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.