In the press
Alain Brunet, La Presse, May 22, 2008
Dave Lynch, AllMusic, June 1, 2007
François Couture, actuellecd.com, March 16, 2004
François Couture, actuellecd.com, November 25, 2003
À son tour, L’OFF festival de jazz de Montréal a dévoilé sa 9e programmation: la Fanfare Pourpour, le projet de Normand Guilbeault consacré à Louis Riel, les improvisateurs d’Ambiances Magnétiques, le quatuor de saxophones mené par Janis Steprans, Chet Doxas inspiré par Jean-Paul Sartre ou encore le doué jeune bassiste Rémi-Jean Leblanc s’inscrivent dans cette plus que trentaine de concerts.
Du vendredi 13 au samedi 21 juin, donc plus tôt que les années précédentes, ces concerts de l’Off se déclineront quotidiennement dans quatre salles: le pub Saint-Ciboire, le Lion d’Or, le Dièse Onze et La Sala Rossa.
«Ce festival est mené par une équipe de bénévoles musiciens. Chaque année, nous essayons de représenter le plus fidèlement possible la scène montréalaise dans le milieu du jazz et de la musique créative. Nous portons une attention particulière à la présentation de projets originaux, tous d’une grande qualité artistique», explique le contrebassiste Christophe Papadimitriou, président de l’Off.
«Également, poursuit-il, nous avons la grande joie d’accueillir des musiciens étrangers et des musiciens canadiens issus de plusieurs provinces qui viennent collaborer avec les musiciens québécois. Nous aimons beaucoup cette dimension de l’échange.» L’Off, aurons-nous déduit, n’est pas une simple tapisserie de jazz local. On y fait des choix artistiques bien au-delà d’une simple idéologie de représentativité.
Au Lion d’Or, donc, la Fanfare Pourpour y présente son projet réalisé de concert avec l’accordéoniste suédois Lars Hollmer, le «quartetski» du contrebassiste Pierre-Yves Martel (prix François-Marcaurelle l’an dernier) s’y consacre à Érik Satie, le quartette de la trompettiste torontoise Lina Alemano s’amène avec notamment le très singulier saxophoniste Brodie West.
Aussi au menu principal, on retient l’ambitieux sextuor du contrebassiste Miles Perkins, un concert du trio du saxophoniste Chet Doxas avec quatuor à cordes (et inspiré par ses lectures de Jean-Paul Sartre), une soirée Ambiances Magnétiques consacrée à l’improvisation (sous la direction de Jean Derome). On suggère aussi Cantouque du contrebassiste Joel Prenovault qui évoque l’œuvre du violoneux Louis «Pitou» Boudreault, on reprend le concept jazz et poésie (animé par l’écrivain José Acquelin), on emprunte La 5e route bleue (arabo-occidentale) de la compositrice Katia Makdissi-Warren avec notamment le contrebassiste autrichien Peter Herbert, on relance le Projet Riel du contrebassiste Normand Guilbeault, sans compter le quintette du contrebassiste Dave Watts, le septuor de la pianiste Marianne Trudel ou le Quatuor du Nord, ensemble de saxophones de Janis Steprans.
À la Sala Rossa, l’Off se joint aux Suoni per il Popolo pour y coproduire le Sun Ra Arkestra, le groupe Barnyard Drama (mis de l’avant par le batteur Jean Martin et la chanteuse Christine Duncan), le jazz électroacoustique du saxophoniste Philippe Lauzier, le trio du trompettiste Gordon Allen.
Au Dièse Onze, on compte attirer les nuitards avec le Soundclash du saxophoniste Eric Hove, l’ensemble Ka Noo du saxophoniste Jason Sharp, le quartette du contrebassiste Alex Bellegarde, les Jazz Warriors du batteur Adam Miller, le sextuor du batteur Isaiah Ceccarelli, l’ensemble de la chanteuse Sonia Johnson et du contrebassiste Frédéric Alarie, le groupe du jeune bassiste Rémi-Jean Leblanc (prochain Alain Caron?), le quintette du contrebassiste Dave Watts.
Prévue de 17h à 19h, la série du pub Saint-Ciboire privilégie les jeunes loups de la scène locale, sauf exception: le quartette de la saxophoniste Anna Weber, le quintette du saxophoniste (alto) Mario Allard, l’ensemble CLH, le quartette du pianiste Malcolm Sailor, le trio du violoniste Robin Bouliane, le quartette du guitariste Carlos Jimenez, le trio du guitariste Greg Amirault, le trio Turtle Boy.
Quebec’s circusy big band Fanfare Pourpour have their roots in a number of musical and artistic groupings dating back to the mid-’70s through the early ‘80s, including L’Enfant Fort, a Saturday-afternoon Montréal street band; the Pouet Pouet Band, which incorporated theatrical and cabaret elements into their mix; and Montréal Transport Limité, an underground cabaret and progressive pop group. The musicians all went their separate ways until the summer of 1995, when their love of playing and performing brought them together as the Fanfare Pourpour. Their street band attitude gives the Fanfare Pourpour a ramshackle charm, and their open and friendly embrace has seemingly welcomed to the fold any friend or family member who can toot on a horn or whack a caisse claire, as long as the proper spirit is maintained. Since the band’s “formal” founding in 1995, however, the Fanfare have grown into a tight and formidable outfit, with no diminution of the raucous spirit that has always been central to their, well, raison d’être.The band’s first album, released in 1999 on their Monsieur Fauteux m’entendez-vous? label, was entitled Tout le monde — the CD featured an 11-piece core ensemble, notably featuring Montréal singer/accordionist Lou Babin, supplemented by a handful of high-profile guest musicians from Quebec’s jazz and musique actuelle scenes on selected tracks, including saxophonist Jean Derome and guitarist René Lussier. On follow-up CD Le Bal from 2004, the group’s ranks had swelled to 15 with an additional six guest musicians scattered here and there; by now Derome had taken on musical direction responsibilities and penned five of the album’s 16 tracks. On these two releases the ensemble members proved highly capable on practically any and every musical instrument imaginable, including accordion, clarinet, saxophones, violin, flute, guitar, banjo, trumpet, euphonium, sousaphone, harmonica, darbouka, bass, drums, and percussion, playing exuberant music that blended brass band and New Orleans classic jazz traditions with elements of Québécois folk and avant-garde musics.In 2004 Swedish composer, accordionist, and keyboardist Lars Hollmer (Samla Mammas Manna, Accordion Tribe) was invited to Quebec to appear with the Fanfare Pourpour at the Festival International de Musique Incroyable, and this successful encounter was followed up with additional rehearsals and a second festival appearance at the Festival International de Musique Actuelle de Victoriaville in 2005. The following year Hollmer was back in Quebec with the Fanfare yet again, this time to record the album Karusell Musik in a Montréal studio. By now it would appear that the distinction between full-fledged Fanfare bandmembers and invited guests had been erased, and the 19-piece ensemble supporting Hollmer included such notable Montréal and Quebec artists as Babin; other longstanding Fanfare members such as violinist Guido Del Fabbro and trumpeter Némo Venba (also members of avant-proggers Rouge Ciel), guitarists Luc Proulx and Roy Hübler, saxophonists Claude Vendette and Stéphane Ménard, clarinetist Pierre Emmanuel Poizat, and euphonium player Christine Lajeunesse; musical director/orchestrator/multi-instrumentalist Derome, bassist Normand Guilbeault, and percussionist Pierre Tanguay from the swinging Trio DGT and numerous other jazz/musique actuelle projects; sousaphonist Jean Sabourin from the impossibly tight brass band L’Orkestre des Pas Perdus; and violinist Marie-Soleil Bélanger, former member of the long-lived and ever-challenging Miriodor. So when it came to negotiating Hollmer’s sometimes tricky rhythms, emphatic backbeats, and multi-layered arrangements with the proper balance of roughness and precision, it would prove hard to top the Fanfare Pourpour. Karusell Musik was released in March 2007, with a CD launch concert by Hollmer and the band held that month at Montréal’s Lion d’Or.
When I was asked to dive into DAME’s catalog in search of intersecting points or recurring themes that would sketch discovery trails, the trad connection stood out immediately. Not only because of the importance of traditional folk music in the development of avant-garde music in Quebec, but also because the albums belonging to this line usually speak to us in a more immediate way and are easier to grasp.
It may seem a bit paradoxical, but tradition and innovation often go together hand in hand. When a culture’s avant-garde artists look for ways to overstep the rules of the music industry, they often turn their attention to roots — theirs and others — to find new paths to explore. Traditional folk music often holds at his core treasures of stylistic freedom and improvisation. Furthermore, its festive outlook can make it easier for an audience to accept and appreciate the introduction of new rhythmic, melodic or improvisational parameters. That’s what happened and continues to happen in Quebec. Here’s a listening trail in three parts, three original ways DAME artists approach the tradition: revisited, reinvented, and made-up folk.
Late 1970s: a trad folk revival is sweeping the Province of Quebec, thanks to a new generation of musicians (groups like La Bottine Souriante, Le Rêve du Diable, and L’Engoulevent). Among these groups, many of which recording for the label Tamanoir, is a collective of crazy youngsters, guitarists who deprave reels and folk tunes with their melodic inventions and post-modern poetry. Among Conventum’s regular members are André Duchesne and René Lussier, who will later rank among the founding members of the collective Ambiances Magnétiques (sadly, Conventum’s two albums, À l’Affût d’un complot and Le Bureau central des utopies, are out of print).
In Ambiances Magnétiques, René Lussier has continued to explore a rereading of Quebec’s music history. His discography is peppered with folk tunes stripped naked and dressed anew. On his three albums with Les Granules (a duo with Jean Derome) he exaggerates the Dionysian character of the music (Le Boudin de Noël - or The Christmas Blood Pudding - on Soyez vigilants, restez vivants and La Chicaneuse on Au Royaume du Silencieux rank among the finest examples). With Le Trésor de la langue, he focused on our historical folklore, turning the words of René Lévesque, the FLQ, and people on the street into a new “Cahier de la bonne chanson” (a music book of old folk tunes that rested on the piano of many Quebec families in pre-television days). His recent collaboration with American guitarist Eugene Chadbourne signals a return to these roots — their CD L’Oasis released on Victo presents many revisited tunes from both sides of the border.
The folklore of a nation is not limited to a body of songs, it is also a state of mind, a substratum from which many artists in DAME’s catalog dig to reinvent our traditional folk music (and others too). On La Boulezaille, Pierre Tanguay and Pierre Langevin (masters of many European folk music in the group Strada) mix up traditional and modern instruments in search of a new, “actuel” folk freed from the cage in which all kinds of traditionalists would like to preserve it. Groups like Interférence Sardines and La Fanfare Pourpour shape their original pieces in ways that bring to mind the Devil’s fiddler or street fair music (music of the people, the prime definition of “folk” music). Joane Hétu’s Musique d’hiver doesn’t have that festive side to it, but it nevertheless redefines the folklore of our Quebec winters with much more precision and evocative strength then Nelligan’s famous poem.
Traditional folk music refers to an instinctive form of music-making, music created outside the institutions and their codes, everyday music. And what if one wants to step out of the everyday? There is always the possibility to create folk out of nothing, to make folk-fiction. René Lussier and Robert Marcel Lepage establish their “musique actuelle” - a blend of free improvisation and reminiscences of trad - as the folk music of the future, the last enigma of a dehumanized world. The same goes for André Duchesne’s Les 4 Guitaristes de l’Apocalypso-Bar, the band being presented as trad rockers from the future (a post-apocalyptic future, mind you). And with Bruire’s Chants rupestres, Michel F Côté and his friends attempt to recreate through free improvisation the folk music of prehistoric men. We may have ventured far from the falsely naive tunes of Conventum, but this music still stems from a desire to go back to the roots of music expression. And in the end, there are many ways to call a square dance.
The Holidays are closing in. Are you wondering what gifts to buy this year? You’re looking for the original gift, the one that will surprise and please? Why not expand the musical horizons of a loved one, a colleague at work, or a cousin you haven’t seen since last Christmas? Here’s my highly personal selection of gift ideas to introduce someone (or yourself, you’re allowed to indulge from time to time!) to the wonderful world of "musique actuelle."
That good ol’ song
It may seem a bit easy, but everyone likes a good song. That said, we don’t all have the same definition of what a good song is. And the artists in DAME’s catalog take some liberties with this format — that’s what makes things exciting. But Geneviève Letarte’s Chansons d’un jour will please anyone looking for songs with intelligent, accessible melodies and poetic lyrics. The soft melancholy of Chants des adieux, chants de la solitude will profoundly move dreamers in search of a different voice (Lou Babin’s, irresistible).
You don’t understand French? The lyrics of Jerry Snell’s album Life in the Suicide Riots will make you think hard about the world we live in. And the chugging guitar riffs of André Duchesne ’s Locomotive will catch the attention of any rock fan, even one deaf to French. Speaking of rock, the deconstructed rock of the all-female group Justine can keep you busy for a while, lyrics or no lyrics. Their first album (Suite) is a powerful mixture of progressist rock, while their second Langages fantastiques leans more toward improvised songs. If you want a taste of what songwriting avant-garde artists can come up with, try the compilation album Chante! 1985-2000, a wide and wild selection of unusual songs.
A time for celebrating, letting off steam, and disobedience, the party when applied to music can give way to a distortion of admitted rules. L’Orkestre des pas perdusinjects a new form of circus life into fanfare music, an infectious R ’n’ B (rhythm ’n’ brass, of course) that will refresh any parade. Its cousin Les Projectionnistes (both bands are led by Claude St-Jean) trades circus for rock and the brass section transforms from funny fanfare to frenetic funk. Taking a different approach, the Fanfare Pourpour leaves the official parade attire behind to favor the spontaneity of a street fanfare. It’s music for "everyone" (Tout le monde, the title of their first album) without dropping to the lowest common denominator.
In a similar spirit, but adding an East-European flavor and an incredible dose of energy is the group Interférence Sardines, which features two members of the neo-trad group Les Batinses. Jean Derome et les Dangereux Zhoms walks a jazzier road, but its frivolous side easily becomes delightfully exuberant. The group’s three albums are all highly recommended, but Carnets de voyage remains an excellent place to start. And I find the same spirit of excessiveness and raw emotion in La boulezaille (Pierre Langevin and Pierre Tanguay) and Plinc! Plonc! (Jean Derome and Pierre Tanguay), two albums where world music, jazz and free improvisation collide.
And to boldly go where few have gone before
Maybe you would like to go further and hook someone on a kind of "musique actuelle" that is more daring and abstract. Here are a few key albums from DAME’s catalogue in improvised and electronic music.
Martin Tétreault is one of the most fascinating experimental artists right now. His technique at the turntable spins 45 questions per minute. His recent album with Diane Labrosse, Parasites, puts disquieting quiet sounds under the microscope. And Studio — Analogique — Numérique, his fresh collaboration with the Japanese mastermind Yoshihide Otomo, proposes cutting-edge sonic research in very original packaging: a box set of three 3" CDs.
A pillar of the avant-garde music scene since the early ‘70s, Fred Frith remains the favorite of many connoisseurs. The two albums by the Fred Frith Guitar Quartet (with René Lussier, Nick Didkovsky and Mark Stewart) are essential listens. DAME also distributes the titles released by Frith’s own Fred Records.
One of the first groups from the DAME stables to have explored electroacoustic improvisation, the Klaxon Gueule trio revels in noisy textures and demanding pleasures. Their last two albums Muets and Grain met critical acclaim. And I also want to mention the Ohmix compilation album, a daring electronic project where select artists (including Martin Tétreault, David Kristian, John Oswald, Terre Thaemlitz, and Ralf Wehowsky) remix the albums of the label Avatar.
Finally, instead of sending out the usual Christmas cards, consider the sound post cards produced by the label Ouïe-Dire. These are regular post cards accompanied by 3" CDs from French experimental artists. And happy Holidays!