Browsing: Experimental Jazz

Michael Formanek / Imperfect Measures – Intakt CD 359 From the first sounds plucked on his bass, Michael Formanek captures our ear. His nine-track 56-minute offering relies more on his playing than interpreting written material. Never will the listener’s interest flag in this magnificent excursion. What’s more, the recording’s sound, deep and vibrant, enhances the aural experience, as if he were right there in front of you. As a side note, the album’s fanciful etchings of visual artist Warren Linn adorning the album were created during the recording session. For those who think solo recordings of instruments other than piano are…

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When the first lockdown hit Montreal a year ago, working opportunities ground to a halt for performing artists. Then there was a glimmer of hope in the summer but from October on, it was back to square one, or just about. To pick up some of the slack, some found work by staging shows online or, as an alternative, turning to teaching on the Web. Claire Devlin is one such musician who now tutors her base of students virtually, some on tenor and alto saxophones (her main axes), a couple on piano, the instrument she began with as a child.…

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Quinsin Nachoff Pivotal Arc Whirlwind Recordings WR4761 Classical and jazz are seldom found on the same dance floor. The Toronto-born New Yorker Quinsin Nachoff has managed a viable synthesis with his Violin Concerto, a work of long gestation played with strength and affection by Nathalie Bonin, a McGill alumna who has since returned to her native California. A tart solo starts in no-man’s land before drums and offbeat wind comments enter the room, presenting their jazz credentials. A fairly steady (and slightly tango-ish) beat keeps things more or less classical and a splendidly lyrical second theme for the violin after…

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John Hollenbeck Songs You Like a Lot Flexatonic Records 001 Just released on John Hollenbeck’s newly created imprint, this album is the final installment of a trilogy of big band recordings dibe with the HR radio jazz orchestra in Frankfurt. Like his previous efforts, Songs I Like a Lot and Songs We Like a Lot, Hollenbeck has flexed his arranger chops once more, driving the crew from his drum set. The tune selections, it must be noted, were actually chosen by the listening audience who were asked to submit its picks. The selections are decidedly pop with numbers by Joni Mitchell…

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 Suoni per il Popolo June 4-23, 2019 At 19 days, Montreal’s Suoni per il Popolo festival certainly has few rivals, if any, in terms of duration, and artistic scope. Since its inception in 2001, it has dedicated itself to all forms of non-traditional musics, variously labeled as “creative”, “experimental”, “free form”, or whatever one cares to call these, if need be. Jazz, for its part, has always had a place in its program, more specifically from this music’s avant-garde (from Free Jazz to all non-idiomatic practices of improvisation). Yet, its presence has varied from one edition to the next, some…

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A keen observer of the new music scene in Montreal, Réjean Beaucage has taken to the task of demystifying that slightly strange bird known as musique actuelle. His book on this subject, released last February, is but a logical extension of his first one of eight years ago that recounted the history of the Société de musique contemporaine du Québec. In close to 200 pages, he embraces a good half a century of musical activity, its alpha point in 1961 with the Semaine de musique actuelle and further manifestations such as the FIMAV, founded in 1983 and still around to this…

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In our February jazz section, we discussed the meaning of the above terms in jazz. The three recordings under review serve to illustrate the points made. Effendi Jazz Lab / Quintessence – Effendi FND 152 If “modern” jazz is defined as a music that relies on its own history, this release from Quebec’s Effendi label fits that bill. Pianist Felix Stüssi heads this eight-man unit as guest composer, penning all nine tunes, including three older ones re-arranged. The musical language bears the twin imprints of jazz and blues, with no less than three numbers based on the latter form. The…

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In its day, the late 1960s, the Quatuor de Jazz libre du Québec (QJLQ) was the first local band dedicated to the cause of free jazz, the era’s most radical music. Remarkably, it grabbed headlines, joining forces for a while with singer Robert Charlebois, then the leading pop icon. As unlikely as it was, that pop-free jazz encounter was part of the order of the day, when musical genres clashed at will. This episode is but one of many dealt with in a new book (in French) on this trailblazing jazz ensemble. Entitled JAZZ LIBRE et la révolution québécoise: Musique-action,…

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Artists generally confine their work to one field. Painters and sculptors, for instance, are not so involved in any of the performing arts. These require an audience, which is the raison d’être for all musicians, dancers and actors. Thus, the solitary pursuit of visual art runs counter to the dispositions of stage performers. But there are exceptions, people whose creativity flourish in both worlds. John Heward was one of them. For close to half a century, this full-blooded Montrealer pursued twin careers, one as a visual artist, the other as a musician. In spite of a long career, he was a…

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REVIEW: of The Anchoress, a world premiere of a new musical monodrama/song cycle composed by David Serkin Ludwig with text by Katie Ford, performed by soprano Hyunah Yu, accompanied by saxophone quartet PRISM and ancient-instrument ensemble Piffaro; on Wednesday, October 17, at the Perelman Theatre of Philadelphia’s Kimmel Center, and on Thursday, October 18, at New York City’s DiMenna Center for Classical Music (the latter performance reviewed here); and INTERVIEWS: with composer David Ludwig and poet Katie Ford. The impulse to retreat from the world in search of spiritual insight or purity has manifested throughout human history. Twenty-one centuries of Christianity…

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