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18 September 2017
By Dave Madden in The Squid’s Ear (USA), September 18, 2017

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“Technical virtuosity meets a virtuosity in cleverness is the best way to describe this music. Homage, respect, innovation: paint that on a banner and hang it at the next Quartetski show.”

Quartetski’s interpretation of classic works has been a mixed approach in the best possible way. Their version of Stravinski’s Le Sacre du printemps adhered near 50% of the time to the mystical original, the other portion being a different type of genius musical accoutrement.* The group’s Prokofiev covers turned the Russian composer into a hard-bopping jazz man. Now the quintet (oh the irony) sifts through 96 acts that make up the first three books of “progressive piano pieces” by Béla Bartók’s Mikrokosmos and offers 25 greatest hits.

The results here are… fun. They range from playful, naïve (per the simpler works intended as etudes for Bartók’s young son Péter) to mischievous to bold to sweet and stark. Livre I: I. Six mélodies à l’unisson wiggles out of the corner with Bernard Falaise’s gentle guitar melody. He hangs on a last note as Phillippe Lauzier’s bass clarinet and Isaiah Ceccarelli on xylophone meander in the delicate simplicity. Violinist Joshua Zubot offers a syrupy line and pause before the group — with Pierre-Yves Martel rounding out the mix on electric bass guitar — slams into a stint of rocking out. Turning on a dime, Lauzier is joined by a drifting melodica until a micro-burst of slinky jazz slips in. Livre III: XIII. Gamme pentatonique shimmers with a bloated pitch-shifting guitar (as in it sounds like someone skronking on a harmonizer pedal), slightly-out-of-tune synth and lively pizzicato from Zubot. An icy, wandering duet of wind instruments (soprano sax riffing that would make sense coming out of Evan Parker) meets lithe, mandolin-like strums, and the band slams back into the relatively pummeling, lugubrious rock; the mania of the sax persists as the rest of the crew hunker into a big ol’ groove.

Livre II: VI. Accompagnement en accords brisés comes with slide whistle sounds, pick slides, sexy rhythmic patterns, fun accordion-like chords (more melodica), the work coming off as Tom Waits scoring a Jim Jarmusch flick; Livre II: X. Méditation adopts the same aesthetic, but adds sultry tremolo guitar to the fold. Livre II: Dialogue is 43 seconds of punctuating distorted crunch whose last pluck probably ended with tongue out and a devil horns hand pose.

Makrokosmos, the final and longest piece at over nine minutes, is the quintet sinking into a wave of droning material with wispy gestures of bowed cymbals, squeaking harmonics and deep rumbles percolating to the surface. The juxtaposition of style here furthers the mystique of the album in that, sonically, it eulogizes the previous tracks. “Bartók, you are why we are gathered today, and this record is an artifact to the influence you had on us. Look at what your legacy produced!”

Technical virtuosity meets a virtuosity in cleverness is the best way to describe this music. Homage, respect, innovation: paint that on a banner and hang it at the next Quartetski show.

*This is an album that will be included in my desert island bunker.

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6 September 2017
By Massimo Ricci in Touching Extremes (Italy), September 6, 2017

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“The activities of Lepage and Lussier — quirkily proficient in clarinet and guitar respectively — are exquisitely complemented by Bozzini’s strings…”

We’re here reporting about the most recent effort by a pair of pillars of Québec’s scene, of whom this reviewer bought the vinyl version of their first collaboration — Chants Et Danses Du Monde Inanimé — shortly after it came out in 1984 (gasp). We never looked back, in case you’re asking.

Conventum, ever heard of them? Le Trésor De La Langue, anyone? Does the title La Traversée De La Mémoire Morte ring any bell? There is time to do some homework, no problem. But please do it if you’re not acquainted with these perennially acute artists yet.

The activities of Lepage and Lussier — quirkily proficient in clarinet and guitar respectively — are exquisitely complemented by Bozzini’s strings across a cycle of pieces long enough to give the idea of a fully formed concept and short enough to make sure that, once the picture has been drawn, there is no need to dwell on it more than necessary.

It’s a clever choice, because this is unpredictable music who literally defies categories. Furiously arrhythmic and incredibly poised; strengthened by commitment and ironically derisive; replete with melodic sketches which, in a matter of seconds, melt individual meanings in a contrapuntal cauldron of distortion, dissonance and — for lack of a better description — unobtrusive clangor.

Sometimes the mind’s gates get opened to sudden contemplative flashes. Those don’t last too much, either. Basically it’s all a “catch-a-glimpse” game: one may succeed or simply not realize what’s going on. When the ears manage to convey a precisely articulated message to the brain, chances are that Lussier, Lepage and the good people at Bozzini’s will find a way to disrupt whatever was learnt a moment before.

And they always do that armed with a wry smile emerging from nowhere, perhaps in the middle of a semi-organized chunk that doesn’t fit in any mental archive.

In another age, we could have stamped this album with a “sonic art for the modern times” definition. However, faint lights of yesteryear occasionally guided us along a path that exploits the memory as a catalyzer of transmissions related to some kind of “future”. A place where language is truly just the virus hypothesized by Bill Burroughs, exclusively curable through the use of instantaneous decisions dictated by instrumental adroitness.

Let’s sing and dance ourselves, then — and raise our aerials up. Maybe we’re set to untie the knots of incommunicability, and we don’t even know it.

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1 September 2017
By Marc Chénard in La Scena Musicale #23:1 (Québec), September 1, 2017

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“In 2010, trombonist Scott Thomson left his native Toronto for Montréal. “I wanted to change scenery, he states in a recent conversation, so I moved here to stake the turf for awhile.” Luck would have it that his landlord would be none other than Jean Derome.”

[Translation] In 2010, trombonist Scott Thomson left his native Toronto for Montréal. “I wanted to change scenery, he states in a recent conversation, so I moved here to stake the turf for awhile.” Luck would have it that his landlord would be none other than Jean Derome. In the seven years since, the new man in town has fully integrated himself into the scene, earning his spot as the all-purpose bone player in the Ambiances Magnétiques collective. Over time he has proved himself as a dependable sideman while issuing two sides under his own name for that same label.

In the last year or so, he has raised his profile, chiefly as an organizer of special projects. For the 2016 edition of the Suoni per il Popolo festival, he assembled a ten-piece brass ensemble to perform a work co-written with the ever daring Hog Town saxman John Oswald. Four months later, in October, he was one of three ring leaders behind the 20-piece orchestra that closed out the Off Jazz Festival with guest composer and soloist Roscoe Mitchell. As all good things come by threes, Thomson has now taken on his greatest task to date, as new artistic director of the Guelph Jazz Festival.

Founded in 1994 by Ajay Heble, a professor of English literature at the city’s University, the Guelph jazz event has been one of the country’s prime showcases for all types of jazz and improvised music with an edge. After two decades on the job, its founder bowed out, leaving a void that was filled by two interims till this year. Having been a frequent performer in years past, Thomson was no stranger to it. This time around, he is in charge of the event, now in its twenty-fourth edition, but will remain behind the scenes.

As he recollects, everything happened quickly. “In that transitional period, the festival was in trouble financially, its future even in doubt. A new board of directors took over and decided to forge ahead. They posted the job, I applied, was called in for an interview, and just three weeks later, last January, I was hired.”

Filling the shoes of the festival’s founder was enough of a challenge, all the more when Thomson had but three months to put the whole program together under tight financial constraints. “It’s something of a litmus test, for myself, because I signed a one-year contract, but for the event too, as a sustainable one.” One thing is sure, Thomson wants to preserve the event’s adventurous streak. Unique to this festival is a scholarly symposium devoted to improvisational practices, now coordinated by Professor Heble himself.

But ensuring content is not the only responsibility of an artistic director. He also has to provide a framework that is as enticing to music fans as it is user-friendly. To that effect, the new director has introduced a range of one-day package deals for its Saturday schedule (the busiest day of the event) while offering a shuttle service from downtown Toronto to the festival site.

For all of his tasks, Thomson is still a performing musician at heart, yet he has no intention of using the festival as a springboard for his own career. “I will be there only to listen,” he insists. “If circumstances are right, I may well perform in the future, but it’s not my goal at all.”

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29 August 2017
By Paul Steenhuisen in The WholeNote (Canada), August 29, 2017

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“At times haunting and tense, their sound is also unadorned, unaffected and exquisite.”

For its 23rd CD, Quatour Bozzini has produced a monograph recording with an almost-chronological retrospective of music by Christopher Butterfield. Spanning more than 20 years, it contains three pieces for solo strings and two string quartets. Clinamen (the Latin name Lucretius gave to the unpredictable swerve of atoms), for solo violin (1999), is made up of 80 cards, each containing a short musical phrase, combined according to the free will of the performer. Intentionally inchoate, the piece is bound together most prominently by the honey tone of Clemens Merkel’s playing, and yet, there are whispers of its compositional technique, as though related materials were sketched, bent through historical filters from classical music to modern, and then splayed by means of William S. Burroughs’ cut-up technique.

Fall (2013), written for the full quartet, is the perfect vehicle for the Bozzinis’ signature non-vibrato playing. At times haunting and tense, their sound is also unadorned, unaffected and exquisite. Engaged in material processes of rotation and accumulation, the ensuing tone of the piece is plaintive and distantly evocative of Cage’s String Quartet in Four Parts. The eponymous Trip (meaning possibly all of: excursion, to dance or run lightly, to stumble or fall, to release and raise an anchor, and to hallucinate) is an outlandish journey from a short Scorrevole movement augmented by a random talk radio broadcast, through a moto perpetuo, to a swaying, recapitulatory Scherzo. The last movement, marked Adagio molto, is longer than the preceding movements combined, and sounds not simply slow but like a time-stretched recording, where the smallest, usually ordinary timbral deviation is magnified and burnished, while notes, lines and harmonies are expanded into tranquillizing beauty.

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1 July 2017
By Geoffrey Lain in Mouton Noir #22:06 (Québec), July 1, 2017

Press Clipping

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28 June 2017
By Brian Olewnick in The Squid’s Ear (USA), June 28, 2017

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“Overall an extremely satisfying release — absorbing music incisively performed by Quatuor Bozzini.”

Butterfield (b. 1952) is a long-time teacher and composer, operating largely in Toronto and Montréal. As a teacher, he has a number of students working in various contemporary areas, including Wandelweiser-influenced, who assign him a great deal of credit for their development.

The Quatuor Bozzini, which also works out of Montréal, presents five of his works ranging in origin from 1991 to 2013: two quartets, a sextet and two solo pieces, all of them bracing and enjoyable. Lullaby (1991) adds an additional viola and cello. It’s a somewhat disorienting lullaby, broken up at times by nightmarish shrieks, but by and large it wafts along with luscious, quavering harmonics, sometimes entering surprising, perhaps dreamlike song formations, reminding this listener of Ben Johnston’s work. Maybe some Tenney as well. Generally, Butterfield’s music, as represented here, often goes off in unexpected, delightful directions where one can hear (or think to hear) this or that reference but still comes away with more of a Butterfield-ness than anything else. Lullaby is an excellent example of this. beach whistle (1993) and Clinamen (1999) are solo works for cello and violin, respectively, the former a sober conversation of sorts between high and low, plucked and bowed, the later portions strangely melancholy and evocative while Clinamen is something of a dance, flitting from one light form to another (it’s constructed from 80 short phrases which the violinist can combine in any sequence he/she chooses).

The final two pieces are for string quartet proper. As per the composer’s notes, fall (2013) is “(b)ased on the chromatic rotation of a four-note row” with a randomized dynamic range. The result is a hymn like structure but, as Butterfield says, “unpredictable ’voice leading’ and a sense of undependable harmony.” One experiences a vivid spatial effect, the louder chards seemingly “nearer” than others, an otherwise self-similar landscape where perceived distance is the sonic qualifier. Additionally, the overall meditative aspect of the music itself permeates this landscape, somber and disquietingly beautiful. Trip (2008) is in four sections, the first three short (each less than 2:30) while the final lasts some 13 1/2 minutes. The three brief movements are brisk and rich (the first incorporating a talk radio capture), rather Neo-Romantic in flavor while the final (marked Adagio molto) is dark, scratchy, agitated and brooding, though not discarding an underlying tonality; I found myself thinking of Arnold Böcklin’s paintings.

Overall an extremely satisfying release — absorbing music incisively performed by Quatuor Bozzini.

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