From Nimmons ‘N’ Nine Plus Six to Vancouver’s NOW Orchestra, despite the economics, Canadians have somehow produced highly creative big bands. Montréal’s Ratchet Orchestra was a quintet in 1993; today its founder-composer-bassist-conductor Nic Caloia leads a 19-member ensemble with the breadth and force of Sun Ra’s Arkestra or a Charles Mingus big band. Like them, it invokes Duke Ellington’s legacy of rich textures and intense turbulence while emphasizing distinctive solo voices. It has a traditional big band’s power, with five reeds and five brass, but expands its palette with violin, two violas and the eerie profundity of bass reeds and tuba.
Caloia’s compositions range from the traditionally modernist to the avant-garde, with a band composed of individuals who define Montréal’s free-jazz community. The opening Tub features the brilliant alto saxophonist Yves Charuest, as abstractly evasive as Lee Konitz. The rousing Raise Static Backstage, fuelled by Isaiah Ciccarelli’s rampaging drum solo, might appeal to any fan of Dizzy Gillespie’s legendary bebop big band, while Blood, an atmospheric setting for Sam Shalabi’s distorted guitar, touches on the later works of Gil Evans.
Caloia’s most personal and ambitious work is saved for the conclusion, the six-part Before Is After, a weave of compound rhythms and evasive fragments knit together with unlikely matchings of instruments and forceful soloists, including violinist Joshua Zubot and bass saxophonist Jason Sharp. Ratchet Orchestra is both a distinctive Montréal institution and national standard bearer for a creative tradition.
Ça y est, le Suoni Per Il Popolo s’entame officiellement demain à Montréal et il s’étendra jusqu’au 23 juin prochain. Afin de réellement débuter notre couverture de ce très éclectique événement, nous croyons qu’une sortie à l’extérieur de notre ligne éditoriale s’impose pour refléter la richesse de la programmation qui nous est offerte. C’est en vous présentant la plus récente parution du Quatuor Bozzini que nous espérons vous donner l’envie d’assister aux premiers jours du festival. La raison derrière cette sélection est bien simple, nous avons adoré l’écoute de leur album Phil Niblock: Baobab paru en début d’année et avons très hâte de les voir à l’œuvre lors de la semaine de lancement du Suoni. Même si ce que nous analyserons dans les prochaines lignes ne correspond pas à ce qui sera reproduit sur scène, nous espérons vous mettre l’eau à la bouche et surtout piquer votre curiosité.
Avec cette ambitieuse création du compositeur Simon Martin, l’imprévisibilité et la fragilité du son jongleront avec votre perception. Très confrontant par moments, le quatuor est particulièrement fascinant sur Musique d’art pour quintette à cordes: B. Cette fresque auditive de haute voltige nous chavire aux quatre coins de notre corps, jouant avec notre confort, tiraillant nos méninges. La suite nous propose une certaine forme d’accalmie, se voulant toutefois inquiétante et sournoise. Les sonorités virevoltent avec méfiance dans la pièce, s’appropriant instantanément le lieu d’écoute. Nous faisons face à un album absorbant qui nous attrape dans sa toile et nous observe sans empressement. Cette musique vivante est empreinte d’un trait incontestablement dramatique, penchant plutôt vers le cauchemar que le rêve inoffensif. La dernière composition en est le parfait exemple avec ses pulsions rythmiques déroutantes. Musique d’art est une escapade sonore intransigeante, défiant son public à plonger au plus profond de lui-même.
Si l’écoute de cette pépite vous a aussi chaviré que moi, alors n’hésitez aucunement à répéter l’expérience les 4 et 5 juin prochain dans le cadre du festival. Vous aurez l’opportunité de voir le Quatuor Bozzini collaborer avec la talentueuse Andrea Young lors de la soirée d’ouverture et de les voir présenter la composition Agréable, désagréable, neutre d’André Cormier le lendemain.
Not The Music is a duo of bassist Eric Norman and bass clarinettist Philippe Lauzier, both Montréal-based musicians. English saxophonist John Butcher joined them for concerts in Ottawa and Montréal. First five improvisations — En conséquence — were recorded live on April 27th 2018 in Ottawa. The second set of five improvisations — par interruption — were recorded live on April 26th in Montréal. Lauzier is a composer, improviser, instrumentalist (clarinet & saxophone) and sound artist. Normand is likewise working on many fronts as a composer, improviser, bassist, instrument designer, composer, songwriter, singer and record and concert producer. Earlier the duo released an album for Tour de Bras. Here in the company of John Butcher, they give way to very concentrated set with a lot happening. All three of them are experienced improvisers, each one with its distinctive style and technique. They interact and communicate with full force and concentration, although sounding sometimes a bit hesitant and modest. Strongly focused they demonstrate a concentrated interaction with sometimes diverging sometimes-converging manœuvres of emotional impact. Often repetition of motives and gestures is an important strategy of building up tension and drama. Excellent work.
Whim Ensemble is Ofer Pelz (prepared piano, percussion) and Preston Beebe (percussion). Both are new to me. Beebe is a composer and percussionist with a strong interest in using technology, live as well in the studio. Preston studied composition, electronic music, and percussion at several institutes. For example from 2014-2015, he studied at IRCAM and composed a work for baritone saxophone & electronics, performed in the Centre G. Pompidou in Paris. As a duo, they debuted in 2016 with a release for the Montréal-based Kohlenstoff label. The music keeps the middle between improvised and modern composed music and moves within abstract territories. They have a very varied sound palette to their disposal, using prepared piano and a variety of percussive objects and gadgets. Some of their improvisations are very intense and dramatic, like the opening one Four Zero, that sounded like an abstracted version of a Morricone-theme. In other improvisations, I missed however something. Lovely sounds, but a bit too much sounds only, missing an idea, focus or direction. Just dwelling around. But in contrast, there are also some dazzling perspectives opened up by them. The rich sound spectrum built from scraping and percussive sounds, lead up fascinating timbres and textures full of details.
The Canadian ensemble Quatuor Bozzini are really something special. I only recently came across them on Cassandra Miller’s Just So, which I loved. A quick internet search reveals that they have interpreted everyone from contemporary composers such as Miller and Linda Catlin Smith to John Cage (of course they did) to, now, Phil Niblock. And they do all of this with great aplomb and, even more impressively, refinement.
Phill Niblock — Baobab is no exception, though it is a very different beast than some of their other releases. (For you Niblock fans out there, you likely already know what to expect.) Originally penned for orchestra, the two tracks on this album — Disseminate and Baobab — have been chopped and reconfigured as 20 separate tracks, each consisting of a single instrument, performed by the quartet of Clemens Merkel, Alissa Cheung, Stéphanie Bozzini, and Isabelle Bozzini. The result, per the notes of Emanuelle Majeau-Bettez, is a sort of “hardcore drone” of microtonal layerings, albeit created by a chamber quartet. In that, it reminds me of a less wandering and less entangled take on Zeitkratzer’s Metal Machine Music recording. As seems fitting for such acoustic drone, these tracks are characterized by sonic modulations rather than melodic shifts or unpredictable sounds. In this sense, the music sounds deceptively mechanical, as if it were a series of digital loops. Of course, the acoustic nature of the music belies this. Apart from the brief fade-in and fade-out marking the beginning and end of each piece, these songs have no prescribed course. They simply and glacially fluctuate, as the listener’s ear wanders from tone to tone.
This is music to listen to closely. This is music to read to, to tune in and out of. This is music to mediate to and contemplate. If full, subtle, and loud new music is your thing (and, yes, this should be played loud), Baobab is well worth the listen. And, if you are not yet sure whether you enjoy this “hardcore drone,” this compounded, aggressive monotony dense with rich timbral subtleties, then this album is an excellent place to start.
The profiled Quatuor Bozzini started in 1999 and interested mainly on contemporary music. They make their own decisions in choosing and producing their programs, never taking the easy way. Over the years they built up the impressive experience and premiered hundreds of compositions. About 20 CDs appeared filled with works by John Cage, Phil Niblock, James Tenney, Gyula Csapó, etc., etc. This time they concentrate on a composer from their homeland Canada, Simon Martin. Martin is a composer and producer of contemporary concert music, operating in the footsteps of Harry Partch, La Monte Young and James Tenney, implying a focus on natural intonation. With Musique d’art they set their teeth in an hour-long, five-movement composition for string quintet. Besides the Bozzini sisters and Allisa Cheung and Clemens Merkel, they are joined here by Pierre-Alexandre Maranda playing the double bass. Earlier Quator Bozzini performed work by Martin: Icebergs et Soleil de minuit — Quatuor en blanc (2007). But Musique d’Art is a welcome next step. The work is built from extended dissonant and abrasive sound entities, moving on like a massive tectonic plate, with a very differentiated sound spectrum at a micro level. In the second part there occur some dramatic changes where the music changes into harsh and noisy sections. Overall with this composition Martin offers an intriguing exercise in combining noise and music, that reminded me at moments of the work of Rumanian composer Iancu Dumitrescu. Playing with timbre and pitch the music deeply resonates, and is very expressive and emotional in its own way. In a great performance by Quator Bozzini and Maranda!