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La Scena Musicale - Vol. 5, No. 8

Jazz tracks

by Marc Chénard / May 1, 2000

Version française...

At first glance, it may well look like a jazz big band. But on closer examination, it doesn't really fit the mould. While its lineup is dominated by the customary trumpet, trombone and saxophone sections, the Ensemble Kappa has done away with all keyboards and, more surprisingly, the bass. In lieu of these, there is a three-man guitar section and, of all things, a harmonica player. But if you think this might be a blues band with horns, better forget that, too, because this 16-man strong outfit performs a program of through-composed music with little or no improvisation at all. Since its debut in 1998, this orchestra under the direction of drummer/educator Phillippe Keyser has slowly but surely made its presence felt on the local scene. On Thursday, May 4, this most unique group will perform a concert at the Cinquième Salle of Place des Arts, at which time they will unveil their second recording. After their eponymously titled debut CD of two years ago, their new release Bien Serré (Hode Records 402) features four substantial works, of which the 22-minute title cut, penned by the Canadian composer James Harley, is nothing less than a tour de force. As virtuosic as it may be, it is not gratuitously so, and the artistic depth of this work is only enhanced by the ensemble's tight execution. Also included on this disc, and to be heard on performance night, are works by Paul Dolden (Head Thread for tape and wind ensemble alone), Scott Godin (Greyhound, a solo feature for one the band's most promising voices, baritone saxophonist Carl Maraghi), and the finale, a composition by the late jazz trumpeter Don Ellis (New Horizons, with an added vocal interlude featuring the surrealistic poetry of Claude Gauvreau). Overall, the jazz content may be marginal, but the power and conviction of this group is worthy of the top jazz orchestras 'out there' today. Tickets can be purchased at the Place-des-Arts box office and through the Admission network. (790-1245)

Festival Scoop

Also in May, the Montreal Jazz Festival officially announces its indoor program on Tuesday the ninth. Some concerts have already been announced, i.e., the big ticket items (with prices to match, of course), the rest of which will more than likely resemble a collage of major label rosters. A much awaited part of the festival, however, is the Invitational Series, where two figureheads are offered five concerts each in various instrumental combinations. This year's honoured guests will be bassist Dave Holland and the gentlemanly guitarist Jim Hall. As for the groups featured, it is more than certain that the former will be heard with the Gateway Trio (John Abercrombie and Jack de Johnette), another threesome with John Surman and Anouar Brahem, the bassist's own current quintet, and, apparently, a special large ensemble project. As for the rest, please stay tuned.

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