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La Scena Musicale - Vol. 17, No. 9 June 2012

Off the Record

by Marc Chénard & Annie Landreville / June 1, 2012

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Renaud Garcia-Fons:
Solo – The Marcevol Concert

Enja ENJ-9581 2 (www.enjarecords.com)
This two-disc set contains a deeply moving performance available both in CD and DVD configurations. Renaud Garcia-Fons has pulled off a tour de force by being both playful and profound. He succeeds in enthralling us by drawing out a wide range of sounds from his instrument, for instance in “Kalimbas,” during which he slips a sheet of paper between the strings, or making use of some electronics elsewhere in the record. As expected from him, references to Andalusian music and Arabic rhythms are present throughout, but the double bassist takes us on many journeys, from the Far West (“Far Ballad”) to Ireland (“Pilgrim”, a show stopper played like a bouncy “reel”). Whether bowing his strings or striking them like a guitar, violin or percussion instrument, sounds gush out and surprise us at almost every turn. Beyond his phenomenal dexterity and accuracy, the exceptionally gifted Renaud Garcia-Fons tops it off with his captivating brand of lyricism and rich melodies. Listen to the CD first before watching the DVD, but the latter will allow you to fully appreciate the gracefulness of the musician and revel in the inspiring surroundings. AL
In concert: July 7; Montreal

Colin Vallon trio: Rruga
ECM 2185 B0015433-02 (www.ecmrecords.com)
The title Rruga is an Albanian word meaning road. Pianist Colin Vallon takes us on a familiar one, trodden down for years by Keith Jarrett (for his lyricism) and Jan Garbarek (a pioneer in the blending of Nordic folk music with jazz). But this should not surprise anyone because both those artists are at the heart of the “ECM sound.” Colin Vallon, born in Switzerland in 1980, does not renege his predecessor but is also a stylist of our time. Indeed, he is as modern as Brad Mehldau, whose influence is obvious on the record, this trio’s third release and first on this German imprint. While the pianist is the group’s main composer, he lets his sidemen contribute pieces of their own. Inspired by various ethnic musics, from Turkey, Bulgaria and Caucasia, the musicians offer us evocative melodies, often heartwrenching, sometimes sensual, or both at the same time. Drummer Samuel Rohrer’s inventiveness is particularly interesting, at once churning and shimmering. Of equal calibre, Patrice Moret is a very skilled bassist, even when bowing. All three players understand how to establish moods that enable them to tell a story. Case in point is the gradual crescendo that unfolds in “Eyjafjallajökul,” named after that notorious Icelandic volcano that erupted in 2010. Here we have the embodiment of a musical project in which an apparent and sometimes meditative calmness thinly veils a rumbling volcano below. AL
In concert: Vancouver, July 1; Montreal, July 4;
Quebec City, July 5

Médéric Collignon – Jus de Bocse:

Plus loin music PL4522 (www.plusloin.net)
Light years away from the pristine calmness of the previous album, the “Shangri-Tunkashi-La” project from cornettist Médéric Collignon is anything but relaxing. This French musician’s latest album at the helm of his quartet Jus de Bocse dives headfirst into Miles Davis’ electric period of the 1960s-70s. Listeners are treated to emblematic period pieces like “Bitches Brew,” “Ife” (just killing!), “Mademoiselle Mabry,” “Interlude” and to cap things off, a cover of Led Zepplin’s “Kashmir,” this one being the weakest track of an album that is at once heavy and powerful, playful and jubilant. Recorded in 2009, in the wake of a prize granted to him for his previous effort (a re-interpretation of Miles Davis’s take on Porgy and Bess), this side is as energetic as it is electric. Médéric Collignon would have it no other way. To tackle this hard-edged and funky repertoire requires a strong character, which the Frenchman surely has, but he does so with meticulousness and daring. This surely explains why this repertoire of the master is one of the least revisited for it is so easy to miss the time-specific nature of the music and fall prey to turning out pale imitations instead. Obviously, it’s hard not to draw comparisons, at least after getting over the first listening experience. True, the melodies are all there, the riffs, chords and overall musical forms, but there are no guitars or saxophones to be heard here, just cornet, Fender Rhodes, bass, drums and, on a few tracks, a complete section of French horns. Simply stunning. AL
In concert: Edmonton, June 23; Vancouver, 24;
Victoria, 26; Saskatoon, 27; Ottawa, 28; Montreal, 5; Quebec City, 6; Halifax, 7

Han Bennink / Brodie West /Terrie Ex: Let’s Go.
Terp Records LP16 As
There’s no mistaking it: a pianoless trio drops the gloves and goes for it, no holds barred. And this is what the mad Dutch tubman loves the most. Released in vinyl in 2010, but soon to be available in CD for their upcoming Canadian tour, this album pits Bennink with electric guitarist Terrie Ex and Toronto altoist Brodie West. There are but two tracks here, each one clocking in at a little under the 20-minute mark (one per LP side); everyone free associates according to his whims, with an even share of hits and misses along the way. This unpolished music is best suitable in a live situation, more so when Mr.Bennink’s showmanship is in full view. On an audio recording, in contrast, this visual aspect is lost, and the music suffers somewhat: the focus is less than apparent and a concurrent feeling of gratuitousness hovers over the proceedings. Having witnessed the drummer perform in a host of other circumstances before, this writer can only recommend seeing this boisterous veteran doing his thing on stage, drum ‘shticks’ and all. (For music lovers, the album 2 for 2 on the Intakt label is certainly worth the listen, as Bennink spars with Japanese pianist Aki Takase.) MC
In concert: Montreal (Suoni Per Il Popolo), June 20; Toronto, 22; Calgary, 23; Vancouver, 24

Darius Jones Quartet:
BOOK OF MÆ’BUL (Another Kind of Sunrise)

Aum Fidelity AUM072 (www.aumfidelity.com)
Alto saxophonist Darius Jones is one of New York’s current crop of full-blooded post-free jazzers. Early in the year, he released this disc that the publicity flyer describes as “the third verse in his ongoing Man’ish Boy epic.” As for this recording’s title, “Mæ’bul,” it is, in his own words, “the embodiment of each woman I have truly loved and had a relationship with in my life.” Now that sets the tone for a musical program. Beyond any implied spiritualistic connotations, the album is essentially quite standard in portent, one where slow tempos and lyricism prevail. In fact, the final cut, “Roosevelt,” dissolves itself into a scant murmur, as if an ember was slowly burning itself out. Jones’s alto sound is rather acidic, reminiscent of one of the great Charlie Parker heirs, Jackie McLean, known for his visceral approach to music and squawky tone, surelynot to everyone’s taste. For those interested, Jones will be heard this month in Montreal with his bandmates Matt Mitchell (pno.) Trevor Dunn (b.) and Ches Smith (drs.).   MC
In concert: Montreal (Suoni Per Il Popolo), June 10

François Houle 5 + 1: Genera
Songlines SGL 1595 (www.songlines.com)
After several projects of more chamber-oriented musics, both through-composed and freely improvised, clarinettist François Houle returns to decidedly jazzier stylings in this brand new disc, to be launched during his national tour. For the occasion, he has hired two other Canadians, double bassist Michael Bates and drummer Harris Eisenstadt—both based in New York—, American cornettist Taylor Ho Bynum, Swiss trombonist Samuel Blaser and, as a guest on several tracks (ten in total), French pianist Benoît Delbecq. The one-time Montrealer and long-time Vancouver resident has penned all the music, which clearly qualifies as state-of-the-art jazz. On the one hand, there are rhythmically driving tracks, especially “Guanara” (a 12-minute excursion where the frontline players all shine); on the other, the two takes of “Le concombre de Chicoutimi” (tracks 1 and 3) are like quiet tone poems with sounds suspended in mid-air. This is a solid group effort based in no small part on the savvy playing of the wind players (kudos to the trombonist for his fat sound, music fans please take note). A consummate player with a sound to match, Houle also distinguishes himself by the intelligence and imagination of his writing and arranging, two more facets of his overall talent. If you are interested by the here and now, here’s one group to lend an ear to.  MC
In concert in Toronto, June 25; Ottawa, 26, Edmonton, 28; Calgary 29, Vancouver, July 1; Montreal (Casa del Popolo), 3; Quebec City (Largo), 4; Saint-John’s (Nfld.), 6

Ambrose Akinmusire:
When the Heart Emerges Glistening

Blue Note 70619 2 9 (www.bluenoterecords.com)
From experience, music lovers are usually weary of artists signed by “majors,” their interests far more aligned to economic concerns than artistic ones. As much as this may be the case, talent is not entirely discounted. In some instances, it may even shine, and when so, it needs to be drawn to the public’s attention. American trumpeter Ambrose Akinmusire is one name that may well fit this bill, at least after listening to this impressive debut offering on the Blue Note label. While the instrumentation is straight out of the hard bop quintet mould, the group is not at all confined to its clichés. Throughout the 55-minute collection of 11 tracks, there is but one standard, “What’s New,” delivered succinctly with pianist Gerald Clayton as the sole accompanist. The remaining tunes are all from the leader, “Aynah” split into three parts throughout the album. Also worth mentioning is the trumpeter’s ability to let the pieces build: on more than one occasion, the music begins softly, at ballad tempo, then picks up steam along the way without the listener expecting this from the outset. His sidemen are all workmanlike, for sure, but Akinmusire is a cut above the rest as a soloist, and he even pulls a few more tricks out of his hat with some extended techniques. Here’s an emerging talent worth checking out at this summer’s festival in Montreal. MC
In concert: Montreal (FIJM), July 4

Angelika Niescier: Sublim III
Enja ENJ-9533 2 (www.enjarecords.com)
Born in Poland, alto saxophonist Angelika Niescier (who doubles on curved soprano) has lived, since the 1980s, in Germany, a country where she has been making waves of late, earning a couple of awards and prizes in recent years. In 2010 she cut an album in New York with two of the city’s best, bassist Thomas Morgan and drumming phenom Tyshawm Sorey (“Quite Simply” Enja 9574 HHHHII). This month, she’s heading our way for the first time with her working band, a quartet called Sublim. The ensemble’s third album, released in 2009, reveals a musician flush with technique, but who also has ideas to back it. Aside from her sidemen, Florian Weber (piano), Sebastien Räther (double bass) and Christophe Hillmann (drums), she has included the oud player Mehdi Haddad on two tracks (“Oud Suite”), imbuing a mainly contemporary jazz album with an obvious Middle-Eastern flavour. The saxophonist can play with as much poise in a lyrical mode (“Bill,” “Sirrr”) as she can take off on more uptempo numbers (“Stückchen aus Geiz” or “Thronk,” the latter dedicated to Monk but no pallid imitation of his style). In 65 minutes, Niescier offers a half dozen of her tunes, all delivered with conviction. If this quartet’s latest release is any indication, she may well be one of the discoveries on the festival circuit this summer. MC
In concert: Ottawa, June, 27; Toronto, 28, Vancouver, 29

Translation: John Delva

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