques rendono bene il raggio di azione — esteso, vasto e aperto — che questa etichetta copre.

La parola è musica. Era già il motto de Le Trésor de la langue, CD per l’Ambiances Magnétiques del 1989 di René Lussier dove le intonazioni del discorso determinavano le melodie strumentali. In Oralizations, Paul Dutton, uno dei massimi esponenti mondiali della vocal sound art, continua il discorso di Lussier, spingendo quasi al parossismo le proprie escursioni (non verbali) nel dominio musicale del canto sonoro (soundsinging).

La parola oltre la parola, in essenza. In Oralizations Dutton intercala pezzi “parlati” a pezzi “cantati”, considerando parola e musica come le due estremità di un continuum sonoro sul quale l’artista muove il proprio lavoro. Ne risulta una sorta di “meta-logo” che tenta di esprimere l’indicibile, attraverso tutto lo spettro (vocale, canoro, sonoro, rumoristico, fonologico) di cui il suo locutore può servirsi. Lavoro di indubbia difficoltà, ma di assoluto interesse [essenziale l’ascolto in cuffia].

Leaves and Snows è un disco del trio formato dal giovane e talentuoso chitarrista Antoine Berthiaume, dal pianista francese Quentin SirJacq, e dall’ingegnere del suono Norman Teale. Di tutt’altro genere rispetto al precedente (qui siamo in completa sperimentazione jazz), sembra avere continuità non diretta, non esplicita, assolutamente non cercata. Presenta un certo uso della particella suono — provenga essa dal graffio delle corde, dal tocco del piano o dal missaggio elettronico — che tocca sia parola (intesa come poesia) che musica (intesa come discorso sui suoni).

Da corde, tasti, percussioni sfiorate (e poco percosse) scaturisce un jazz di matrice sperimentale, con riferimenti voluti ad un Derek Bailey e ad un Fred Frith, una musica profonda, cupa a tratti, piena d’imprevisti, oscillante in una atmosfera rarefatta. Lavoro immaginario e immaginifico, per carattere dei suoi interpreti, beffeggia le regole della gravità con il suo senso di irrinunciabile sospensione.

Di impronta nettamente jazzistica è invece Jardin d’exil del canadese Ensemble en pièces, quintetto guidato dal sassofonista Philippe Lauzier, accompagnato dal pianista Alexandre Grogg, dal batterista Thom Gossage, dal trombettista Andy King e dal contrabbassista Christophe Papadimitriou.

Jardin d’exil snocciola quattordici brani di una musica che fatica a bilanciarsi tra chiarezza e confusione. L’instabilità non è la tecnica (fragile confine tra improvvisazione e composizione), quanto piuttosto il punto d’intesa raggiunto — un corto instante, tu sei là, immobile. La musica si frantuma letteralmente nei pezzi dell’ensemble, restituendoci poche e forse vaghe certezze, atmosfere schive, immagini discontinue. Sincopi sui tempi deboli, essenza di questo jazz.

Taxonomy (che sta per Elio Martusciello, Graziano Lella e Roberto Fega) suona e improvvisa esplorando terreni di un sincretismo elettronico da tempo esso stesso terreno di ricerca. La combinazione di suoni (quale che sia la loro provenienza) non è un monolite freddo all’ascolto, ma al contrario A Global Taxonomical Machine, è una vera e propria macchina in grado di classificare ogni particella e da cui fluiscono luci e ombre di una musica ricchissima di dettagli e di sfumature. Statica e dinamica, silenzio e ipertensione dello spazio acustico sono campi di indagine di questo lavoro che riesce a mantenere un’impronta piacevolmente attenta all’acustica. Tre essenze affiatate che disseminano nella trama di questo lavoro sapienza ed essenza. Non sono da nessuna parte (solo un clarinetto ci ricorda che siamo in presenza di un fiato, di una vita, di una persona), eppure è così pregna di loro questa musica…

Critique

Luc Bouquet, ImproJazz, no. 58, December 1, 2005

Les voici nous guidant vers l’étrangeté des sphères. Le premier est guitariste, il fertilise des paysages arides et dévastés; le deuxième est pianiste, il rassure l’harmonie, approfondit la masse; le troisième est ingénieur du son, il veille, cristallise, complote amoureusement. Ces trois-là ont en commun d’avoir croisé la route du Mills College, là où précisément deux professeurs-passeurs - Joëlle Léandre & Fred Frith - prodiguent conseils et bienveillance aux jeunes musicien(ne)s. Parce qu’ils ne se soumettent à aucune règle, parce que la stratégie est absente de leur musique, Antoine Berthiaume, Quentin SirJacq et Norman Teale arment leur musique d’une poésie fraternelle.

Les voici nous invitant vers l’étrangeté des sphères. Les voici intimes dans leurs petits bruits, soudés, cheminant vers une simplicité évidente, étrange et inattendue parce qu’oubliée. Quelque chose irriguant et fluidifiant la sphère et qui nous touche en plein cœur. Et Joëlle Léandre d’ajouter: ces deux-là sont vrais, sincères, élégants; la musique qu’ils jouent est profonde, joyeuse, risquée, ils s’écoutent et s’entendent. Qu’ajouter de plus?

Quelque chose irriguant et fluidifiant la sphère et qui nous touche en plein cœur.

Review

Bart Plantenga, wReck thiS MeSS, October 25, 2005

Enchanting improv that seems to tell a series of stories that never veer too far into the joy of self-indulgent improvisational playing at the expense of our need to hear new sounds presented in a manner that we can at least relate to other than as examples of audio onanism. Atmospheric and with cultural refs galore, sounding in part like shattered shards of Morricone

Enchanting improv…

Critique

Roald Baudoux, Les Cahiers de l’ACME, no. 224, September 17, 2005

Ce CD contient une quinzaine de musiques du trio d’improvisateurs Bethiaume — Sirjack — Teale. Si Quentin SirJack (piano et percussions) et Antoine Berthiaume (guitare et percussions) œuvrent sur des instruments acoustiques, Norman Teale ne se contente pas d’enregistrer et de mixer le tout, mais fournit aussi une prestation électroacoustique discrète. Sur ces courts morceaux (de une à cinq minutes), on découvre un travail (qui relève avant tout de l’improvisation) sobre et juste réalisé par des musiciens qui - tout simplement - (s’)écoutent.

… sobre et juste réalisé par des musiciens qui — tout simplement — (s’)écoutent.

Soundcheck Review

Brian Marley, The Wire, no. 258, August 1, 2005

Of the three players on Leaves and Snows, only guitarist Antoine Berthiaume is known to me, from Soshin, a series of duets on Ambiances Magnetiques with fellow stringbenders Fred Frith and Derek Bailey.

Berthiaume is nearer to Frith than Bailey in his guitar stylings, and on Leaves and Snows he’s occasionally drawn to the tuneful end of the improvisation spectrum. Freedom Fried and Kawaidski for example, contain elegant, simple melodies and sound thoroughly composed, though they may not be, while Staring at a Western Time is suggestive of Hans Reichel mimicking one of Ry Cooder’s ’lone guitar in the wilderness’ film soundtracks.

But enough of comparisons, they distract attention from a key point - the individualism of Berthiaume’s approach, something he has in common with Quentin Sirjacq (piano, sometimes prepared) and especially Norman Teale (electronics). These players already have a distinctive music that, for all its spontaneity, is conceptually rigorous and displays a true group sensibility. They aren’t garrulous or barnstorming players - the music they make is spare and exacting, cool but not chilly, and Teale’s delicate electronic soundscaping and sensitive interactions are remarkable for such a young and relatively inexperienced player.

Each of them brings something worthwhile to the mix, and Teale’s engineering and editing of the session is exemplary- this is one of the best-sounding CDs I’ve heard for quite some time. In her brief sleevenote to Leaves and Snows, Jöelle Léandre describes the music as “profound” and “lovely”, which sums it up rather well. Consistently attractive without ever lapsing into prettiness, Leaves and Snows is a great success.

Leaves and Snows is a great success.

Review

Paul Bijlsma, Phosphor, no. 118, August 1, 2005

A guitarist, a pianist and a sound engineer come together to record leaves and snows, creating a certain seasonal quality. Antoine Berthiaume from Canada, the French musician Quentin SirJacq and Norman Teale hailing from the US have together built on minimal instrumental improvisation. The music sometimes reminds one of a film score, especially when piano is added. Tiny elements, like plucking, occasional percussion and concrete sounds. The music is rather slow; a dreamy atmosphere occurs. Fourteen tracks that bring a pleasant listening experience.

Fourteen tracks that bring a pleasant listening experience.

Review

Phillip Buchan, Splendid E-Zine, July 25, 2005

If you asked me to recap one of my fall semesters at college in musical form, I’d play a couple of Neil Young songs and let that be that. If you posed the same request to these three gentlemen, they’d pick up their respective instruments and respond with minimal, ominous improvisation, painting sleepless weekends with detuned clattering and rendering the calmer days between with patient plucking and gossamer textures. I can say this with confidence because it’s exactly what Leaves and Snow is. Recorded during the Fall 2004 semester while these three men were taking classes at Mills College, this avant-garde journal takes us from leaf-fall to snowfall and watches the days grow shorter and shorter.

Guitarist Berthiaume and pianist Sirjacq both consider themselves to be jazz musicians — though hardly the conventional sort, if Berthiaume’s collaborations with Fred Frith and Derek Bailey are any indication. Teale, meanwhile, works primarily as an engineer, reinterpreting others’ ideas by injecting his own. It’s unclear whether the songs on Leaves and Snow were recorded as single takes or as a series of takes on individual motifs, but its players are such skilled improvisers that either explanation seems viable, just as a very thin line separates Comets on Fire or Bardo Pond’s practice jams from their “written” studio output.

Despite its consistency in color, Leaves and Snow feels less like a traditional album than a compilation. Music- making approaches differ greatly from track to track. Un petit morceau de visage opens the album with classy Keith Jarrett-style solo piano, after which Teale’s swarthy loops bite and tear through SirJacq’s pregnant pauses. Freedom fried shows the two working in unison, cinematic synth sweeps lifting Sirjacq’s reserved notes. Berthiaume covers a daunting patch of land by himself, alternating between smoky desperado slide (Staring at a western time), zither-like drones (Contemplating innuendo) and all varieties of stomach-churning (in a good way) skronk. On Kawaidski, the three musicians shift focus from melody to percussion, beating on a number of tinny instruments to create a naked, pure landscape.

Given its fiercely divergent nature, Leaves and Snow doesn’t always go down smoothly. In the right frame of mind, however, its individual songs prove captivating as distinct units. The musicians’ deft economy of space — always fill it up in relation to one another, but still leave plenty of it, even in the climaxes — recalls the finest minimalists, while their bursts of swarming, high volume skree makes wading through the album’s dark recesses anything but unrewarding.

The musicians’ deft economy of space recalls the finest minimalists, while their bursts of swarming, high volume skree makes wading through the album’s dark recesses anything but unrewarding.

Recensione

Nicola Catalano, Blow Up, no. 86-87, July 1, 2005

Giovane (classe 1977) e talentuoso chitarrista di Montréal, Antoine Berthiaume ha in passato incrociato la sua sei corde con quelle di due vecchie volpi dell’improvvisazione radicale come Derek Bailey e Fred Frith (cfr Shoshin del 2002, sempre su Ambiances Magnétiques). Adesso è la volta di un album in trio col pianista francese Quentin Sirjacq e l’ingegnere del suono americano Norman Teale, qui agli strumenti elettronici. Grevi implosioni improvvisative, sempre in bilico tra calore cromatico e astrazione, coi fulminei ronzi entomologici di Comme un lézard sous le grand fouet du jour caniculaire sospesi tra l’immaginario/immaginifico fanta-blues Contemplating Innuendo e le desolate ambientazioni morriconiane di Staring at a Western Time. (7/8)

Grevi implosioni improvvisative, sempre in bilico tra calore cromatico e astrazione…

Review

BLG, Downtown Music Gallery, June 24, 2005

This trio features Antoine Berthiaume on guitar & percussion, Quentin SirJacq on piano & percussion and Norman Teale on electronics, mixing & engineering. This was recorded at Mills College where Fred Frith has taught for the past few years. Experimental guitarist, Antoine Berthiaume, has a fine guitar duos disc out a couple of years back with two older pioneers, Derek Bailey and Fred Frith (on AM). I had never heard of him before this, but I was most intrigued. He recently moved to New York and played a marvelous solo set here last month. This is his second collaborative effort on the AM label and I can’t say I’ve heard of the other tow players, but again I am quite surprised. Antoine has been influenced by Frith, Bailey and other more adventurous guitarists and has come up with his own sound, his own crafty bag of tricks or ideas. Leaves and Snows is a mysterious combination of sounds, often quiet, yet very selective and evocative. Quentin sounds as if he is playing inside the piano and creating subtle alien landscapes, as Antoine plays delicate, yet eerie slide and e-bow induced ghost-like sounds. I don’t quite know what Norman Teale is doing at times, yet we hear some distant electronics and subtle manipulations at times. Occasional percussion is also utilized, adding a bit of subtle spice to keeps thing a bit off balance. My favorite moments are when Antoine is his most Frith-like, playing magically melodic chords or sounds and adding just the right amount of suspense. Too marvelous for words, no, just marvelous enough.

Too marvelous for words, no, just marvelous enough.

Review

Dolf Mulder, Vital, no. 480, June 22, 2005

A surprising cd from a new trio. The name of Antoine Berthiaume may ring a bell, as I reviewed his debut on Ambiances Magnétiques for Vital Weekly some time ago. On this album guitarist Berthiaume played guitar duets with Fred Frith and Derek Bailey. Not bads for a debute! On his new album we do not find him sided by veterans but accompanied by two other young musicians. This should guarantee a fresh approach and it does. Quentin Sirjacq is a pianist and composer from Paris. He studied in Holland and more recently at Mills College. It’s here that he and Berthiaume met during an improvisation class led by Joëlle Léandre. In the collaboration that grew Norman Teale (mixing, engineering, electronics) later joined in. And so this unusual trio of guitar, piano and electronics was a fact.

Their music is of a typical kind of modern music. Their music keeps lots of memories of a wide diversity of influences: jazz, rock, free improvisation, noise, ambient, touches of eastern music, etc. But the result is nothing of it all, but a very open improvisation based music. Atmosphere and mood are important in their soundscaping exercises. Sometimes their music is almost sounding like filmmusic echoing Morricone (Staring at a western time) or Ry Cooder. This means that they do not intend to discomfort the listener. Although their music is of course of a experimental kind, it is on the easy listening section of the spectrum.

A track like Freedom fried surprised me, as it was new for me to hear improvised music sounding so ‘romantic’ as it does here. A track like 40 Pills shows their good taste for coloring. It sounds like some gamelan music played on toy instruments.

In most pieces the guitar of Berthiaume is in a prominent role. Tracks like Leaves and snows and Nuclear Times are built around the piano playing of Sirjacq. The electronic treatments by Teale a harder to identify on the one hand, but that they are omnipresent is not to be missed. Quietly and slowly the three unfold their ideas in their poetic approach of improvised music. A nice one.

… a fresh approach…

Review

Irwin Block, The Gazette, May 12, 2005

Guitarist composer Antoine Berthiaume ventured to Mills College in San Francisco to record this remarkably fluid musique actuelle session with the contemporary palette of acoustic pianist Quentin SirJacq and the electronics of Norman Teale-a tasty and intriguing mix.

… a tasty and intriguing mix.

Critique

Réjean Beaucage, Voir, January 6, 2005

Antoine Berthiaume a surpris tout le monde en 2003 lorsqu’il a fait paraître son premier disque chez Ambiances Magnétiques, enregistré avec deux éminences grises de la musique actuelle: les guitaristes Fred Frith et Derek Bailey. Parti faire une maîtrise en composition à Mills College, en Californie, où enseigne Frith, il revient avec ce deuxième disque, concocté avec des collègues étudiants fervents comme lui d’improvisation: le pianiste français Quentin SirJacq et le preneur de son américain Norman Teale. Le résultat est très abstrait, mais jamais décousu, et la prise de son interventionniste de Teale donne un relief étonnant aux sons produits par les deux autres. ***1/2

Le résultat est très abstrait, mais jamais décousu, et la prise de son interventionniste de Teale donne un relief étonnant aux sons produits par les deux autres.

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