Reviews — Improv & Avant-Garde

Eric Hill, Exclaim!, September 3, 2003

No Type presents a four-CD set featuring four free jazz ensembles from a scene centred at Montréal’s Casa Del Popolo. Two elements that immediately impress about these groups is a prevalence of electric guitar, an instrument not widely used in free jazz. Secondly is a marked absence of any electronics whatsoever in a time where most new jazz seems to put electronic elements centre stage. ’Gypt Gore is the duo of saxophonist Philémon and Sam Shalabi on guitar. Both play their instruments with a restless energy bordering on attention deficit disorder, occasionally rising to the point of eruption into angry beehives of noise. The fiercest and largest of the ensembles is Balai Mecanique, a sextet that includes the duo from ’Gypt Gore plus Thierry Amar. Unlike some larger groups they are not “led” by a specific member, making the directions taken and changes made much more spontaneous. The changes within the undulating chaos are deceptively subtle. PO (or “Provocative Operations”) is a quartet featuring Mr. Shalabi for a third time, as well as Rainer Wiens on electric guitar. Wiens is a 15-year veteran of the jazz scene and has truckloads of tricks and treats to splinter the guitar’s usual sound. John Heward and Alexandre St-Onge round things out on drums and bass; their music is the most delicate and introspective of the lot, featuring much more air and space surrounding each note, but also the most daring in terms of improvisation. Finally there is the trio of Chris Burns, Nicolas Caloia and John Heward (trio Presence). Chris Burns’s guitar is more subdued and classic, playing full chords rather than picking notes and generating noise, but also perceptively detached from the bass and drums of the other players. Each of the three musicians often picks their own course and seems to cross paths only occasionally and accidentally at that.