Tuesday, July 07, 2009

Le Large Ensemble - L'Astral, 7/3/2009

Dan Thouin could easily move his mattress to the Jazz Fest site. The multi-keyboardist is renowned around Montreal for his sonic mastery and his musical sensitivity, but doesn't always have the room to stretch out. With his Large Ensemble paying tribute to the music of early electric Miles, he had all the room he needed.

The band was comprised of some of the best and brightest on the local scene: Jocelyn Tellier and Olivier Langevin on guitars, Jim Doxas and Tony ("The Buddha of Beat") Albino on drums, Remi-Jean Leblanc on electric bass, Miguel Zaraipa on percussion, and a horn section of Maxime St-Pierre on trumpet, Yannick Rieu on soprano sax and Chet Doxas on bass clarinet and tenor sax. Thouin limited himself exclusively to Rhodes, run through Moogerfooger delay and modulation pedals. His improvising language is as solid as his attention to sound, incorporating elements of all the keyboard associates of that period - primarily Herbie in note choice and phrasing but with Chick's penchant for ring modulator and distortion, and Zawinul's swath of colour.

The band nodded at the 70s Miles era, without mimicing it outright - Yannick sounded especially indebted to Wayne on soprano, and Maxime St-Pierre had Miles' darkness in his sound without always deploying that characteristic weep. Tellier and Langevin combined with Thouin for some swirling soundscapes, while the three drummers and Remi-Jean hooked up to drive the group forward. Chet Doxas took some superb turns on bass clarinet and tenor. Tellier had a smooth, distorted sound for his solos, while Langevin sometimes got lost in the mix, but seemed to be unleashing Nels Cline-ish bursts of sound.

My favourite tunes of the set were the percolating take on "It's About that Time," with the band ferociously owning that groove, and the melancholy read of "In a Silent Way." It should not be another five years between a reunion of this Large Ensemble. If you can't get enough Dan Thouin at the festival, he's playing with Jedi Electro (joined by fellow journeymen Alex McMahon, Martin Lizotte and Jean-Phi Goncalves) at the Savoy at midnight tonight and tomorrow.

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