Jazz Libre: Revisited

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In spite of what naysayers have said about it, including predictions of its demise, free jazz never went away. In fact, it is more alive and well than ever. Ornette Coleman, Cecil Taylor and Archie Shepp eventually ­earned their stripes as its leading American protagonists, as Derek Bailey, Evan Parker or Peter Brötzmann did in Europe. In Quebec, this music has no such equivalents, but this is not because it was absent from our scene; it was around, even on the radar for a short time, but soon to vanish into obscurity.

The lead article of this section in April ­addressed this issue by means of a book on this subject, a first in our market. Penned by Eric Fillion, a historian specialized in avant-garde movements, JAZZ LIBRE et la révolution québécoise Musique-action 1967-1975 recounts the ups and downs of the first free jazz band to appear on the local scene. While talked about for awhile, the Quatuor de jazz libre du Québec slipped away, but its cause was furthered (somewhat differently) by that other home-grown musical oddity called musique actuelle (subject of another recent book, see review on our Web page). For decades, the group’s recorded output was limited to a single LP, until the release of an unissued side in 2012 on Tenzier. a non-profit organization created by Fillion.

This month, the QJLQ’s musical legacy on record will expand three-fold with the issuing of a limited edition four-CD box set of previously unreleased material. Culled from a stash of privately-owned tapes (over 50 it is reported), this release (entitled Jazz libre du Québec : musique politique) is a cross-section of live performances from the years 1971-1974. Front and centre is its saxophone player, Jean Préfontaine, his front-line mate trumpeter Yves Charbonneau overshadowed for the most part, and behind them a fluctuating cast of rhythm-section players and added guests. Accompanying the LP-size box is a large-size 20-page booklet including an introduction by Éric Normand, producer of the set for his label Tour de Bras in Rimouski, an essay by Fillion and archival materials. As alluded to above, this set is but the tip of the iceberg, and its sound archives, totalling some 100 hours, is due to be digitalized for access on a Website dedicated to the group (see reference below). ­Collectors take note: the print run is limited to 300 set, but the music will be available for ­purchase via Bandcamp.

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Special presentations at the Suoni per il Popolo festival June 16, 1 p.m. Play Free!
Eric Fillion in conversation with John Gilmore (author of Swinging in Paradise, the Early History of Jazz in Montreal).
June 19, 8:00 p.m.
Tribute event to the QJLQ, hosted by drummer Guy Thouin (last surviving founding member). Note: 35 copies of the box set will be on sale that evening
www.suoniperilpopolo.com

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About Author

Marc Chénard is a Montreal-based multilingual music journalist specialized in jazz and improvised music. In a career now spanning some 30 years, he has published a wide array of articles and essays, mainly in Canada, some in the United States and several in Europe (France, Belgium, Germany and Austria). He has travelled extensively to cover major festivals in cities as varied as Vancouver and Chicago, Paris and Berlin, Vienna and Copenhagen. He has been the jazz editor and a special features writer for La Scena Musicale since 2002; currently, he also contributes to Point of Departure, an American online journal devoted to creative musics. / / Marc Chénard est un journaliste multilingue de métier de Montréal spécialisé en jazz et en musiques improvisées. En plus de 30 ans de carrière, ses reportages, critiques et essais ont été publiés principalement au Canada, parfois aux États-Unis mais également dans plusieurs pays européens (France, Belgique, Allemagne, Autriche). De plus, il a été invité à couvrir plusieurs festivals étrangers de renom, tant en Amérique (Vancouver, Chicago) que Outre-Atlantique (Paris, Berlin, Vienne et Copenhangue). Depuis 2012, il agit comme rédacteur atitré de la section jazz de La Scena Musicale; en 2013, il entame une collabortion auprès de la publication américaine Point of Departure, celle-ci dédiée aux musiques créatives de notre temps.

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