Pierre-Yves Martel’s arrangement of 18 of Prokofiev’s Visions fugitives is an interesting new look at the music of Prokofiev through jazz and improvised music’s perspective. In the past many have tried to arrange Visions fugitives for different ensembles because the tunes of Visions lend themselves easily to adaptation. They are well suited for jazz music because of their colourful, percussive and polytonal nature. One could assume that this is a jazz adaptation because of the instruments involved like double bass, saxophones (soprano, alto, bass clarinet), drum-set, and trumpet. However the musicians rarely venture out into a free improvised jazz world. This kind of approach could be heard just a few times like on tr.2 Andante, tr.14 Dolente or tr.16 Con una dolce lentezza where the music is slow enough to give rise to an improvised jazz-style imagination.
With all this said, the freely improvised element of the album is the strongest despite many sources of inspiration that the music of Prokofiev and the jazz backgrounds of the musicians bring into play. The arrangements themselves stay very true to the original piano music allowing the improvisations to come in once the musical thoughts of Prokofiev have been expressed in their almost full content. This allows the musicians to have a comfortable space for their own improvisations. A few times the free instrumental improvisations take place before the piece or in the middle. I particularly like when they happen in the middle, allowing for a space between the old material and the new, a retrospective look at the music of Prokofiev. Though the arrangements are directly taken from Prokofiev, the rest of improvisations are all musicians’ creations. The bassist Pierre-Yves Martel, drummer Isaiah Caccerelli, trumpeter Gordon Allen and saxophonist Philippe Lauzier have worked together on many free improvised music sessions, they are all well-known musicians within Montréal’s free-improvised music scene. Thus making improvised music together comes as a very natural activity for these musicians and it is not surprising that they find themselves together in this project initiated by Pierre-Yves Martel.
Musically, some improvisations grow out of musicians’ thoughts, sometimes having almost nothing to do with the music of Prokofiev that came before. Especially when it is very free and effect inspired. This approach works very well for Con vivacità, where the free improvisations take the listener away into another musical universe just to be brought back by a slower section of the piece lead by the double bass. It also works well on Assai moderato and Feroce. An introductory improvisation suits the beginning of Inquieto, which has two improvisations each very different from another. The album is very poetic especially when a solo instrumental improvisation sets the tone. One has to listen to Pierre-Yves Martel on the bass in the solo sections of the album to catch this poetic quality. Gordon Allen’s improvisations are full of satire and poetry as well. Isaiah’s tumbrel drumming helped by many different kinds of drumming sticks adds a lot to the jazz feel and tone of the Visions, giving the ensemble an invitation to indefinite-pitch explorations. While Philippe Lauzier demonstrates fine soprano saxophone playing with a tone that is both light and playful adding a theatrical element to the Visions and bringing the original material into a sharper focus. There are some beautiful ensemble moments like on tr.17 Allegretto II, perhaps due to a broken-up piece segment structure alternated by improvisational segments, keeping our attention focused on improvisations to come.