actuellecd

Jean Derome

Montréal jazz fest 2009: Jean Derome on Lee Konitz

Juan Rodriguez, The Gazette, July 6, 2009

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].”

Jean Derome brings Montreal improv to Vancouver.

Alexander Varty, The Georgia Straight, November 6, 2008

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.

Le cinéma interprété

Stéphane Lépine, 24 images, no. 138, September 1, 2008

Les œuvres théâtrales existent sur le papier. Elles sont publiées, peuvent être lues et relues. Mais elles n’acquièrent leur véritable sens qu’à la scène, incarnées dans le temps et dans l’espace par des comédiens de chair et de sang. Et, on le sait, une pièce peut prendre un sens fort différent selon le metteur en scène qui lui donne vie scénique. De même, les partitions de toutes les œuvres que nous ont léguées les compositeurs existent bel et bien, mais ne sont que du papier mort jusqu’à ce que des musiciens en prennent possession: ainsi redécouvre-t-on Le clavier bien tempéré grâce à Till Fellner et en vient-on à croire possible l’interprétation des suites de Rameau au piano grâce à Alexandre Tharaud. Mais s’il en était de même au cinéma?? Si The General de Buster Keaton, L’homme à la caméra de Dziga Vertov et Entr’acte de René Clair devenaient en partie autre chose, se transformaient grâce à la musique, tels ces petits morceaux de papier jusque-là indistincts plongés dans l’eau qu’évoque Proust dans La recherche?? «Un livre, écrit Michel Tournier, est un oiseau sec, exsangue, avide de chaleur humaine, et, lorsqu’il s’envole, c’est à la recherche d’un lecteur, être de chair et de sang, sur lequel il pourra se poser afin de se gonfler de sa vie et de ses rêves.» Nous tous, cinéphiles, le savons: nous lisons et rêvons les films que nous voyons. Dix séances de cinéma muet en musique présentées par Robert Daudelin cet été à la Cinémathèque québécoise permettaient de voir à l’œuvre Jean Derome, François Bourassa et leurs invités en conversation avec des chefs-d’œuvre des années 1920: des musiciens, certes, mais aussi des lecteurs de films, faisant entendre leur lecture, leur recherche du sens à chaque seconde du défilement des images, faisant également voir des films s’échapper pour ainsi dire de leurs prisons pelliculaires, transformer leur achèvement qu’on aurait pu croire jusqu’alors intouchable en art vivant, appelé à être sans cesse recréé. Une dame, à la sortie de la deuxième séance, qui réunissait des films sous le titre «Avant-garde des années 1920», se dirigeait, émue, vers Jean Derome en lui disant: «Je n’avais jamais aimé, je n’avais jamais compris Le pont de Joris Ivens avant d’entendre ce que vous en avez fait.» Indiscret, j’écoutais ses propos, troublants et éclairants: cette dame n’a pas dit «avant d’entendre votre accompagnement musical», mais bien «avant d’entendre ce que vous en avez fait». Comme Gould s’appropriant la musique de Bach, Derome avait bel et bien fait quelque chose avec le célèbre court métrage de Joris Ivens. De même que les premières images de Mort à Venise de Visconti auraient un autre impact et un autre sens avec une autre musique que l’adagietto de la Cinquième Symphonie de Mahler, le film d’Ivens acquérait, aux yeux et aux oreilles de cette spectatrice, un sens qu’il n’avait jamais eu, cela grâce au lecteur Jean Derome, à ses saxophones, ses flûtes et ses objets. Les partitions d’Ennio Morricone ou de Bernard Hermann sont à tout jamais liées aux images des films, nombreux, qu’ils ont pour ainsi dire cosignés. Dans ce cas, Derome, Bourassa, Joane Hétu (véritable réincarnation de Cathy Berberian!), Robert Marcel Lepage et tous les autres ont interprété Walter Ruttmann et Rupert Julian, Boris Barnet et Josef von Sternberg, René Clair et Germaine Dulac de la même manière que Matthias Goerne interprète Schubert et Toros Can les Études de Ligeti. Le sens des images n’est pas fermé: voilà une évidence crasse dont j’ai repris conscience au fil de ces projections. Lues ainsi, dans la fièvre de l’instant (les musiciens n’avaient revu qu’une seule fois le film avant de se livrer à leur improvisation), les œuvres bénéficiaient d’une véritable lecture, c’est-à-dire, comme le suggère Baudrillard dans Le crime parfait, d’une lecture qui tienne «compte de l’écriture, de la force poétique, ironique, allusive du langage, du jeu avec le sens». L’homme-orchestre et musicien tout-terrain qu’est Jean Derome a toujours démontré des affinités électives avec tous les autres arts. Lui et François Bourassa, grand pianiste de jazz, en véritables passe-muraille qu’ils sont tous deux, sournoisement attentifs à la présence répétée de références sonores (trains en mouvement, coups de feu, etc.) et musicales (représentations de Faust dans The Phantom of the Opera et La souriante Madame Beudet, allusions à Debussy chez Clair et Dulac, personnages au piano dans plusieurs films), mais jamais soumis à elles, n’ont pas résolu le sens, ne l’ont pas fermé ou réduit, mais ont proposé le leur et démontré que chaque visionnement d’un film, que chaque lecture musicale en direct possède une rythmique, une durée, un son qui lui est propre. Devant les mêmes œuvres, d’autres musiciens auraient proposé d’autres lectures et démontré que les interprétations de ces immortels chefs-d’œuvre et de ces œuvres ouvertes sont aussi nombreuses que le nombre de leurs lecteurs.

L’homme-orchestre et musicien tout-terrain qu’est Jean Derome a toujours démontré des affinités électives avec tous les autres arts.

Live Reviews: Festival international de musique actuelle de Victoriaville

Mike Chamberlain, Signal to Noise, no. 51, September 1, 2008

While the 2008 edition marked the 25th anniversary of the Festival international de musique actuelle de Victoriaville, and while the festival grid looked, in some respects, like a tribute to certain mainstays of the festival that’s not quite the way that Victo’s director, Michel Levasseur, set out to put the milestone program together. The 25th anniversary nonetheless has a resonance for many people, Levasseur found. “You can’t hide the reality of this history,” he said in an interview before the festival. “Some people have 25 years of marriage. Some people think of where they were 25 years ago. Some of our audience weren’t even born then. […]”

And there was, in fact, a certain symmetry to the lineup, with Jean Derome et les Dangereux Zhoms + 7 and John Zorn’s project The Dreamers opening the festival at 8 and 10 pm respectively. Both Derome and an expanded lineup of Les Dangereux Zhoms and Zorn’s Dreamers delivered performances that demonstrated that their leaders were still making interesting, relevant music. Les Dangereux Zhoms did two pieces. The first, Traquen’Art, was first performed late last year in homage to the Montréal production company of the same name, while the second, Plateforme, was a premiere, written in tribute Levasseur’s creation and life work. With the lineup expanded to include the voice of Joane Hétu, the reeds of Lori Freedman, and the turntable of Martin Tétreault, among others, the two compositions encompassed a wide palette that drew together almost everything Derome has done over the past thirty years. Ranging from delicate interplay between voice, violin and viola to full-on collective improvisation with screeching guitar and muted trombone pyrotechnics, the music exploded generic considerations in the best Victo tradition. […]

A lot of festival-goers skip the midnight shows, but this year’s edition featured two of the best I have seen in a decade of attending the festival, the Friendly Rich Show on Thursday and Michel F Côté’s post-rock soul sextet (juste) Claudette on Sunday. […] While the collective intrigue of the three Thursday concerts were hard to match, there was much to savor over the weekend. Among these […] the premiere performance by the trio of René Lussier, Martin Tétreault and Otomo Yoshihide, whose nakedly human endeavors to improvise as a trio had to overcome their long histories of playing with one another in duos, the results demonstrating both the promise and the pitfalls of improvised music.

Live Reviews: Suoni per il Popolo

Lawrence Joseph, Signal to Noise, no. 51, September 1, 2008

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. […]

FIMAV (May 15-19)

Kurt Gottschalk, All About Jazz New York, no. 75, July 1, 2008

Guitars reigned supreme at this year’s Festival International de Musique Actuelle de Victoriaville. The saxophones were there to be sure; Jean Derome, Joe McPhee and Roscoe Mitchell are not ones to sneeze at. But the 25th edition of FIMAV centered on the six-string, with Raymond Boni, Tim Brady, Nick Didkovsky, Fred Frith, René Lussier, Joe Morris, Marc Ribot and Elliott Sharp all on the bill. (…)

Sets by the members of the Ambiances Magnétiques collective from Montréal (100 miles southwest of Victoriaville) are always a much anticipated part of the week and this year made for three strong sets: Jean Derome’s Les Dangereux Zhoms revived as a sextet; Michel F Côté’s excellent organ lounge (juste) Claudette and a trio of René Lussier, Martin Tétrault and Otomo Yoshihide. The latter was an especially exciting outburst of two turntables and two guitars ( Yoshihide manning one of each), running from energy to abstraction. Yoshihide was originally set to play just turntables, but arrived with guitar in hand. Perhaps he sensed something about the frenzy of FIMAV 2008.