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Grand groupe régional d’improvisation libérée (GGRIL)

Festival International de Musique Actuelle de Victoriaville, 32nd Edition

Stuart Broomer, Musicworks, no. 125, July 1, 2016

The Festival International de Musique Actuelle de Victoriaville (FIMAV) arrives with the late, brief spring of Quebec’s central region, an energizing jolt between winter and summer that sees the flowering of older vines and new life bursting through the earth. This year’s instalment of FIMAV did what it has done very well for many years: present challenging music that can find a substantial audience, while also testing the frontiers with little-known but significant musicians. (…)

Events ranged from afternoon sound artists to late-night avant-rockers, with listeners creating their own paths through the festival’s nineteen performances. Composer-trombonist George Lewis once declared, “what I always wanted: music as a space for reflection on the human condition.” That’s a lofty goal and a rare event, but several groups were able to do it, whether working with or without a script, playing with associates they had either known for fifty years or had just encountered.

One such work was Friday night’s Saumon Bleu, a conduction by French musician Olivier Benoit, directing an ensemble that combined seven members of Montréal’s SuperMusique with seven members of Rimouski’s GGRIL, two of Quebec’s distinguished large improvising ensembles. It was a work of brilliant simplicity that began and ended with the quietest sizzle of scratched strings and softly blown reeds strongly suggesting human breath, ultimately crafting a space in which audience and band were one. (…)

It was a work of brilliant simplicity that began and ended with the quietest sizzle of scratched strings and softly blown reeds strongly suggesting human breath, ultimately crafting a space in which audience and band were one.

Compte-rendu du FIMAV 2016

Alex Pelchat, Voir, May 25, 2016

Les années se suivent et ne se ressemblent pas au FIMAV. Après quelques années avec des orientations se démarquant clairement, cette année et l’année dernière ont été davantage variées. Pour cette édition, les festivaliers ont eu droit à un bon nombre de petits ensembles dédiés à musique expérimentale instrumentale et composée mais également à plusieurs électroacousticiens et groupes rock. Retour sur une cette trente-deuxième édition intéressante bien qu’inégale. (…)

Après la pause du souper, la soirée s’est résumée avec une performance joignant deux grands ensembles québécois de musique improvisée, Ensemble Supermusique de Montréal et le GGRIL de Rimouski. Mené par le français Olivier Benoit, les deux groupes, qui totalisaient ensemble quatorze musiciens, s’en sont donné à cœur joie avec une longue pièce nuancée mais d’une intensité louable. Si on aurait pris davantage du bruitisme de Vergil Sharkya et de Martin Tétreault, le jeu grandiose d’Isaiah Ceccarelli à la batterie, la rythmique pesante de Luke Dawson et les sons tonitruants d’Ida Toninato au saxophone ont ravi les festivaliers, moi inclus. Si la musique improvisée en grand ensemble avec direction comporte son lot de clichés (grandes montées, moments de folie un peu forcés, etc…), Olivier Benoit a su mené la barque avec brio, poussant les musiciens à leurs limites et en favorisant le développement organique de la pièce plutôt que la formule «spectacle» trop souvent associée à l’exercice. Un succès! (…)

Un succès!

Festival International de Musique Actuelle de Victoriaville 2016, Part 1

Mike Chamberlain, All About Jazz, May 24, 2016

The 32nd edition of the Festival International de Musique Actuelle de Victoriaville began with a performance of new compositions by Norwegian guitarist / composer Kim Myhr with Montréal’s Quatour Bozzini in the town’s new cultural space, Carré 150, an impressive $28 million structure that stands on the site of the former Cinema Laurier, one of the performance homes for the festival for many years.

If we’re looking for themes, the first two days’ concerts featured the human voice and by extension, the notion of breathing and the breath mechanism. Both the Bozzini / Myhr ensemble and the Julie Tippetts / Martin Archer Ensemble that followed included vocalists who incorporated poetry and song into the performances. The music of Bozzini and Myhr, who did two pieces, one by Christian Wolff and the other by Myhr, was spare and slow-moving, but insistent and hypnotic, with Angell reciting the poetry of the British poet Caroline Bergvall. The following performance, the Montréal-based vocalist Erika Tippetts / Archer group was performing live for the first time ever, despite the fact that they have been making music in the studio for a decade and a half. Their music is very much in the prog- rock sphere, with elements of the blues, a big bass sound and electric keyboards underpinning the group sound and providing a strong foundation for Tippetts’ soaring voice. (…)

The three performances on Friday evening all featured Quebec and Canadian musicians. Electric bassist / composer / educator Eric Normand lives in the small town of Rimouski, Quebec, where he leads a group called GGRIL, comprised mainly of amateur musicians from the Rimouski area. In starting GGRIL a few years ago, Normand has created an enormously important community music project that is reinvigorating the improvised music scene in Quebec. GGRIL were joined at Victo by veteran Montréalers Jean Derome and Joane Hetu and Ensemble SuperMusique, for an improvisation conducted by French guitarist / composer / improviser Olivier Benoit. There was no vocalist; it was the music itself that breathed and vibrated to the rhythm of the breath and beating of the heart. Benoit’s choice of moves for the musicians was impeccable, as the hour-long piece built up slowly to two climaxes, the tension palpable throughout. This was easily the best improvisation by a large Quebec ensemble heard here in many years. (…)

This was easily the best improvisation by a large Quebec ensemble heard here in many years.

30th Festival International de Musique Actuelle de Victoriaville

Stuart Broomer, Musicworks, October 21, 2014

The Festival International de Musique Actuelle de Victoriaville (FIMAV) celebrated a milestone this year, presenting its 30th festival of musique actuelle — that unique French descriptor covering improvised music, chance, electronica, the avant edges of jazz, rock, folk, and world, and any other genre that has challenged expectations over the past few decades. That durability might seem unlikely for a festival of marginal music presented in a rural hamlet 160 kilometres from a major city, but FIMAV is persistent testimony to the vision and energy of its founder and artistic director Michel Levasseur, who has tirelessly maintained the festival in his hometown. (…)

A transcendent community was apparent in a concert by Montreal’s nineteen-member Ratchet Orchestra, celebrating the 100th anniversary of Sun Ra’s birth with special guest Marshall Allen — the long-time saxophonist with the Sun Ra Arkestra and that band’s current leader — nine days short of his 90th birthday. Begun as a Sun Ra tribute band twenty years ago, the Ratchet Orchestra has gone far beyond that, evident in the eighty-minute suite that merged Sun Ra themes with Ratchet leader, bassist, and arranger Nicolas Caloia’s own ideas. The music moved like a slow majestic blues, highlighted by contrasting explosions of instrumental colour (bass reeds, shouting brass, strings, electronic keyboards, and percussion), often surmounted by the explosive fury of Allen’s saxophone or the exotic flute of fellow Arkestra veteran Danny Thompson, and hitting its climax in Allen’s extended passage of orchestral conduction.

That sense of orchestra as community also came across strongly with GGRIL (Grand groupe régional d’improvisation libérée), a fourteen-member collective from Rimouski. GGRIL is a kind of poststructuralist village band. During a program that included works by Robert Marcel Lepage and Jean Derome, leader and bassist Éric Normand and violinist Raphaël Arsenault engaged in a coconduction, in which the two exchanged orchestra halves and seemed to compete comically for authority and sound, taking the conductor’s role to the level of professional wrestling. (…)

The music moved like a slow majestic blues, highlighted by contrasting explosions of instrumental colour…

The 30th Annual Festival International de Musique Actuelle de Victoriaville

Bruce Lee Gallanter, Downtown Music Gallery, June 11, 2014

[…] The second set of the night featured the Ratchet Orchestra with special guest Saturnian space-traveler Marshall Allen. The Ratchet Orchestra are a 19-piece avant/jazz orchestra from Canada who are led by bassist Nicolas Caloia and who’ve played a great set at the 2011 Victo Fest. Reeds master, Marshall Allen who is currently 89, became a member of the Sun Ra Arkestra in the late fifties and has been their leader since the passing of Sun Ra in 1993. This year is the 100 anniversary of Sun Ra’s birth on the planet earth. Considering that the Ratchet Orchestra has nearly twenty members for this concert, their sound is rarely too chaotic as Mr. Caloia is a strong leader. The orchestra sounds as if they are playing some of Sun Ra’s charts yet the music is often spacious and rarely held down to the gravity of Earth. I recognize the occasional Sun Ra melody although there are section which float in space sounding unsure of where they are going or will end up. Another Arkestra member named Pico is next to Mr. Allen and plays flute. He gets several chances to solo and is an exceptional flute player. Mr. Allen takes his time and finally solos on alto sax and an electronic wind instrument which sounds like it was being played by Sun Ra himself. There is an amazing duet between Allen on alto and Joshua Zubot on violin, free and intense as well as a couple of spirited solos from the great Lori Freedman on clarinets. Although there were several sections where the orchestra sounded a bit tentative, there were also a number of cosmic interludes when it all came together lifted off to parts unknown, most likely Saturn Sun Ra’s homeworld. […]

[…] Day Two started off up at the Pavillon with a small orchestra (13 piece) from Quebec called GGRIL (Large Regional Group of Liberated Improvisation). I had known about this group of younger Quebecois players since their leader, Éric Normand, sent me some of their discs. GGRIL have collaborated and recorded with Evan Parker and Jean Derome in the past. Their instrumentation is unique: 3 strings, 3 electric guitars, trumpet, reeds player, accordion, electric & acoustic bass and a percussionist who doubles on vibes. Each piece they performed involved different strategies or directions, some involved one or two conductors. The first piece utilized two conductors, each of whom directed half of the ensemble and occasionally trying to take the reins from each other. The players sat in a semi-circle and exchanged ideas carefully. There were always several layers going on simultaneously but it never got too dense or chaotic. The short, spirited solos seemed to fit just right. The second piece involved using a set of playing cards to direct or inspire some of the improvisations. The third piece was conducted & composed by Robert M. Lepage, Ambiances Magnétiques composer & clarinet player. I dug the way the players would repeat certain riffs with assorted shifting drones as the tempo slowly increased. There is now a long history of conducted improvisations to draw from. I could hear elements of a Butch Morris conduction or even the early John Zorn-like approach to small sound sparsity. Considering that the (Quebec-based) Ambiances Magnétiques label has been around for some thirty-plus years, great younger groups like GGRIL are pointing the way for the next generation of experimental musicians. […]

[…] The next set was a sort of Quebecois all-star quartet which featured Michel Faubert on vocals, Pierre Labbé on tenor & soprano sax, electronics & compositions, Bernard Falaise on guitar and Pierre Tanguay on drums. Aside from the vocalist, the other three musicians have long been involved in numerous bands/projects mainly for the Ambiances Magnétiques label: Labbé (solo & band-led discs, Les Projectionnistes), Falaise (Miriodor, Klaxon Gueule, solo CDs) and Tanguay (more than two dozen discs with Jean Derome, Joan Hétu & René Lussier). I wasn’t familiar with Michel Faubert who is a storyteller/vocalist and has worked with a traditional folk/a cappella bands. Mr. Labbé was the central figure here and talked or sang throughout consistently in French. Since my French speaking is minimal, I missed out on the various stories and observations that Mr. Faubert did. The response from the mostly French-speaking audience was most often giggles and laughter. So, I concentrated on the sound of his voice, his gestures and the music which was charming, quirky and consistently inventive. The music started out softly with Tanguay on a jawharp stomping his feet. The other three musicians did occasional backup vocals and there was a certain fun-loving charm that ran throughout the entire set. Each song or piece seemed to create a different mood. I liked the way the musicians used subtle gestures to evoke certain vibes, Falaise played his guitar in his lap and rubbed a cloth on it while Labbé played odd sax sounds & electronics without soloing very much to serve the story. I would’ve no doubt enjoyed the set more if I understood French but this was not the case. […]

There is now a long history of conducted improvisations to draw from.