The second installment in our four part series covering this year’s FIMAV festival.
by Pascal Denis Lussier
Maïkotron Unit with Stephen Haynes
Michel Côté: clarinet, tenor sax, maïkotron; Pierre Côté: acoustic bass, cello; Michel Lambert: drums, maïkotron; Stephen Haynes: trumpet, cornet, flugelhorn.
Always a joy to experience, both for the visual curio and the way in which these musicians challenge our auditory expectations, this little-known Montreal band managed to garner a cult following in the mid 80’s that was happy to see its return in ‘11 after what seemed like its demise. The maïkotrons—brass instruments with added sections, valves, and contraptions—are the brainchild of Michel Côté, invented in 1983 to force band members to break free from the conventions imposed by their habitual instruments as well as an attempt to demark themselves in an acceptably-gimmicky way within a hard to sell and then stagnant market. The result is an openness and abandon that engages listeners into beguilingly textured microtonal depths that provides the grist for more conventional improv. The trio itself is always interesting, but I’m tempted to believe that their success best lies in performances with a guest musician, as they’ve recently done with saxophonist Dave Liebman and, in this case, with the Bill Dixon-trained and imposing Stephen Haynes who perfectly complemented the group’s democratic approach with sparse but powerful and haunting lines.
Jean-Pierre Gauthier / Mirko Sabatini – “Le temps qu’il faut perdre”
Jean-Pierre Gauthier: invented instrument, iPad and iPod apps; Mirko Sabatini: sampling, contact microphones, iPhone app.
A collaboration between two sound artists equally steeped in the visual arts that flirted with the boundary between musicianship and electronics whilst providing a soundtrack to an engrossing split-screen film: two cyclists racing throughout Montreal. Some of the push-button percussion irritated, this type of approach often raising ethical issues with purists, but the outcome nonetheless managed to absorb rather than gravitate towards a sterile soundscape. However, as if they stretched the piece to fill an hour, some sections ran way longer than necessary and at least 20 minutes should be chopped from future presentations. On another note, this concert was a great advert for what’s possible with Apple iTouch products.
Joe Morris / Mike Pride / Jamie Saft – “The Spanish Donkey”
Joe Morris: electric guitar; Mike Pride: drums; Jamie Saft: synthesizers.
An aptly-named project considering that a “Spanish Donkey” is a medieval torture device; this high-intensity free-rock jam delved into a Peter Brötzmann Machine Gun-inspired universe of raw, hostile skronk. If this concert was on SoundCloud, the visual would be a solid block from beginning to end. Sadly, the show was a technical failure; Morris’ heavily-distorted guitar work, entirely reminiscent of Caspar Brötzmann’s but lacking in definition, blended with Saft’s heavy drones and bass modulations to produce a deafening wall of noise wherein only Pride’s crisp, furious drumming was perceptible. The low-frequency vibrations produced by Saft added to the incessant buzz by seriously rattling Pride’s drum kit. Yet, the aggressive, almost-therapeutic release provided by such a concert was, for some, a welcome change from the more acoustic and cerebral shows, and many left with a grin on their face while an equal number found the show insufferable.
John Zorn – “The Concealed”
John Zorn: direction; Joey Baron: drums; Trevor Dunn: upright base; John Medeski: piano; Kenny Wollesen: vibes; Mark Feldman: violin; Erik Friedlander: cello.
Virtuosos Mark Feldman and Erik Friedlander joined Zorn and the previous night’s lineup to offer us another world premiere, a fresh new project that combined the Nova Express ensemble with the Masada String Trio to produce music that coalesced the mystical and lyrical elements of both. Each composition, drawing once again from Zorn’s Jewish roots, were set to a mystic text and image selected by David Chaim Smith, each piece calling for a different configuration ranging from solo to duo to the sextet, while also focusing on the Masada String Trio and even offering a Nova Express composition, and as such, the unifying element wasn’t entirely obvious if not for the images, which, in themselves, didn’t really add a necessary dimension. Any which way, Zorn’s well spring of melodic imagination was once more effectively displayed, as was the ample talent of the other musicians.
Zorn Enthusiasts take note! Next year’s FIMAV will celebrate Zorn’s 60th anniversary with a full day dedicated to Zorn projects.