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Suoni per il Popolo: Outside Music Incoming

Mike Chamberlain, Hour, 3 juin 2010

Casa del Popolo is once again ground zero for unique Suoni Per Il Popolo music festival.

Drummer and composer Michel F Côté is the custodian of the & label, a small imprint-cum-art project that is launching new CDs by the group Mecha Fixes Clocks and alto violinist Jean René to kick off the 10th Suoni Per Il Popolo festival on June 6. Côté agrees that the story of outside music in Montréal can fairly be divided into the era before Mauro Pezzente and Kiva Stimac opened the Casa del Popolo in 2000 and the era since then. “Before that, there was no real venue for improv music or for all sorts of avant garde,” Côté explains, “and when the Casa started, it was real good news. You could just hang out, and it was always fantastic music. Nobody else in Montréal is doing what they do.”

With its eclectic booking policy, the Casa, and later La Sala Rossa, have nurtured audiences knowledgeable about all kinds of outside music, from free jazz and electronic music to avant rock, folk, spoken word, cabaret and multimedia performances. Every year in June, Pezzente and Stimac give themselves a gift by booking a special series of concerts. They might regard the Suoni as their own reward, but as has been the case since the Casa opened its doors, it is the Montréal audience who benefits. As usual, this year’s Suoni Per Il Popolo festival is very strong on free jazz, including the first-ever Canadian performance by the legendary Globe Unity Orchestra, an ensemble founded by pianist Alexander von Schlippenbach in 1965. Concerts of musicians within the orchestra — the quartets of Evan Parker and Henrik Walsdorff and the Alexander von Schlippenbach Trio — will bookend the GUO’s June 20 date at Sala Rossa. And in addition to performing, Suoni regular Ken Vandermark will present an open rehearsal/workshop with the other members of the Vandermark 5 on June 16, and pianist Matthew Shipp will give a workshop on the processes of improvisation on June 15. Other performances in this series include Vandermark’s Frame Quartet, the trio of Kidd Jordan, William Parker and Hamid Drake, and Dutch cornetist Eric Boeren’s quartet. There’s an impressive electronic series that includes appearances by the likes of Didi Bruckmayr, Radian, Christof Kurzmann and Emeralds, and the avant rock scene is represented by Xeno and Oaklander, Oneida, Hair Police, Carlos Giffoni and the shamanistic collective No Neck Blues Band. It’s a very exciting lineup that reflects the ethos of being smart, inventive, adventurous and community friendly.

Doing more with less, Pezzente and Stimac are an example that all music presenters could emulate.

It’s a very exciting lineup that reflects the ethos of being smart, inventive, adventurous and community friendly.

L’Envers and Gordon Allen

Adam Kinner, The Gazette, 30 janvier 2009

Walking into L’Envers is like entering a scene from the ’70s East Village. If Patti Smith were on the old couch in the corner talking to the motley assortment of Montréal improvisers, artists, gallerists and dancers typical of a L’Envers audience I wouldn’t bat an eye. This is the newest music venue in the Mile-End and everything from the large photos on the wall—by the very talented Marie-Ève Dompierre — to the warehouse-style windows, the turn-of-the-century wooden support beams, and the homemade feel of the space suggests that this is a space run by artists for artists and audiences alike.

The mastermind behind the scenes is Gordon Allen. An incredible trumpet player and improviser, a talented organizer, a quick-witted schmoozer, an hilarious MC and a big-hearted friend of at least half of the musicians in Montréal, Allen is just what Montréal needs to get its improvised music scene off and running. He’ll emerge from the dense crowd, clad in a porkpie hat and cuffed shirt, beaming at how well the evening is going, how well the musicians are playing, and how many great people have showed up.

Along with three other like-minded musicians, he’s responsible for this new hotspot. Together they’ve worked to create a space committed to presenting music, dance, and performance — “anything that involves improvisation” — that would otherwise have trouble being shown. Their mandate is to offer the excellent musicians of Montréal a comfortable place to play, and to build an audience that comes curious, listens carefully, and leaves satisfied.

But Allen is a far busier man than his carefree, joyous demeanor might suggest. He has been organizing the improvised music community since he arrived in Montréal from Guelph in 2005. The monthly series at Casa Del Popolo “Improvising Montréal” came under his control in 2006; and Mardi Spaghetti, a weekly series he curates along with three other improvisers at Cagibi, is going to celebrate its first anniversary in March.

On Saturday, January 17th, L’Envers opened its new year of programming with a celebration of Art’s Birthday. (It took a couple of weeks for the members of their mailing list to realize that they weren’t talking about a guy named Arthur, but rather celebrating the birth of Art, which Robert Filliou famously starting celebrating in 1963. Check this out.) CKUT was there with their live broadcasting gear. Six bands were slated to play. There was a birthday cake competition and West-Coast artist Glenn Lewis re-enacted the birth of Art.

I arrived just as Gordon took the stage with his trio Pink Saliva, with drummer Michel F Côté and bassist Alexandre St-Onge. Their layered, richly textured mix of acoustic improvisation and electronics sent a hush over the hundred or more gathered. Many took a seat on the floor and listened to the flow of expressive sounds, ranging from beautiful trumpet melody to the harsh but effective noise-electronics of Côté and St-Onge.

Even the loud students next to me stopped talking and I saw their facial expressions change to concentrated curiosity as they craned their necks to see how those three musicians were making such otherworldly sounds.

“When audiences are more attentive,” Gordon had told me earlier in the week, “the musicians have to scrutinize their own work more. Consequently we’re pushed harder to create, and the music advances. I’ve seen that here, and it’s an incredible thing to be a part of. Worth all the work we’ve put into it.”

Walking into L’Envers is like entering a scene from the ‘70s East Village. If Patti Smith were on the old couch in the corner talking to the motley assortment of Montréal improvisers, artists, gallerists and dancers typical of a L’Envers audience I wouldn’t bat an eye.

Concert Review

Isnor B Gordon, Left Hip Magazine, 12 décembre 2008

Fred Frith played in Montréal recently along with some very talented local free improv players. I was fortunate enough to catch the show…

Legendary avant-garde guitarist Fred Frith dropped by Montréal’s Cabaret Juste Pour Rire the other night for a duo show with drummer Danielle Palardy Roger, and an opening set by two incredible percussionists - Michel F Côté and Isaiah Ceccarelli.

Côté and Ceccarelli started things off with nothing but drums. Côté was behind a standard kit extended with lots of toys and two mics rigged up two a pair of Pignose amps. Ceccarelli just had a bass drum lying on a chair along with, again, lots of toys. The pieces were all very brief which was really nice, and despite the fact that drums alone might seem limited, each piece was very different from those that came before – sound loud and frenetic, others quiet, one actually managed to elicit quite a bit of laughter from the audience, which I’m hoping was a good thing. Côté used the mics as drum sticks to great effect - creating all kinds of unusual sounds of tension and release, friction, surprisingly dynamic feedback that almost made one think of the expressiveness of the Theremin, and there were moments of all out, distorted, banging-on-a-drum fun. The feedbacking drums were paired up really well with Ceccarelli’s bowed playing. A great set.

Fred Frith and Danielle Palardy Roger were up second and once they began playing, they did not stop until their set was finished — a really long and well laid-out musical journey with lots of highlights and unexpected twists and turns. Fred pulled out every trick in the prepared guitar book - from the old twanging drum stick between the strings to an array of effects and looping pedals and beyond. But with his mastery of music and his instrument it never felt like he was depending on the gimmicks, more using them to great effect to build up a complex, multilayered soundscape and every-evolving composition. He was well matched up with Danielle Palardy Roger, who also had all of the extended techniques and managed to make great music with them. They both seemed to be following their own paths the whole way not interacting too much like some free improv players do, creating a sort of back and forth conversation type of sound, but their individual paths meshed perfectly well together, so maybe they were both just following the music more than their own instrumental egos. Adding an extra oomph to the coolness of the show was when first Fred Frith let loose a barrage of percussive and wailing tribal vocals, followed a little later on by vocal sounds along similar lines from Danielle Palardy Roger. Took it to another level beyond the often staid confines of stylized free improv into something more about music in a broader and more sophisticated sense.

An awesome concert, and I think it was part of a recording project so it may see the light of day on CD in the not too distant future…

An awesome concert…

Live Reviews: Suoni per il Popolo

Lawrence Joseph, Signal to Noise, no 51, 1 septembre 2008

The eighth annual Suoni per il Popolo spanned a month and covered a huge range of musical genres. Over 50 concerts took place in two venues located across the street from each other in Montréal’s artist-filled Mile End neighborhood. It gave fans of free jazz, experimental rock, avant folk, contemporary classical, electronic, and improvised musics plenty to get excited about. Add a workshop with the Sun Ra Arkestra, street performance art, DJ sets and an outdoor day of music and children’s activities, and you have an unbeatably eclectic event. […]

The festival kicked off with two shows that exemplified what it does best. The more intimate Casa del Popolo was the venue for a free jazz blowout with saxophonist Glen Hall, bassist Dominic Duval, and drummer William Hooker, […] Hall keeps a relatively low profile, despite having studied with Ligeti and Kagel and played with the likes of Roswell Rudd, Jimmy Giuffre and John Scofield. The compositions in the first set paid tribute to some of his influences, while the second set shifted to freely improvised territory, with Montréal’s young trumpet luminary Gordon Allen sitting in to add blistering sound blasts and overblowing to the mix. At times this resembled the more noise-based music Hooker has made with Thurston Moore. […]

Allen was a fixture at the festival, playing in seven shows during the month, including guitarist Rainer Wiens’ version of Riley’s In C.

Another evening featured the debut of All Up In There, a trio of Allen, Michel F Côté on percussion, and Frank Martel on Theremin. Martel often played the theremin as if it were a stand-up bass, while Côté, when not playing kit, obtained a surprising variety of sounds from winging two mics around Pignose amps. The overall effect was more like a group of virtuosic Martians than a standard jazz trio. […]

Christof Migone’s performance piece Hit Parade took place outside on a busy Saint-Laurent Boulevard, taking over the sidewalk and one lane of traffic. Eleven people lay face down on the pavement, each pounding a microphone into the ground exactly one thousand times, at varying speeds. The sound of a giant asynchronous metronome prompted ironic thoughts in this listener about the usual meaning of the phrase “hit music,” and about pounding the pavement as a metaphor for life. […]

The Quatuor Bozzini, a string quartet dedicated to contemporary music, performed a selection of pieces by experienced improviser/composers. Malcolm Goldstein’s four-part structured improvisation A New Song of Many Faces for in These Times (2002) was by turns gentle and harsh, agitated and introspective, as melodic and rhythmic fragments were passed from one member of the quartet to another. Goldstein himself performed Hardscrabble Songs, a 13-minute solo piece for voice and violin. Jean Derome and Joane Hétu’s Le mensonge et l’identité (“Lies and Identity”) is an hour-long tour de force with a strong socio-political component. The Bozzinis’ spoken contributions (both live and on prerecorded tape) ranged from pithy quotes from philosophers and politicians to personal anecdotes. The music deliberately unraveled into chaos, the players moving music stands and chairs about the room in response to unsynchronized metronomes, tipping over stands as the scores on them were completed. […]

Live Reviews: Festival international de musique actuelle de Victoriaville

Mike Chamberlain, Signal to Noise, no 51, 1 septembre 2008

While the 2008 edition marked the 25th anniversary of the Festival international de musique actuelle de Victoriaville, and while the festival grid looked, in some respects, like a tribute to certain mainstays of the festival that’s not quite the way that Victo’s director, Michel Levasseur, set out to put the milestone program together. The 25th anniversary nonetheless has a resonance for many people, Levasseur found. “You can’t hide the reality of this history,” he said in an interview before the festival. “Some people have 25 years of marriage. Some people think of where they were 25 years ago. Some of our audience weren’t even born then. […]”

And there was, in fact, a certain symmetry to the lineup, with Jean Derome et les Dangereux Zhoms + 7 and John Zorn’s project The Dreamers opening the festival at 8 and 10 pm respectively. Both Derome and an expanded lineup of Les Dangereux Zhoms and Zorn’s Dreamers delivered performances that demonstrated that their leaders were still making interesting, relevant music. Les Dangereux Zhoms did two pieces. The first, Traquen’Art, was first performed late last year in homage to the Montréal production company of the same name, while the second, Plateforme, was a premiere, written in tribute Levasseur’s creation and life work. With the lineup expanded to include the voice of Joane Hétu, the reeds of Lori Freedman, and the turntable of Martin Tétreault, among others, the two compositions encompassed a wide palette that drew together almost everything Derome has done over the past thirty years. Ranging from delicate interplay between voice, violin and viola to full-on collective improvisation with screeching guitar and muted trombone pyrotechnics, the music exploded generic considerations in the best Victo tradition. […]

A lot of festival-goers skip the midnight shows, but this year’s edition featured two of the best I have seen in a decade of attending the festival, the Friendly Rich Show on Thursday and Michel F Côté’s post-rock soul sextet (juste) Claudette on Sunday. […] While the collective intrigue of the three Thursday concerts were hard to match, there was much to savor over the weekend. Among these […] the premiere performance by the trio of René Lussier, Martin Tétreault and Otomo Yoshihide, whose nakedly human endeavors to improvise as a trio had to overcome their long histories of playing with one another in duos, the results demonstrating both the promise and the pitfalls of improvised music.

Autres textes

Downtown Music Gallery, AllMusic

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