6 improvisations

Jean Derome, Malcolm Goldstein, Rainer Wiens

This time, the sweat on the shirt and the soil on the fingers were a delightful plus. The Squid’s Ear, USA

Goldstein and Wiens enjoy such a developed camaraderie that at times they seem to speak a single compound voice. Musicworks, Canada

Despite having worked together in countless projects, 6 improvisations is the very first record of the outstanding trio of stellar improvisers Jean Derome, Malcolm Goldstein and Rainer Wiens.

Composer and improviser Jean Derome has been a constant presence on the Montréal scene since the early 1970s; he’s closely associated to the label Ambiances Magnétiques, which he co-founded in the 1980s.

Attracted by the extraordinary vitality of its new music scene, both Malcolm Goldstein and Rainer Wiens have elected Montréal as their home more than 20 years ago.

This new improvised music project will certainly fill a gap in the three musicians’ own discographies, and no doubt attract the attention of every free improv fan, both in Québec and internationally.

Derome, Goldstein and Wiens have already played together — both as a trio and as members of larger ensembles — on many occasions: from the Mercredimusics improv series curated by Derome himself, Joane Hétu and Lori Freedman (which has presented more than 250 concerts in the last 10 years) to the John Cage tribute that Goldstein organized September 5, 2012 at Montréal’s Sala Rossa to celebrate what would have been the American composer’s 100th birthday.

Goldstein and Wiens both appear with percussionist Ganesh Anandan on Speaking in Tongues (2003); they are also featured in Hidden Songs (1999), recorded with drummer John Heward. Both cds have been released by Ambiances Magnétiques.

Derome has played in various groups led by Wiens, including the guitarist’s Fela Kuti-tribute band, Follow Follow, and the project Shadows of Forgotten Ancestors (which released its eponymous record on Ambiances Magnétiques in 2009).

Finally, Wiens has been a mainstay in Derome own’s project for large ensemble Canot-camping, which has been featured in new music festivals across Canada; their Canot-camping, expédition 4 was published by Ambiances Magnétiques in 2002.


CD (AM 214)

  • Label: Ambiances Magnétiques
  • AM 214
  • 2013
  • UCC 771028121427
  • Total duration: 55:49
  • Sympathique case
  • 126 mm × 126 mm × 5 mm
  • 30 g

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In the press

Heard In

Massimo Ricci, The Squid’s Ear, September 26, 2014

The digital testimony of a trio composed of proven collaborators in several related projects, 6 Improvisations shelters the uncontaminated traits of a collective vibrancy which seems to entirely discard overt references. Interactional assurance and an impulsive will of attempting solutions beyond the safety net of inherited jargons and foreseeable choices transpire across 55 minutes. Two of the six tracks are Derome/Goldstein duos.

In Saturnien, Wiens’ prepared guitar acts as an arrhythmic basis for Derome’s compressed shrieks and Goldstein’s tattered symbolization; in calmer waters, a tonic composure imbues the air, all musicians returning to a levelheaded demonstration of control on the conflictual aspects of the interplay. The first duo, aptly titled Silences habités, consists of concise ruptures of quietness with sounds whose dynamic and timbral range acknowledge scratched strings, awkward harmonics and elongated, if occasionally faltering pitches as equally valuable components. It must be told that Derome’s “objects” play an important subversive role through this and other moments in the album; bird calls and squeaking/quacking “things” are part of the equation. L’idée de nature is typified by Wiens’ kalimba turning the whole into a multicolor minimalist aggregation of wooden flutes (or ocarinas?) and singing/chattering violin in a bewitching pseudo-static semblance. The innumerable ideas churned out by the soloists in this setting work wonders in expelling cheaply exotic pictures from the listener’s psyche.

Bamboche is another episode where humor and high quality become engaged: ludicrous blasts, coarse utterances and melodic twists by Derome, ungroomed arco action by Goldstein, Wiens using all he needs to make his axe sound as if someone stumbled and fell upon it while carrying a dozen tomato cans. Still, there’s room for fleeting glimpses of pensiveness amidst the frantic disruption of the instrumental framework. Impromptu is the second head-to-head between Derome and Goldstein: the brusqueness of fragmented bursts and the scissions among bilinear cells increase the gap separating our brain’s mnemonic possibilities from the saddening reality of its role as a deterrent in the urge-to-gesture connection. Glissements-souffles ends the program with the same lack of artificiality experienced throughout: aleatory structures, whimsical counterpoints and captious lucidity abound, the ears thankful for having been subjected to a trip to previously unseen lands. This time, the sweat on the shirt and the soil on the fingers were a delightful plus.

This time, the sweat on the shirt and the soil on the fingers were a delightful plus.


Stuart Broomer, Musicworks, no. 119, June 1, 2014

Saxophonist Jean Derome, violinist Malcolm Goldstein, and guitarist Rainer Wiens are pillars of Montreal’s improvised music community who retain their sense of whimsy and their willingness to test the limits. Frequent associates in varied contexts, they meet for the first time as a trio on 6 improvisations, where one finds a genuine playfulness.

The unpredictability is evident from the opening track, Saturnien, with Derome offering sustained saxophone blasts that may test the limits of aggression. By the end of the ten-minute piece, his sound is as warm and sweet as any sentimentalist might desire, as if in the course of the group dialogue Derome has inserted a history of alto saxophone sonority from Ellington sideman Johnny Hodges to French provocateur Jean-Luc Guionnet (a recent associate) — but he has done so in reverse.

That style of juxtaposition and unlikely evolution takes different forms here. Goldstein is a master of a kind of multiple musical speak, throwing off masses of bowed, plucked, and strummed notes with such rapidity that the shifting method of articulation seems like a continuous gesture. He and Wiens enjoy such a developed camaraderie that at times they seem to speak a single compound voice. The almost programmatic L’idée de nature floats on Wiens’ kalimba figure and Derome’s bird-like flute calls, while the sequence of six improvisations seems to move towards ever-greater empathy, climaxing with the memorably sustained, pensive dialogue of Glissements-souffle.

Goldstein and Wiens enjoy such a developed camaraderie that at times they seem to speak a single compound voice.


Massimiliano Busti, Blow Up, no. 192, May 1, 2014

Attorno all’Ambiances Magnétiques negli ultimi trent’anni si è sviluppato un movimento che ha posto Montreal al centro dell’interesse dei musicisti attratti dalle forme compositive più eterodosse. A testimonianza di tutto ciò, basti pensare che un violinista come Malcolm Goldstein (già attivo a New York negli anni sessanta a fianco di James Tenney e Philip Corner) e il chitarrista Rainer Wiens proprio a Montreal hanno deciso di stabilirsi per condividere con i musicisti locali un percorso di ricerca nella dimensione più creativa del suono, proprio come accade in queste 6 Improvisations frutto del loro incontro col sassofonista Jean Derome. Il trio spazia dal lessico frammentario di Bamboche alle irreali visioni etniche di L’idée de nature, dalle esplorazioni timbriche di Glissements-souffles alla torbida inquietudine di Saturnien, equilibrando con estrema efficacia il dialogo fra chitarra preparata, strumenti a fiato e violino in un continuo avvicendarsi di soluzioni brillanti e inattese.


Dolf Mulder, Vital, no. 929, April 21, 2014

A new bunch of CDs from Ambiances Magnetiques. From Goldstein and Wiens we know earlier releases as a trio with Ganesh Anandan and John Heward. This time Jean Derome is their partner. As a trio however they have already performed for a longer time. On april 12th, 2013 they recorded this crystal clear recording in the studio. Goldstein playing violin, Wiens mainly prepared electric guitar plus kalimba, and Derome alto sax, flute and objects. Intense and concentrated improvisations with lots of colour and sounds. Fine interplay and interaction between these reputed players, with some breath-taking moments. Like Derome, Robert Marcel Lepage is one of the founding members of Ambiances Magnétiques. He didn’t release many albums in the last few years if I’m right, but now he strikes back with two releases. He presents the more light-hearted and accessible part of the Montréal musical spectrum. Le lait maternel contains 18 compositions Lepage wrote between 2003 and 2010 for film. It has some very catchy tunes like the jumpy Le Rock du Bungalow that evokes orchestral film music from the 60s. Good time music! Very friendly music, tapping from a diversity of styles and idioms. Pieces on Canard Branchu leave some more room for improvisation, but in essence this is also an album of melodious and harmonious music, typical for the Ambiances scene since the 80s. Again performed for a big ensemble of 9 musicians. So both albums offer a bunch of well-defined tunes, dressed up in fine arrangements giving voice to many different instruments and sounds. They may not surprise you, but will sure entertain you. With the new release by Palardy we turn again to a more serious face of this scene. Again we are dealing with one of the early member of the Ambiances scene. Self-taught Danielle Palardy Roger made her mark since the early 80s with groups like Justine, Wondeur Brass and Les Poules. In the last few years — since about 1998 — she concentrates on writing for Ensemble SuperMusique, an ensemble that was founded by her. Compared with earlier projects by her, this one is most close to composed new music and deals with the play between improvisation and composition. Le Caillou is one of her oldest and most played works for this ensemble. It “is a simple game piece in which the players pass the musical development of the piece to each other while building up a slow crescendo; another set of instructions tells the musicians to trace back their steps and play as exactly as possible what they did play the first time around”, Roger explains. The one that surprised me most this time is Quartetski doing Stravinsky. Quartetski is a project founded by Pierre-Yves Martel in 2007, focused on reinterpreting works of classical composers in an improvised setting. They reworked compositions by Prokofiev, Purcell, Satie, Ellington, Cage, a.o. Because of the 100th anniversary of Stravinsky’s Rite of Spring they decided to chose this work. Besides Pierre-Yves Martel (viola da gamba, objects), we hear Isaiah Ceccarelli (drums), Bernard Falaise (electric guitar), Philippe Lauzier (bass clarinet, soprano sax) and Joshua Zubot (violin). Marvellous job in transposing this orchestral work for small ensemble. Martel started from Stravinsky’s two-piano version of this composition. His re-working leaves the original work in tact concerning spirit, energy and drive that is in the original piece. Adding room for improvisation. Chapeau!



Bruce Lee Gallanter, Downtown Music Gallery, March 30, 2014

All three members of this trio have played together (two at a time in different groups) on three previous AM discs. While Jean Derome (AM founding member) can be found on more than seventy discs so far, Malcolm Goldstein plays on some dozen discs and Rainer Wiens on just three so far, hence this is an unique trio with a modest title, 6 Improvisations.

This is some extraordinary, intense, bristling improv! Wow!

The opening piece is similar to some old Frith and Zorn improv but with some scary violin added to great effect. Mr. Derome does a fine job of balancing his extreme bent-note dialogue with tasty alto segments detouring to Monkland at times. Malcolm Goldstein, who is also a composer, starts with Polly Bradfield-like weird string sounds and then goes further out, tapping on the strings with the bow and his fingers. Mr. Wiens, who is the least known member of the trio, is impressive at playing his prepared guitar in a variety of strange ways. Certain sounds he gets I can figure out while at times he keeps me guessing with sounds from somewhere else.

This trio creates their own world with their distinctive sounds which balance precariously between fascinating and disorienting.

This trio creates their own world with their distinctive sounds which balance precariously between fascinating and disorienting.

Listening Diary

François Couture, Monsieur Délire, January 17, 2014

A session recorded in April 2013 Montréal’s Studio 270. Non idiomatic free improvisation strongly reminiscent of the British school, especially of the Spontaneous Music Ensemble: collectivized individual playing, improvisers listening to each other, room for silence, thoughtful creativity. Derome on alto sax, flute, and objects; Wiens on prepared electric guitar and kalimbas; Goldstein and his ever-so-aerial violin. Demanding music that will surely be off-putting to the non-initiated. A fine trio.

A fine trio.