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This orchestra was started in 1992 on the initiative of Montréal-based composer, double bassist and bandleader Nicolai Caloia. He is into improvised as well as composed music and the combination of both, for small and very big line-ups. With his big-sized Ratchet Orchestra, he wants to explore improvised ‘chamber jazz’. For the Hemlock project in 2012 over 30 performers were part of the orchestra. For Coco Swirl he chooses for a smaller crew. But with following 19 musicians we can still speak of an ensemble of big band proportions: Lori Freedman (clarinets), Jean Derome (flutes, baritone saxophone), Yves Charuest (alto saxophone), Aaron Leaney (tenor saxophone), Jason Sharp (bass saxophone), Ellwood Epps (trumpet), Craig Pedersen (trumpet), Scott Thomson (trombone), Jacques Gravel (contrabass trombone), Julie Richard (tuba), Joshua Zubot (violin), James Annett (viola), Jean René (viola), Guillaume Dostaler (piano), Ken Doolittle (percussion), Isaiah Ceccarelli (drum set) and Nicolas Caloia (double bass, conductor). So we are in the company of some very pronounced and experienced players who bring in a lot of ideas and experience and make this a very lively and enjoyable recording. Caloia delivered the compositions. The last one, Before is After, is a suite in six parts. Term ‘improvised chamber jazz’, describes very well what he is aiming for. Jazz and improvisation make an organic whole with features of academic composed music. His intelligent compositions are of fascinating complexity and relevance. They make up an ideal starting point for excellent and expressive improvising. Many intriguing moments pass by in this eclectic universe that is bursting of musical ideas. The instrumentation is very diverse and colourful assuring fine contrasts like the one in Blood between the blowers and the experimental electric guitar played by Shalabi. This is more than an excellent release in a transparent recording.
Was Derome’s latest Sudoku pour pygmées more of a rock-based album if you want, this time it is all about jazz. Not with compositions by his hand, but nine compositions written by Steve Lacy and selected by Derome. Lacy, who died in 2004, deeply influenced Derome during his career. The works are performed by his trio, consisting also of Normand Guilbeault (double bass) and Pierre Tanguay (drums). The trio debuted in 2004 with work with compositions by Derome. On later releases, they started to dig into jazz history and interpreted works by Ellington, Mengelberg, Konitz, Dolphy, a.o. But this time as said a release completely dedicated to one composer: Karen Young and Alexandre Grogg, who both have a prominent role on this recording, assist them. Young is a singer, composer and arranger from Quebec, singing in contexts of classical, world as well as jazz. Grogg, also from Quebec, studied improvisation, worked with Normand Guilbeault, Michel Côté and co-leads the quintet Ensemble en pièces. They concentrate on nine compositions by Lacy, or to be more precise songs by Lacy, he composed that for his wife and musical companion/vocalist Irene Aebi. Lacy is known most of all for his work as a free improviser on alto sax, performer and short-time collaborator of Monk, but what I discover now is that Lacy was also a composer of solid and beautiful melodic material, literally hundreds of songs. So I guess it took a while for Derome to select a few of them for his project. Songs that have lyrics written by Lao Tzu, Thomas Gainsborough, Herman Melville and Brion Gysin. The works are performed with verve and swing by the musicians, and the vocals by Young are great. This is music is very lively and breaths.
Monicker is Arthur Bull (guitarist), Scott Thomson (trombone) and Roger Turner (drums). Veteran Bull originates from the Toronto scene. In the 70s and 80s, he was a member of the Toronto-based CCMC and worked with Michael Snow, vocalist Paul Dutton and John Oswald and many others. In 1990 he moved to a small village in Nova Scotia, and music was no longer his main activity. Although it was here that he worked with another guitarist, Daniel Heikalo, resulting in two beautiful CDs by from this sparsely documented performer: Dérapages à cordes (2000) and Concentrés et amalgames (2006). In contrast veteran UK drummer and improviser, Roger Turner is very well documented on an uncountable amount of releases documenting his many collaborations (Annette Peacock, Tim Hodgkinson, Otomo Yoshihide, etc, etc,). Like Bull, composer and trombonist Scott Thomson is from Toronto. He is a creative force behind the Montréal-Toronto Art Orchestra playing Roscoe Mitchell’s music. Both Turner and Bull play as a duo since 2002, meeting meanwhile in other ad hoc projects. They invited Thomson during the Halifax residency in 2017, and Monicker was born. As Monicker, they toured Eastern Canada and recorded this debut. Six of their improvisations made it to this release, underlining they make a very flexible and tight unit. Their improvisations pass by very fluently and intensively at a considerable speed and always very focused. Very manoeuvrable and vivid interactions, built from small gestures and movements by all three players. A joy!