Montréal-based saxophonist Jean Derome has been on the bleeding edge of the contemporary blending of complex, cued composition and unfettered free improvisation for over twenty years. For his performance — which kicked off FIMAV’s 25th edition at the Cinema Laurier — he brought an expanded edition of his Dangerous Zhomes quintet, fleshed out with an additional seven musicians, premiering two new pieces, the 35-minute Traquenards and the shorter, but no less challenging Plates-formes, named after Productions Platforms, the organization behind FIMAV.
It was an expansive palette, featuring reeds, strings, voice, guitar, bass, drums and turntables. Contemporary classicism reminiscent of groups like Univers Zero juxtaposed with moments of chaotic collective spontaneity, with a sonic landscape reliant equally on conventional acoustic sounds as it was the unorthodox, most notably from vocalist Joane Hétu, who brought her own multi-media project, Filature, to the final day of FIMAV 2007. More about texture than melody, Hétu comes from the same school as vocalists like Meredith Monk and Sidsel Endresen, but has her own unconventional slant to making the voice guttural, percussive and, at times, akin to white noise.
Traquenards took full advantage of the potential for subsets within the group, with pianist Guillaume Dostaler and trumpeter Gordon Allen creating a lulling sense of ease before suddenly being engulfed in a flurry of reckless, anarchistic free play from the entire twelve-tet. Rock beats from bassist Pierre Cartier and drummer Pierre Tanguay — another Montréal actuelle mainstay, whose 2007 performance at the Ottawa Jazz Festival with bassist John Geggie and viola da gamba player Pierre-Yves Martel was a highlight of that festival—alternated with dark, complex ensemble passages where clarinetist Lori Freedman meshed with Derome’s various saxophones and flute along with Nadia Francaville’s violin and Jean René’s viola to paint a chamber music soundscape at once appealing and foreboding. Guitarist Bernard Falaise ran the gamut from scratchy tones to wild feedback, contributing sonic colors alongside turntablist Martin Tétreault, last heard at FIMAV 2005 with Michel F Côté.
Derome’s two pieces were a fitting opening for the festival, demonstrating the boundary-busting, genre-defying breadth of Musique Actuelle.