Photo by Neal Rockwell
A packed house at the Sala Rossa witnessed the opening concert of the “Regards sur le 7eme feu” project. The music was performed by a 12-tet of Montreal-based players directed by a pair of keyboardists, Stefan Christoff and Xarah Dion. A CKUT co-presentation, Christoff hosts the monthly Free City Radio show on the last Monday of each month.
While one might have difficulty pinpointing the political motivations behind the purely instrumental music, the program notes were explicit. The title refers to an Anishinaabe prophecy concerning the proverbial choice of roads one can follow, one fork leading to “peace, love, brotherhood and sisterhood,” the other with less desirable consequences. A contemporary analogy is drawn between materialism’s path towards environmental destruction versus the more spiritually enlightened path of green sustainability. A further connection is made between the Idle No More movement’s plea to manage our earth’s resources more responsibly, of increasing concern with various “Plans Nord” being put into place. The listeners are invited to contemplate these issues against the backdrop of the colonial foundations of Quebec and Canada.
With that in mind, the music began with a slow drone, evoking the vast spaces of the North, quiet at first with small flutterings from everyone, gradually increasing in activity. The fire burned slowly until the embers were stirred by a scorching violin solo by Tim Keen, followed by a high keening whistle from saxophonist Fred Bazil which soon morphed into a growling solo.
The hour-long concert of continuous sound was nevertheless broken into distinct episodes, with songs separated by sparse breaks, consisting, for example, of a single organ tone or rustlings from the orchestra. There was variety in texture and overall feel between sections, which were often characterized by repeating motifs providing a background for improvisations from all members. One highlight among many was a galloping middle-eastern flavoured guitar solo by Lubo Alexandrov, the scale re-used by other soloists to form a cohesive section. A solid rhythm section consisted of two bassists, Peter Burton and Mark Haynes, and drummer JahSun. The group was rounded out by cellist Claire Abraham, and second guitarist and second sax players in Ian Ferrier, and Drey Sax, respectively.
This was the premiere performance of this long term project, and it will be interesting to see how the project develops through the future installments.
– Lawrence Joseph
Lawrence Joseph is one host of the collective program Jazz Euphorium, which can be heard on Wednesdays from 8-10pm on CKUT.