The mood was cheery and upbeat as a crowd gathered and filled the room early in advance of Paper Beat Scissors’s orchestra-backed headlining show at Sala Rosa. The performers bypassed the stage in favour of the floor which, along with the limited seating, provided a suitably intimate atmosphere.
Up first was Ambroise, headed by songwriter Eugénie Jobin and rounded out by Gabriel Drolet, Frédérique Roy, and Simon Labbé, all mainstays of the local jazz scene. A hush immediately fell as the quartet spun a gorgeous web over the room, Jobin’s clear voice bouyed by tasteful guitar, bass, guitar, and accordion. Balancing between smooth drones and ambling rhythms, the mood was masterfully set with this relaxed set of simple songs.
Paper Beat Scissors, while also offering a lush and immersive sound, was by contrast considerably more upbeat. Tim Crabtree’s driving guitar and yearning voice, a simple but undeniably potent combination, was swaddled with layers of additional instrumentation provided by the seven-piece orchestra at his back, elevating but never overwhelming his presence. The songs crashed like waves and broke around me, highlighted by the bobbing strings and woodwinds, tugging and rocking and ultimately leaving me clean.
After writing a review of the fantastic Suoni Per Il Popolo Festival opening concert featuring the likes of Wadada Leo Smith and Kai Kellough, I was graced with the opportunity to witness a slew of Suoni festival concerts throughout their two week line-up. As usual, Suoni delivered a mind bending take on music. From spoken word to art-punk to free jazz, all things underground seemed to be represented in one way or another. Through and through Montreal was well represented. At the end of the day, the festival is really about this beautiful city we live in so, I thought it would be best to spend some time writing about some of my favorite local acts. Check it out:
Jean Derome and Joane Hétu @ Sala Rossa
Jean Derome has been an important figure in Quebec’s Musique Actuelle scene for 45 years. For this year’s festival, Derome put on a career spanning concert event featuring various ensembles and musicians from different eras in his life. From beginning to end the audience witnessed extraordinary feats as each and every musician tested the capabilities of their selected musical instruments. The set that I remember most fondly was Derome’s first with alto saxophone player and vocalist Joane Hétu. Although Derome has an impressive arsenal of instruments including Alto Saxophone, Baritone Saxophone, Alto Flute, Soprano Flute as well as various extended wind instruments, Hétu still matched Derome’s level of contrast with her outstanding ability to use everything at her disposal. From screeching high notes and intense vocal clicking to airy sax playing, Hétu successfully held her ground when faced with the spectrum of noise of Derome. The set began with textural devices. Puffs of air and rhythmic scratching evolved into huge walls of sound as Hétu and Derome developed extensive motivic ideas side by side. The quick-hitting contrast and shocking sound effects maintained excitement throughout, truly epitomizing the wonder of live improvised music. Continue reading →