The Grand groupe régional d’improvisation libérée (GGRIL) is one of Canada’s few large improvising ensembles, a feat made more improbable by their location in relatively isolated Rimouski. From a population of 46,000, bassist Éric Normand has managed to assemble a group of up to fourteen people that has begun to cultivate its own identity, evidently using chance strategies and gaming procedures as well as free improvisation. The version of the Grand groupe heard here has ten members, with instrumentation emphasizing strings (including electric and acoustic basses, electric guitars, violin and cello) and percussion, complemented by the distinctive, often melodic input of accordionist Robin Servant and trumpeter Alexandre Robichaud.
The group’s music is as distinctive as the format of this release, a startling red vinyl LP in a clear vinyl sleeve. The use of chance methods creates unpredictable textures that continually surprise, including the mysteriously isolated, abstracted passages that arise in Normand’s two-part Jeu de cartes, and the moody depths that characterize Oui, cela pourrait commencer ainsi…, a piece literally titled with a description of its spatial evolution. The sudden overlaps and spiky intrusions of Situation à deux chefs are an inevitable outcome of its method. Dedicated to Butch Morris, the founder of conduction, who died in January 2013, the piece takes conducted improvisation one step further with both Normand and guitarist Robert Bastien acting as conductors.