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Damian Nisenson, le polyglotte du jazz

Serge Truffaut, Le Devoir, August 11, 2018
Saturday, August 11, 2018 Presse

S’il fallait prêter un visage actuel à l’opiniâtreté, voire au courage, alors Damian Nisenson conviendrait à merveille. Quel parcours que celui de ce saxophoniste et compositeur installé à Montréal depuis 2004! Quel destin que celui de cet homme qui propose aujourd’hui un album intitulé Sit sur l’étiquette Malasartes. Qu’on y songe: sa vie a été faite de la poésie juive des ghettos d’Ukraine et de Moldavie à la verdeur fiscale de la Suisse, en passant par le culte des kibboutz en Israël et surtout l’inclination pour l’horreur des généraux argentins. Détaillons. Du moins essayons.

À la fin du XIXe siècle pour certains ou au début du XXe pour les autres, ses grands-parents ont fui, jeunes, les pogroms qui rythmaient la vie des ghettos d’Ukraine et de Moldavie. Destination? L’Argentine. L’un des grands-pères était un poète qui parlait une langue aujourd’hui rare: le yiddish. Il récitait et chantait non seulement ses poèmes, mais aussi ceux écrits ici et là dans l’Empire austro-hongrois ou en Russie. Les autres? Ils aimaient la musique quand ils n’en jouaient pas. Du klezmer, il va sans dire.

De ces personnages dont les vies empruntent aux légendes se démarqua un grand-oncle. «En Argentine, il était un troubadour qui jouait du klezmer, mais aussi du tango et du jazz. Chez nous, la musique était toujours présente. Mes premiers souvenirs sonores, au début des années 1960, c’est Getz avec Gilberto et Mulligan avec Brookmeyer. À l’âge de sept ans, j’ai commencé à suivre des cours de flûte. Puis j’ai étudié pendant des années au conservatoire de Buenos Aires le violoncelle, la guitare classique.»

Au milieu des années 1970, les généraux argentins, si convenables aux yeux de Kissinger et de la cohorte des politiciens ivres de sang, imposent une manière de faire et bien des lois calquées sur le régime qui avait servi de modèle à Juan Perón. Inutile de préciser. Chacun aura deviné lequel. Alors Damian, âgé de 18 ans à ce moment-là, sachant que les étudiants étaient particulièrement visés, prit la route de l’exil à la vitesse grand V. Direction: la Suisse.

«Je me suis installé à Fribourg, où j’ai étudié le saxophone classique. J’ai commencé à jouer un peu partout ici et là, surtout à Genève. Lorsque la dictature des généraux a été renversée, je suis retourné en Argentine. Dans les années 1990, je jouais dans un groupe rock-pop qui avait pas mal de succès. Mais voilà, j’ai détesté ça. En 1997, j’avais quatre filles, j’ai décidé de quitter ce pays.»

«Peu après mon arrivée au Québec, j’ai fait la rencontre de Denis Leblanc, un excellent joueur de bandonéon, qui a écrit deux noms sur une feuille de papier. Celui de Joane Hétu [l’admirable fondatrice d’Ambiances magnétiques] et du batteur Pierre Tanguay. C’est Joane qui m’a conseillé de fonder un label. C’est comme ça qu’est né Malasartes.»

Aujourd’hui, notre saxophoniste propose donc Sit réalisé en compagnie de Jean-Félix Mailloux, qui est l’exemple parfait de ce que solidité à la contrebasse signifie, de Bernard Falaise, aussi tranchant et vif qu’un Marc Ribot, et du batteur Tanguay, qui a ceci de littéralement prodigieux, il n’y a pas d’autre mot, qu’il a fait l’alchimie entre Joey Baron, Shelly Manne et Billy Higgins.

Le résultat fait naturellement penser à John Zorn, celui de Masada, celui des associations avec divers cantors. En un mot, Nisenson a réussi quelque chose de très singulier: remonter le fil d’une vieille et lointaine culture avec un souci pour la finesse, la subtilité, qui fait de Sit un grand disque.

Sit
… avec un souci pour la finesse, la subtilité, qui fait de Sit un grand disque.

Review

John Eyles, The Squid’s Ear, July 23, 2018
Monday, July 23, 2018 Presse

Fittingly, Les porteuses d’Ô was released in January 2018, the year marking the twentieth anniversary of the formation of Montréal’s Ensemble SuperMusique (ESM). In the years of its existence, the ensemble has explored ways of integrating improvisation with composed music, commissioning over fifty compositions that combine the two. So, it is no surprise that this landmark album features three new graphically-scored compositions which aim to do just that. The line-up of ESM has evolved throughout its lifetime, with few ever-present members; of the twenty-six players credited on ESM’s debut album, Canevas (Ambiances Magnétiques, 2004), only four feature among the thirteen on Les porteuses d’Ô — alto saxophonist and flautist Jean Derome, alto saxophonist and vocalist Joane Hétu, alto Jean René and percussionist Danielle Palardy Roger. ESM co-founders Hétu and Palardy Roger supplied two of the album’s compositions, the third coming from Vancouver-based Lisa Cay Miller; yes, all three pieces do have female composers.

Recorded live in concert, in Montréal, in April 2017, together the pieces run for just over forty minutes, the three being of similar lengths. The album opens with Palardy Roger’s 2014-15 piece En arrivant par le nuage de Oort, the title referring to the theoretical Oort cloud of icy objects, the origin of long-period comets such as Hale-Bopp. Palardy Roger says that “the unfolding of the composition evokes the journey one might undertake between the Oort cloud and the Sun.” Of course, the danger of such a statement is that the composition in question is listened to as programme music, with the listener literally interpreting each sound. To combat that, it would be useful to see the graphic scores themselves, but this CD does not include any of them, only their composers’ notes on them. Suffice to say that the music feels true to its composer’s intention; its soundscape begins with lots of small percussive sounds surrounded by space, and gradually becomes fuller, louder and more intense as it builds steadily to a climax.

By comparison, the next piece, from 2015-17, Hétu’s Préoccupant, c’est préoccupant, is far more garrulous and dramatic. Fittingly, the fifteen-minute track opens with a theatrical drum roll which leads into a prolonged passage of discordant sounds from the nine musicians involved, heralding the arrival of the composer’s own voice. From there on, the piece is episodic with that voice dominating. As the composition focuses on four “concerns that can insidiously interfere in our lives”, starting with “To Fall from High”, there is plenty of scope for expressive outpourings of emotion and angst, including weeping and wailing. The calmer instrumental passages provide welcome periods of respite.

The album closes with Miller’s 2017 composition Water Carrier which (in translation) is practically the title piece. Inspired by the issue of drinking water rights of First Nation communities in Canada, it is wholly instrumental, successfully integrating composed and improvised music. It features some poignantly melodic passages played by the ensemble’s strings. These are interspersed with some strongly rhythmic sections and others with a clear jazz influence.

Together, these three very different compositions show radically contrasting facets of ESM and demonstrate that it is in excellent shape as it enters its third decade.

Together, these three very different compositions show radically contrasting facets of ESM and demonstrate that it is in excellent shape as it enters its third decade.

Review

Eyal Hareuveni, Free Jazz, June 18, 2018
Monday, June 18, 2018 Presse

French clarinetist Xavier Charles is a true explorer. Musically speaking, his own music and his collaborative projects range from abstract, raw noise to electro-acoustic textures, sound poetry, free improvisation and even the anarchist-punk of the Dutch The Ex (he already joined The Ex gigs for more than 120 performances, including many with the late Ethiopian sax great, Gétatchèw Mèkurya). Geographically, he seems to be all over the globe, trotting from a recording session in Québec City, Canada to Canberra, Australia and sometimes in between even enjoys the Swedish woods with his Norwegian comrades of Dans les arbres group.

This free-improvised session was recorded on May 2016 at the Café-théâtre de Jonquière, Québec City during the local Festival des Musiques de Création, at the end of a short Canadian tour that featured the five musicians playing in different formations. The quintet features three musicians from the local Tour de Bras experimental musicians collective: percussionist Michel F Côté, bass clarinet player Philippe Lauzier and electric bass player Éric Normand plus like-minded Austrian trumpeter Franz Hautzinger and Charles himself.

This meeting of these five distinct improvisers — all are committed to an uncompromising search and research of pure sounds and the timbres of their respective instruments, all in their own personal manners and with their own sense of invention — proves that the language of free-improvisation is truly universal. You just need to have an attentive ears — elephantine ears — trust your comrades and your instincts, and then all sounds — raw, dissonant, distorted, acoustic or electric, melodic, breathy or noisy — find their place in the mysterious great scheme.

The eight improvisations tell different, strange, cryptic stories, with no apparent meanings, clear narratives or comforting conclusions. But all manage to draw the listener immediately into their rich, poetic universes, despite their contemplative, sometimes even austere tones. Nothing sounds radical in these improvisations, even though these musicians do produce some pretty weird sounds. Together, as a collective, they sound much larger, somehow more sensible than apart. You can hear that in the playful Alaplasse, where imaginative bird calls collide gently with noisy, electric sounds, in the almost psychedelic texture of multiphonics on Boudboi and in the extraterrestrial, minimalist-techno pulse of Izatrape. Brilliant.

Brilliant

Review

Roger Batty, Musique Machine, June 14, 2018
Thursday, June 14, 2018 Presse

tse is a suite of five modern compositions that move between doomed simmering’s, angular sourness, and wavering dread. The release comes in the form of a CD on Sheffield’s Another Timbre, and as we’ve come to expect from the label this is another of shot well conceived & perfectly recorded experimental sound craft.

The five-piece work here is improvised, yet it revolves around a series of pre-agreed pitches. So, as a result, you get a suite that has continuity & recurring sour melodies, as well as feeling of foreboding loose-ness, and bitter surprise. The piece was recorded in November 2017, at the insub.studio in Geneva.

The three-piece collective is made up of Cyril Bondi — Indian Harmonium, pitch pipes, and objects. Pierre-Yves Martel — Viola Da Gamba, pitch pipes, & harmonica. And Christoph Schiller — Spinet. The blend of droning & sawing instrumentation give the trio a very much of a doomed & slurred sound, and they use this to good effect on tse.

The five-piece suite comes in at a total of forty-six minutes — with each part of the suite hitting between seven & ten-minute mark. The suite opens in a fairly coarse/nervy manner with a spaced-out mixture of brooding string simmers, sudden higher pitched string twangs, and slurred pipes. As we move through the suites runtime the pace is kept fairly considered & slowed — as angular droning meets with a blend of higher-to-sour string pluck, and bleak stretched out simmer. From time to time pulled-out & slurred melodies appear, but ultimately these seem secondary, and the main focus here is to create a doomed atmosphere & malevolent haze of sound

The work does very much feel like a suite, due to both the focused selection of pitches, and the occasion recurring patterns. And on the downside this does, at times, create a feeling of little progression/ movement — but if you’re interested slowed, slurred, off-kilter & decidedly soured modern composition I think you’ll get something out of tse. I took this release away with me on a recent Greek holiday, and it both nicely lulled me out and created an effective bleak contrast to all the sun & fun going on around me.

Tse
The work does very much feel like a suite, due to both the focused selection of pitches, and the occasion recurring patterns.

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