In the press
Chantale Laplante, Cette ville étrange, February 19, 2011
Serge Truffaut, Le Devoir, January 29, 2011Parce que Jean Derome, sans surnom particulier, est l’un des dix musiciens appartenant à la catégorie des artistes les plus passionnants, et donc incontournables, en Amérique du Nord.
Ken Waxman, Musicworks, no. 106, March 1, 2010
Juan Rodriguez, The Gazette, July 6, 2009
Jean Derome brings Montreal improv to Vancouver.Alexander Varty, The Georgia Straight, November 6, 2008
Lawrence Joseph, Signal to Noise, no. 51, September 1, 2008
Jean Derome, ça vous dit? On l’espère et cent fois plutôt qu’une. Parce que Jean Derome, sans surnom particulier, est l’un des dix musiciens appartenant à la catégorie des artistes les plus passionnants, et donc incontournables, en Amérique du Nord. On exagère? On fait dans l’enflure? À peine comme un peu. Mettons des vingt. Là, ça va? Bon.
Toujours est-il que la maison de la culture Côte-des-Neiges a donné carte blanche à Derome Jean, sans accent circonflexe sur le e, pour le mois de février. La nouvelle, qui n’est pas une ficelle, est si grosse qu’on attend que les autres maisons en fassent autant. À tour de rôle évidemment. Parce que cet amateur de Georges Perec et de sa Vie mode d’emploi n’a pas son pareil pour glisser le do là où il faut. Bref, Derome est la version oulipienne du jazz et de ses filiales à lui tout seul. Bien.
La série de cinq concerts va commencer le 1er. Ce soir-là, à compter de 20h, le saxophoniste et flûtiste va animer un groupe qu’il anime depuis une vingtaine d’années et qui s’appelle Evidence, comme dans Evidence, pièce écrite par Thelonious Sphere Monk.
Autrement dit, ce trio qui comprend aussi Pierre Cartier à la basse et Pierre Tanguay à la batterie s’attache à interpréter du Monk sans… piano! Écrire Monk, c’est dévoiler le programme. C’est dire qu’ils vont jouer Crepuscule with Nellie, Straight No Chaser, Ask Me Now, Monk’s Mood, Pannonica, Ruby My Dear, Light Blue et certainement Round About Midnight, qui sous la plume de Claude Nougaro a été augmenté de mots.
Le 4 février, la scène sera occupée par le TGG, comme dans Très Grand Groupe, parce qu’il est le TGD, comme dans Tanguay, Guilbeault (Normand de son prénom, à la contrebasse) et bien sûr Derome. À eux trois, un pianiste dynamique, puissant, intense, un pianiste qui nous rappelle le regretté Don Pullen, va se joindre. Son identité? Normand Deveault.
Le TGD + Deveault va décliner les compositions écrites par les grands pianistes de jazz. CQFD: ils devraient s’attarder à l’appropriation de pièces portant les empreintes de Billy Strayhorn, Bud Powell, John Lewis, Misha Mengelberg, Jelly Roll Morton, du moins on l’espère, Horace Silver, peut-être Bobby Timmons, Duke Jordan, Sun Ra — pourquoi pas? — et deux ou cinq autres.
Ensuite, le 9 février, un groupe qu’on ne connaît pas du tout: Derome entouré de Caloia à la contrebasse, de Ceccarelli à la batterie et de Dostaler aux claviers, qui vont interpréter les originaux signés par Caloia. Le 11 février, Derome sera à la tête de sa formation la plus oulipienne, celle qui, comme dans un poème de Raymond Queneau, «Maigris du bout des doigts / Parce que c’est ce qu’il y a de plus distingué».
Toujours est-il (bis) que Derome et les Dangereux Zhoms vont jouer les pièces conçues, arrangées par Derome. Les bonshommes qui effraient sont Cartier, Dostaler, Tanguay et bien sûr Derome dans la fonction d’éclaireur et de chef de bande. Puis, le 15 février, le TGG alias le TGD sera de retour. Cette fois-ci, Deveault va laisser sa place à François Bourassa, à qui se joindra la chanteuse Karen Young. Et que vont-ils faire? Revoir le grand livre écrit par Billy Strayhorn, auteur notamment du splendide Ispahan, de Passion Flower, de Chelsea Bridge et d’autres pièces à conviction qui sont devenues des pièces d’anthologie une fois jouées par Duke Ellington. Vive Ellington! Vive Derome!
Montréal’s long-reigning avant-garde-and-mainstream horn explorer Jean Derome, after seeing iconic alto sax explorer Lee Konitz, 80, at the Gesù late Friday night at the Montréal International Jazz Festival: “I’ve listened to him for a long time. At the beginning I didn’t understand anything about what he was doing. But then I began to realize that he always plays the same tunes, but in different ways, even at a solo concert at Théâtre Saint-Denis, lots of silences and abstractions. I always come back to certain discs, among others his record with Sal Mosca, Spirits, and Motion with Elvin Jones. I remember when I was young Robert Daudelin filmed a dinner with Lee Konitz and I was very shy in his presence. Now it’s always nice to see artists that are in fine form despite diminished physical resources. His also has a great rapport with his group Minsarah; one of his great strengths has always been his deep ears. I feel fortunate to see him now and seem him en forme with creative juices. He’s always surprising. Now I can’t wait to see Ornette [Coleman, 79, on Thursday].”
Language and geography pose formidable challenges to those who’d like to see more interplay between Quebec and British Columbia, but many artists are working to bridge that gap—most notably in improvised music, where there’s been a strong connection between Vancouver and Montréal for more than 20.
The two cities share some common attributes, notably a degree of isolation from the mainstream and a willingness to experiment. But affordable housing and superior funding have allowed Montréal’s players to develop an idiom all their own: musique actuelle, which blends elements of American-style free jazz, progressive rock, contemporary chamber music, and Gallic joie de vivre in a sound that’s as sophisticated as haute cuisine and as earthy as joual.
Vital though this music is, until recently some of its practitioners were feeling like it might be an endangered species.
“I was really worried to see the players and the audience always getting older and older, with no renewal,” says saxophone and flute specialist Jean Derome, reached at his Montréal home. “It was like we were just kind of an error in history—something that happened that won’t happen again. But now we’re seeing a lot of younger musicians starting to do free improv, or mixing acoustic instruments with electronics and so on. There’s a new generation of musicians that is thinking creatively and not just standing on the shoulders of a few originals.”
As one of the key architects of musique actuelle, Derome is understandably pleased by this influx of new talent—a phenomenon, he adds, that’s happening in Vancouver, too. This weekend, he’ll guest with Vancouver’s NOW Orchestra at its annual Hear It NOW festival, and while he’s long been familiar with bandleader Coat Cooke’s work, many of the faces in the recently revamped septet will be new to him.
“I was really surprised to see that the lineup has changed, that it’s not anymore the big 19-piece band,” he says. “But I had the feeling that Coat was finding it difficult… there was so much history between all the players, and sometimes that can almost be a trap. You feel that things can’t change.”
The new NOW band, which features a mix of jazz-based and rock-influenced players, is well suited to the material Derome’s bringing with him, which includes a few numbers culled from the repertoire of Les Dangereux Zhoms, the extroverted quintet that was for many years a fixture on the Montréal scene. The reed virtuoso will also have his own powers taxed: NOW has commissioned Vancouver New Music artistic director Giorgio Magnanensi to write a new piece for the band, and Derome reports that it includes a saxophone line that’s so complex even he’s having difficulty figuring it out.
Telephone conversations with the composer are helping, however. “The music is difficult, but the guy is not,” says Derome of Magnanensi — an assessment that could be applied equally well to this engaging saxophonist and his work.
The eighth annual Suoni per il Popolo spanned a month and covered a huge range of musical genres. Over 50 concerts took place in two venues located across the street from each other in Montréal’s artist-filled Mile End neighborhood. It gave fans of free jazz, experimental rock, avant folk, contemporary classical, electronic, and improvised musics plenty to get excited about. Add a workshop with the Sun Ra Arkestra, street performance art, DJ sets and an outdoor day of music and children’s activities, and you have an unbeatably eclectic event. […]
The festival kicked off with two shows that exemplified what it does best. The more intimate Casa del Popolo was the venue for a free jazz blowout with saxophonist Glen Hall, bassist Dominic Duval, and drummer William Hooker, […] Hall keeps a relatively low profile, despite having studied with Ligeti and Kagel and played with the likes of Roswell Rudd, Jimmy Giuffre and John Scofield. The compositions in the first set paid tribute to some of his influences, while the second set shifted to freely improvised territory, with Montréal’s young trumpet luminary Gordon Allen sitting in to add blistering sound blasts and overblowing to the mix. At times this resembled the more noise-based music Hooker has made with Thurston Moore. […]
Allen was a fixture at the festival, playing in seven shows during the month, including guitarist Rainer Wiens’ version of Riley’s In C.
Another evening featured the debut of All Up In There, a trio of Allen, Michel F Côté on percussion, and Frank Martel on Theremin. Martel often played the theremin as if it were a stand-up bass, while Côté, when not playing kit, obtained a surprising variety of sounds from winging two mics around Pignose amps. The overall effect was more like a group of virtuosic Martians than a standard jazz trio. […]
Christof Migone’s performance piece Hit Parade took place outside on a busy Saint-Laurent Boulevard, taking over the sidewalk and one lane of traffic. Eleven people lay face down on the pavement, each pounding a microphone into the ground exactly one thousand times, at varying speeds. The sound of a giant asynchronous metronome prompted ironic thoughts in this listener about the usual meaning of the phrase “hit music,” and about pounding the pavement as a metaphor for life. […]
The Quatuor Bozzini, a string quartet dedicated to contemporary music, performed a selection of pieces by experienced improviser/composers. Malcolm Goldstein’s four-part structured improvisation A New Song of Many Faces for in These Times (2002) was by turns gentle and harsh, agitated and introspective, as melodic and rhythmic fragments were passed from one member of the quartet to another. Goldstein himself performed Hardscrabble Songs, a 13-minute solo piece for voice and violin. Jean Derome and Joane Hétu’s Le mensonge et l’identité (“Lies and Identity”) is an hour-long tour de force with a strong socio-political component. The Bozzinis’ spoken contributions (both live and on prerecorded tape) ranged from pithy quotes from philosophers and politicians to personal anecdotes. The music deliberately unraveled into chaos, the players moving music stands and chairs about the room in response to unsynchronized metronomes, tipping over stands as the scores on them were completed. […]