Quebec has one of the most heterogeneous avant-jazz scenes in the world, and all that hard work bending the form has found an outlet for at least twenty of them to let off a little extra steam in the form of Fanfare Pourpour.
Under the direction of Jean Derome, the grand poobah of Montréal’s musique actuelle scene, and Némo Venba, who plays trumpet and manages the label, half of them have written tunes hitched together in one fifty-six minute long freight train hurtling along but never going off the rails for this, their fourth release.
Inside the beautifully-designed wallet, there is a photo of the orchestra gathered round the dinner table (stocked with oranges and bottles of wine) which immediately brings to mind the famed portrait of Bob Dylan and The Band on The Basement Tapes. Another crowd of equals vastly enjoying one another’s company. It’s impossible to say for sure, but it seems that everybody gets at least one solo. Still, the main thing is the flawless ensemble play — made more impressive by the fact the whole record was recorded live in the studio.
Literally beginning with a chugga-chugga choo-choo rhythm and conductor’s whistle, we are off on a milk run to Vaudeville with stops at the circus, a gypsy camp, a Balkan booze-up, a Jewish wedding, and a village fête in rural Quebec. Fanfare Pourpour freshens up classic popular music forms like the tango, waltz, pasodoble and chanson, and treats us to unclassifiable anthems to joy like Pour des ours (which ends with a meow).
The band includes actor/guitarist Luc Proulx, who sings the first of only two songs, Partir, like M. Hulot on a day not fraught with small catastrophes. Nicolas Letarte brings out his singing saw. Violinist Guido Del Fabbro, who presides over a large ensemble of young improvising experimentalists in his Mouvement de Musique Présente, has penned three wildly divergent numbers. Argentinian-born saxophonist Damian Nisenson, reputedly ”a man who will say anything and can play anything”, is true to both his roots and the motley nature of this crew helming an hilarious avant-klezmer tushy-shaker which translates as “Big Magpie”. Marie-Soleil Bélanger, experimental vioinist, is right in her element, as her day job is to play with traditional genres.
Lajeunesse gets to blow that leviathan on Willi grosse baleine, big-band reggae showcasing the brass section; the waltz Transport Suzanne by Del Fabbro is diginified and actually quite moving. It’s nice too sit one out, too, and cool off in the tiki-lounge breeze of Croise le pont.
As each new number queues up, a different kind of smile crosses your face.