Saturday, May 31, 2008

Back on the airwaves

I've taken an unintentional hiatus from radio - the confluence of new blood at both Jazz Euphorium and World Skip the Beat, and my other commitments. I'll be filling in Sunday, June 1 8 for the beloved Len Dobbin on Dobbin's Den (11 am-1 pm EST) and carrying on into the 1-2 pm slot known as The Hearing Trumpet. The gameplan is to stick to jazz for the first couple of hours and spread out from there, playing music I don't normally get to spin on air. Playlists, as always for my fill-in slots, will be posted here.

EDIT: err, got the date wrong. It's actually next Sunday! Whoops.

I'll be hosting World Skip on June 16, and will be back on Euphorium in July.

Monday, May 26, 2008

Hearing colours & seeing sounds

This is one of the big things I've been working on that has taken me away from blogdonia lately. I've been commissioned by Biennale Montreal (Montreal Biennial of Art) to participate in their Open Music project. Artistic Director Scott Burnham's theme for the entire 2009 biennial is "Open Culture" which has spawned three open-source style projects: Open Music, Open Design and Open Cinema. Burnham's concept is that in our age of Flickr and YouTube, the individual becomes at once creator and curator. Is the traditional role of a curator and the traditional function of a biennial - one person's view of the state of contemporary art - outdated? How can we foster dialogue not only in the curatorial process but in the creation of the works themselves?

Scott Clyke asked me to become involved a few months ago, and when he ran a cursory project description by me I was immediately on board. I was to compose a "soundtrack" to Rick Leong's painting Dancing Serpent in Dawn's Quiet. This was up my alley anyway, because two of my recent pieces have been catalysed by poetry and I'd been trying to figure out ways to work with visual artists for a while. Once Scott showed me a photo of the painting (it's 8' x 6' - I still have yet to actually see the original) I was immediately inspired and had some fairly clear motivic ideas in my head. I wrote for totally different instrumentation than I normally work with, but for colleagues I'm familiar with - Mario Allard and Ben Henriques are two saxophonists I always call for my big band work; Gary Schwartz on guitar, who can fulfill any hare-brained idea I throw at him; and a rhythm section of Scott Kingsley on bass and Phil Melanson on drums.

The multitrack recording of this commission - in the vein of Radiohead, Dave Douglas, Nine Inch Nails and others - will be posted on the Biennale website for anyone to download and remix as they wish. The score will also be posted for other instrumentalists and singers to work with. A selection of remixes will be issued on a compilation to coincide with the Biennale in May 2009; and there will be an evening of live performance during the Biennale as well. There may be more to come in how this is all exhibited next year, but details are not yet confirmed and they're not mine to divulge, anyway.

More information is on the Biennale website, and it's just the tip of the iceberg. Much more - including photos and video of the rehearsals and recording session - is forthcoming.

Thursday, May 22, 2008

Festival express

The months of June and July are an embarrassment of riches for the Montreal jazz and improvised music fan. Victo just wrapped up; looking ahead we have the Suoni Per Il Popolo festival running through the whole month of June at sister venues La Sala Rossa and Casa del Popolo. As usual, this dovetails with the OFF Jazz Festival and of course the Montreal Jazz Festival. I should mention that Suoni is not exclusively a jazz festival, and there's a whole host of noise-tronica-avant-punk-folk things, but their jazz programming is uniformly stellar. I'll be covering Suoni for both Coda Magazine and Panpot, and I'll try to make as many OFF shows as possible. Here are my picks for both festivals.

Roswell Rudd & Mark Dresser
(June 4, Sala) - small ensembles come off surprisingly well in the larger room. Witness last year's Ribot solo recital and William Parker & Hamid Drake's duo blowout. Mark Dresser was on faculty at the Banff Centre when I was there and elevated all the groups he played with. I've yet to see Rudd live and their duo record, Airwalkers, from last year was superb.
Tim Berne's Hard Cell (June 5, Sala) - I missed Tim Berne last year, and Taborn is one of my favourite pianists nowadays, rounded out with drummer Tom Rainey.
Nels Cline Singers (June 8, Sala) - I've been waiting to see this group in Montreal for years. With Scarnella (Carla Bozulich & Cline).
Sun Ra Arkestra (June 14, Sala) - people still talk about the last Arkestra appearance at Suoni years ago. If you missed it, like me, you must be there this year. Co-presented with OFF.
Barnyard Drama showcase (June 15, Sala) - featuring the Toronto improv collective (Christine Duncan - voice; Jean Martin - drums; Justin Haynes - guitar) with Montreal ringers Bernard Falaise (guitar), Gordon Allen (trumpet), Philippe Lauzier (reeds) and others. Another OFF co-presentation.
Matana Roberts' Mississippi Moonchile (June 17, Sala) - another workshop from the Coin Coin project with Montreal and NYC improvisers. Matana's music and thoughts always challenge my own.
Roscoe Mitchell (June 22, Sala) - 'nuff said. I don't think it's with Note Factory (who just played Victo), but it's ROSCOE MITCHELL! Word is he's also on a panel with George Lewis and Charity Chan.
Powerhouse Sound (June 27, Sala) - some of my favourite Chicago improvisers: Ken Vandermark, Nate McBride, Jeff Parker, and John Herndon.

Also: Evan Parker/Barry Guy/Paul Lytton (June 26, Sala); Vandermark's Free Fall (June 25, Sala); John Heward's Murray Street Band w/ Paul Flaherty (June 21, Casa); and Ambiances Magnetiques showcase (June 23, Sala).

OFF Festival:
Erik Hove's Soundclash
(June 13, Dièse Onze) - Alto sax wizard with the eminently musical turntablist DJ P-Love.
Anna Webber Quartet (June 14, St-Ciboire) - an early (5 pm) show of bassless rockin' quartet. Indigone Trio's Philippe Melanson also plays drums here (he's MVP of the festival, playing in a bunch of different bands).
Mario Allard Quintet (June 15, St-Ciboire) - three-horn chordless quintet led by co-composers and saxophonists Mario Allard & J-F Fournel.
Jason Sharp's Ka Noo (June 15, Dièse Onze) - Jason's music is beautiful and spacious, equally texture-based and groove-oriented. Featuring Sharp on an Eastern European overtone flute called the fujara, and Phil Melanson once again.
June 16 - triple-booked! Bassist Pierre-Yves Martel's Quartetski takes on Satie at Lion D'Or, followed by Toronto trumpeter Lina Allemano's quartet, while Adam Miller's Jazz Warriors hit at Dièse Onze.
Miles Perkin's Common Thread (June 17, Lion D'Or) - if you missed his CD launch at O Patro Vys earlier this year, check out Perkin's textural masterpieces with Common Thread.
Chet Doxas - Le Mur (June 18, Lion D'Or) - what's with everybody writing for string quartet these days? Doxas is a player and composer to watch and has been for many years. This is his CD launch.
Turtleboy (June 21, St-Ciboire) - more bassless exploration with some good friends of mine.

Really, the whole festival is solid this year. Lots of my friends and colleagues are playing. There doesn't seem to be a weak show in the program.

Monday, May 19, 2008

Excuse me while I disappear

I've been in the cave preparing for a couple of very big projects which will be revealed in the coming days and weeks. Blogging shall resume shortly, especially with three major festivals on the horizon. Writings and thoughts on these events will be appearing in a variety of places, so stay tuned.

If you haven't read Ethan Iverson's intensely thought-provoking thesis, it's worth your undivided attention. I don't feel nearly well-read, well-listened, or well-lived enough to weigh in on the issues raised therein.

I leave you with the Hot 8 Brass Band's marvelously sweaty rendition of "Sexual Healing."