Lori Freedman is a very profiled Montréal-based clarinettist, improviser and performer of contemporary composed material, by others as well by her own hand. She worked over the years with diverse composers and performers like Maurice Kagel, Joëlle Léandre, Ab Baars, etc. Excess is her latest recording and documents her solo program The Virtuosity of Excess and has Freedman performing six compositions by Richard Barrett, Brian Ferneyhough, Paul Steenhuisen, Paolo Perezzani, Raphaël Cendo and one by herself. In 2016 she toured eleven cities in North America, and I guess the recording took place afterwards. Besides bass clarinet and contrabass clarinet, freedman plays kick drum, electronics and voice. Thematically this turns is about excess: ‘With this project, I wanted to discover the beauty of the extremes, exploit them and embody them in the music’, Freedman explains. With these, she is pushing the limits of what is possible on the low clarinets. In all its virtuosity there is also pure rawness in her performance that is loaden with her emotional energy. By far the oldest composition is Time and Motion Study I composed in 1977 by New Complexity composer Brian Ferneyhough. Maybe most close the theme of excess is the opening work Interference composed by Richard Barrett in 2000. This work starts with very expressive vocals by Freedman screaming, growling and shrieking, that after a while a changed for equally growling, etc. playing of the contrabass clarinet, supplemented with some kick drum. Also, the closing work Décombres by Raphaël Cendo is a very dramatic and extravagant work for contrabass clarinet and disturbing electronic noise. Her own composition Withwhatbecomes (2016) is in contrast with the above-mentioned works in the sense that we stay more in calm and quiet regions of the contrabass clarinet, with parts that are almost of a lyrical nature.
Jean Derome, composer and improviser from Montréal is one of the most active forces in the Ambiances Magnétiques-scene, that was co-founded by him in the early 80s scene. Sudoku pour Pygmées is his most recent release in a series of uncountable releases over the decades. This one has Derome as a composer. The CD counts three compositions for a large ensemble. Composed for different occasions over a period of 20 years. The title piece was composed in 2010, 7 danses (pour «15») in 1989 and 5 pensées (pour le caoutchouc dur) in 2001. They have been re-orchestrated by Derome for an extended line up of Dangerous Zhoms: Jean Derome (flute, baritone saxophone, composer), Guillaume Dostaler (piano), Pierre Cartier (double bass), Pierre Tanguay (drum set), Jean Rene (conductor), Guido Del Fabbro (violin), Lori Freedman (bass clarinet, clarinet), Andre Leroux (tenor saxophone, clarinet), Craig Pedersen (trumpet), Julie Houle (tuba), Bernard Falaise (electric guitar) and Olivier Maranda (percussion). For the title piece, Derome took inspiration from the Sudoku puzzle, a square of 45 units that Derome divided into 5 groups of 9. He composed nine canons and created a polyphonic whole, which is a very musically complex and enjoyable work that started with playing with a non-musical game. 7 Danses (1989) is a work that plays with contrast in styles and genres. Seven short miniatures, moving between one and four minutes, are dressed in different musical styles: rock, jazz, shuffle, waltz, etc. Concluding composition 5 pensées (pour le caoutchouc dur), was originally composed for Vancouver’s Hard Rubber Orchestra in 2001, is likewise a journey through different moods en thoughts. The second part refers to Monk, the third one to Ellington. Derome is well known as an improviser and jazz musician. But it is really a joy to have him here as a composer of very well constructed, though not renewing chamber music.
Coco Swirl is out now on “Ambiances Magnetiques”. The Ratchet Orchestra had recorded all the music. The orchestra is formed from great and famous musicians of avant-garde jazz and contemporary academical music scene — here together plays Lori Freedman (clarinets), Jean Derome (flutes, baritone saxophone), Yves Charuest (alto saxophone), Aaron Leaney (tenor saxophone), Jason Sharp (bass saxophone), Ellwood Epps (trumpet), Craig Pedersen (trumpet), Scott Thomson (trombone), Jacques Gravel (contrabass trombone), Julie Richard (tuba), Joshua Zubot (violin), James Annett (viola), Jean René (viola), Guillaume Dostaler (piano), Ken Doolittle (percussion), Isaiah Ceccarelli (drum set) and Nicolas Caloia (double bass, conductor). The compositions by Nicolas Caloia are performed here. The Ratchet Orchestra is famous for extraordinary and innovative interpretations, bright and expressive style, unique sound and enchanting musical language. Musicians are fusing together dozens of styles, expressions and sounds — they get a fantastic result.
Coco Swirl is filled with original and bright ideas. The music is filled with concepts and modern ideas. Each musician has its own way of improvising and playing — all of them are marvelous improvisers. The music is always somewhere between arranged composition and improvising. Solid, evocative and academical pieces gently fit together with sparkling, furious, bright, expressive or moving free improvisations. Vivid, many-layed, wide and colorful musical pattern is created. It contains dozens of expressions, styles, timbres, sounds and other elements. The wide variety of styles is created — the compositions are an organic place to mix up together absolutely different music styles. Contemporary academical music, the ideas of modernism and post-modernism, electronics and experimental music, academic avant-garde are mixed up with free improvisation, experimental and avant-garde jazz, the streams of Canadian, American and European jazz. The soft intonations of bebop, post bop, hard bop and other modern jazz styles also are heard in the compositions. This huge variety of styles, rhythms and sounds makes colorful, enchanting and bright sound. The music is moving and vivid. Melody line is kept by saxophones, clarinets, flutes and trumpets. All kinds of reeds create marvelous melody line. Soft and whistling flutes have romantic, tight and calm mood who sometimes burst on furious, dramatic or passionate culminations. Vivid and expressive saxophones are full of impressive blow outs, tremendous culminations, passionate, moving and trembling excerpts, incredible riffs, strange timbres and special effects. Flowing, light and expressive melodies by clarinets are filled with energy and drive. The melodies are contrasting with deep, dark and solemn tunes of bass line. Vigilante, thrilling and growling trumpets certainly bring the energy and drive to the compositions. Stitching, sharp, aggressive, thrilling, furious, roaring and wild improvisations are accompagnied by fabulous ornaments, gorgeous textures, dizzy passages, weird timbres and special effects. Woodwinds and trumpets make a great combo — all kinds of colors, textures and sounds are mixed up to one place and make solid and independent melody line. Breaking sessions, enchanting solos, wild fast and furious culminations, sharp and vigilante sequences of chords — these elements are the main compounds of piano music. Piano gently fit together with all kinds of instruments — it’s the source of life, joy and inventive musical decisions. The strings bring in the compositions the academical sound. Sharp and dramatic culminations,shrieky tunes, stitching and aggressive sounds who are contrasting with soft pizzicatto, deep solos, calm and lyrical contemplations and other elements. The sounds of trombones and tuba keep deep, tight and solid bass line along with double bass. Musicians also don’t hesitate to get on research of strange timbres and weird sounds. Drums and percussion contain great rhythmic section. Modern, extravagant and passionate rhythmic sessions meet minimalistic, repetitive and ascetic series, breaking and wild improvisations and typical rhythmic forms of various jazz styles. There’s no line between academic avant-garde and avant-garde jazz — musicians fuse these styles together in organic and natural way. They manage to make a fantastic interpretations of Nicolas Caloia music. Nicolas Caloia demonstrates his own, driving and unique composing style — here meets innovative ideas, expressive decisions, driving solos, solemn, deep and evocative academical music, sound experiments, the newest tendencies of modernism, incredible and universal instrumentation, composing and improvising and the roots of avant-garde jazz. The music has inspiring, vivid and bright sound.
Guitarist and poet, Toronto-born and Nova-Scotia resident, Arthur Bull enjoys a compound musical identity. He has been a part of the Canadian improvising community for decades, developing a personal idiom that draws in equal parts from the extended techniques of free improvisation and the slide and finger-style traditions of blues and folk idioms. These two CDs, from Spring 2018, present Bull in radically different, if equally radical settings.
The Surruralists is essentially a duo of Bull and electric bassist Éric Normand, though guests sometimes contribute to a music that’s at once timeless and timely. The two (sometimes subtly, sometimes not) merge free improvisation with folk singing, mixing French and English traditions to craft a primal music in which country tunes and proto-rhythm ‘n’ blues collide with flashes of an unearthly sound art. Bull’s raw baritone and slide guitar drive Jack o’ Diamonds and Frankie (and Johnny), while his gift for epigram emerges on the spoken Skidmarks: “I couldn’t count how many ways the woodpecker could divide the beat.” Normand adds weird electronic burbles to condition familiar themes, and he’s eloquent on the dirge La courtisane brûlée, with Bull adding plaintive harmonica and Ben Grossman a funereal vielle à roue (or hurdy gurdy).
Among Bull’s international associations is one formed in 2002 with drummer Roger Turner, a charter member of the British school of free improvisation. Turner’s sometimes machine-like approach can be traced directly to an early appreciation of the brilliant precision of Dave Tough, the drummer who propelled the rise of Chicago jazz over ninety years ago. Anyone who imagines free improvisation to be somehow vague in its contours simply hasn’t heard Roger Turner. In 2018 Bull and Turner expanded their duo with the addition of trombonist Scott Thomson for a tour (as Monicker) that stretched from Southern Ontario to Nova Scotia.
No blow by blow description could do justice to Spine: the music is mercurial, each of the CD’s six tracks a continuum of shifting, permutating relationships and voices, much of it conducted at incredible speed, from Thomson’s burbling register leaps and runs, squeezed through a metal mute, to Turner’s high-pitched clatter. Bull’s voices range from long, wandering bass glissandi to high-speed flurries of metallic scatter-shot, liable to be confused with some of Thomson and Turner’s own voicings, but the very determination with which the three proceed soon destroys any identikit game of “he said, he said” with a conclusive “When was that?” It’s a high-water mark in Canadian free improvisation.
Recall if you will music with gestures that are, by your standards, “expressive” (anger, sadness, intense joy — any non-neutral sentiment). Here are some of mine:
- Jimi Hendrix’s Spanish Castle Magic
- Neil Young’s single pitch solo on Cinnamon Girl
- Akio Suzuki performing with a whisky bottle in a sock
- The busy middle passages of Penderecki’s String Quartet No. 2
Within these dear-and-near-to-me examples, there is a demonstration of the thing people call “heart” and “je ne sais quoi” and “they have it” and “spirit”. Despite a divisive spectrum of technical effort and complexity to modesty and simplicity, there are works that override genre, culture, race, etc. to pierce your soul in an equal way.
Though being moderately economic with notes, effects, and quantity of performance, Hmmh says and emotes a great deal. Joane Hétu (voice, numerous objects), Pierre-Yves Martel (on his usual viola da gamba plus harmonica and zither), Émilie Mouchous (a DYI electronics guru on Korg synthesizer), and Carl Ludwig Hübsch (tuba and also numerous objects) play on the physicality and length of breath to create a tense, confining, intimate ecosphere.
Hétu and Martel begin in the right channel with a duet of faint hums and gentle palmed strokes. On the other side, Mouchous conjures placid warbles, chirps, hiss, and Theremin-like bursts and glissandi. The trio often recesses and then resumes with relatively more momentum; near three minutes, they’re joined by Hubsch engaging in a low, fluttering twin to Mouchous, and the quartet begins to unravel with a small cloud of tapping, scratching, and other micro-detritus twirling about. All players lean back half-way through the work and unleash a lung emptying (or filling, like inhaling as much as possible to nearly induce a dead faint) that realizes as a great deal of shrill dragging across strings, mechanical screams and tuba emulating a volatile steam engine. It is literally the sound of screeching brakes and extreme acceleration (bonkers, I know). Effortlessly, the group slinks back into a purring drone before adopting a more percussive aesthetic on Pause innocente. Mouchous’s sine wave persists, but Hétu rattles off long series of sibilant, lippy whispers beside a shuffle of metallic objects and harmonica flare-ups. This doesn’t last long before the ensemble unites again in a lugubrious, slinking texture, though one less exuberant than the previous, and ending with a calming “wind.
Haiku with Bells and Se frotter à Brabylon are the most active of the six pieces, though they still remain more sound art than “music”; you’re more likely to hear staccato pings from items clunking around in a mixing bowl fitted as a tuba mute than melodic themes and development. From a tiny pulse of wood flicks, faint tinkling bells, creative key clacks, and blown hiccups to synthetic opera soprano to dialog between a multiple personalities sufferer to something that sounds similar to simulated engine troubles to erasing so hard your paper test is in tatters, Hmmh makes extended techniques its business.
The virtuosity of Fleur de chaos is in the creativity and collaborative meld the four musicians forge across this disc, the latter giving the impression that the recording was rehearsed, not improvised; ideas flourish and stifle and regrow and die without anyone’s ego attempting to stick out and destroy this new creature.