Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Calendar addenda

Guitarist and composer Michael Reinhart has invited me once again to join him in some musical adventures. He and his partner, Lin Snelling, have brought up the great improvising vocalist Rhiannon for a week of workshops and performances in Montreal. I had the distinct honour of improvising with Rhiannon and Ruth Zaporah during their last Montreal visit a year ago; it was a thrilling ear- and eye-opening experience. As always whenever Michael asks me to join him, I'll be playing accordion.

Rhiannon & the Vocal River
October 28, 2008 - The Yellow Door Coffeehouse (3625 Aylmer)
7:30 pm - $8/$5 (students)
October 31, 2008 - Studio 303 (372 Ste-Catherine W., 3rd floor)
8 pm - $12
I'll be playing accordion, melodica, and perhaps piano at the Yellow Door, maybe some percussion if the mood strikes.

Michael Reinhart & Friends
November 1, 2008 - The Yellow Door Coffeehouse
8:30 pm - $8
Jérémi Roy (bass), David Ryshpan (accordion), and more.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Pushing towards the end of the calendar

Here's a quick rundown of what's on my agenda for the coming months:

Tonight, October 16, I'll be indulging my addiction to musica popular brasileira (MPB) with singer Juana Lepine at Centre St-Ambroise (5080-A St. Ambroise). Yes, the McAuslan brewery is home to a small music room, a cozy space for intimate groups. As they say, "it's like a coffeehouse, with beer!" Opening the evening is beatboxer extraordinaire Jason Levine. $5, starts at 8:30 SHARP! Incidentally, you can check out the new Brazilian trio featuring Nicolas Bédard (bass) and Mark Nelson (drums) here.

I'll be back on the airwaves of CKUT this week, filling in for Jazz Amuck at 9 am October 17, and hosting Jazz Euphorium Wednesday, October 22 at 8 pm. CKUT will be starting a fall Funding Drive shortly, check their site for details.

Starting October 30, a bassless trio of myself, Dave Goulet (guitar) and Maxime Bellavance (drums) will be supplying the groovy tune-age at Casa Luna (2077 University) on Thursdays.

Finally, December 2, 2008 marks the release of the full-length Indigone Trio & Strings album, Cycles, on Ropeadope Digital. We recorded this in March at the beautiful Studio 270 with Hendrick Hassert behind the board. There will be a limited number of hard copies pressed, available at gigs. Many of you know we released a live, self-titled EP on Ropeadope last December. It was surprisingly well-received, so we re-recorded the six tunes from the original EP, plus four additional compositions by myself and Alex Mallett. I'll be celebrating the launch by performing at Upstairs Jazz Club (1254 Mackay) on December 7, 2008, with Indigone pinch-hitter Sebastien Pellerin on bass, and Mark Nelson on drums. We hit at 8:30 SHARP, $10.

Tuesday, October 07, 2008

Mission statement

POP Montreal is far from my natural habitat, and while I ran into people I knew, it was more often the case that I made new acquaintances. It's been a while since I had to tell people what it is I do, and questions that came up from both the film score and improvising panels sparked some reflection.

Much was made at the improvising panel of genre-specific labels, and dealing with genre-specific traditions. I remember at Banff, Vijay Iyer asked whether most people at his master class would call themselves jazz musicians. Many, including Dave Douglas, adamantly did not raise their hands. Vijay later qualified it as being a musician who has intensively studied and dealt with the jazz lineage, and most raised their hands. I don't really have a problem with the "jazz" label, at this point. Jazz is the music I've spent most of my life studying, both officially and not. It's the root of how I've learned how to play my instrument, and how to think about music. My sense of groove, time, harmony, melody, phrasing, inter-band communication, development, etc. is all influenced by jazz. Maybe "jazz-trained" is a better phrase, the same way many musicians, whether they pursue the concert path or not, are "classically trained." Matana said on the improvising panel that she often tries to push against the jazz tradition; I endeavour to find my own little nook within the tradition.

Yet I understand the desire not to be boxed in by a genre label; not to be confined to only jazz. A fellow panel attendee asked me what music I would like to score for film. My answer was whatever the film required. If it calls for a jazz score, I'll be happy to compose in that vein. If it calls for more electronic elements, or a chamber ensemble, or whatever, I'll be happy to oblige if I have the requisite tools to do so. Obviously, my composition for any instrumentation belies my jazz roots and my other stylistic predilections, but I'm not limited to writing spang-spang-a-lang, nor do I really want to. I find my music, and the music I love most, sits at the apex of multiple styles and influences.

I have a complex relationship with the term "authenticity." In some cases, I demand it of myself and my colleagues. In others, it's the least of my worries. If I'm playing in an R&B band, I'm not going to load up my comping with dissonant extensions and blow bebop all night long. There is, however, an element of bebop and post-bop that's inherent to my improvising language, and so when I step out for a solo, it'll probably come through in some way. When Indigone Trio plays "Erghen Diado," I have absolutely no pretension that we're a Balkan band, and I have no desire to be authentic in that case. The tune is our canvas to paint on, and it just happens to be a folk song. I suppose it's the divide between my music and other people's music. I strive to make my music on my terms - music that is personal, and I don't really care which traditions it draws from and how loyal it may be to them. When I am involved in other people's music, though, I do my best to maintain my own personal character while devoting my creative energy to their ends.

My feelings may, and probably will, change in five or ten years, but this is how I feel now. I'm truly curious to read what other musicians think of their own creative roles and approaches. It always forces me to re-evaluate my own.

POP Saturday 2008 - 10/04/2008

The only day I really explored POP Montreal was Saturday. Taking a cue from festivals like Canadian Music Week, North by Northeast, and a Montreal visit from the Future of Music Coalition a couple of years back, there was a Symposium element to this year's festival. I unfortunately missed the international festival panel, and Andy Williams' two-hour interview with Irma Thomas earlier in the week.

The day began with the Film Score as Genre panel, featuring filmmakers Jem Cohen (Instrument) and Matt Silver (Who is KK Downey?), Mirror film critic Mark Slutsky, former McGill professor Jamshed Turell and Alicen Schneider from NBC Music Services. I was hoping for some shop-talk discussion about what makes the best film scores work, and why, and how filmmakers and composers interact. For the most part it was a more philosophical discussion of the role of music in film, and the requisite discussion of whether licensing one's music to film, television, or advertisements constitutes "selling out." Cohen stated that in his view, films should be able to function without music, and too often, there's more music than necessary in a film. That started a discussion of great films without music (or with very little music). I would have preferred to discuss what makes film music effective.

Following that was a history lesson with doo-wop masters the Persuasions, led by Nomadic Massive's Butta Beats. The elder statesmen of the Persuasions treated the crowd to snippets of various songs, all of them in fine voice, with Butta beatboxing to fine effect and the delight of the group. I missed their show at the Portuguese Association that night, which was stellar by all accounts. I'm glad I got a taste in the afternoon.

While waiting for the Improvising and Community panel to get started, I checked out a roundtable called the Herstory of Hip Hop, featuring reggae pioneer Sister Nancy with young guns Eternia and Tali (also of Nomadic Massive). Sister Nancy didn't seem very talkative, sticking to curt answers, and attempts to really get some cross-panel discussion seemed to flounder, everyone deferring to the woman who paved the way for all female MCs (DJ in Jamaican parlance).

The Improvising and Community panel featured some of the usual suspects: the always intriguing Matana, McGill's Eric Lewis, painter/drummer John Heward, Suoni's Peter Burton, and a couple of new faces to me in percussionist/electronics manipulator Lisa Gamble, and cellist and moderator Mark Molnar. The usual topics of dealing with the jazz tradition, ego in improvising, the role and treatment of the audience, etc arose, but I always find such panels make me re-evaluate my stance on the music. I'll deal with that in another post.

Having missed his last large ensemble outing at this year's Suoni, I checked out Sam Shalabi's POP-commissioned suite, Symbols of Egyptian Light Spectrum at the Masonic Temple. Performed by a very large ensemble with reeds, strings, keyboards, two bassists, multiple percussionists, and a cast of 6 singers, led by Shalabi's oud and laptop, the hour-long piece melded North African motifs with slamming rock drums, brilliant free exchanges featuring baritone saxophonist Jason Sharp and violinist Josh Zubot among others, a litany of vocal techniques from operatic caterwauling to tender folk singing (courtesy of our own redheaded siren, Katie Moore), and the computerized robot voice spewing dirty pillow talk. An epic piece, to be sure, and while it took me a while to get into it, Shalabi and friends won me over in the end. In the dark room on the top floor of the temple, with low-lit Masonic artifacts adoring the room, the piece took on Easily one of the best concerts of the year.