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22 September 2017

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22 September 2017
blogue@evenement
18 September 2017
By Dave Madden in The Squid’s Ear (USA), September 18, 2017

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“Technical virtuosity meets a virtuosity in cleverness is the best way to describe this music. Homage, respect, innovation: paint that on a banner and hang it at the next Quartetski show.”

Quartetski’s interpretation of classic works has been a mixed approach in the best possible way. Their version of Stravinski’s Le Sacre du printemps adhered near 50% of the time to the mystical original, the other portion being a different type of genius musical accoutrement.* The group’s Prokofiev covers turned the Russian composer into a hard-bopping jazz man. Now the quintet (oh the irony) sifts through 96 acts that make up the first three books of “progressive piano pieces” by Béla Bartók’s Mikrokosmos and offers 25 greatest hits.

The results here are… fun. They range from playful, naïve (per the simpler works intended as etudes for Bartók’s young son Péter) to mischievous to bold to sweet and stark. Livre I: I. Six mélodies à l’unisson wiggles out of the corner with Bernard Falaise’s gentle guitar melody. He hangs on a last note as Phillippe Lauzier’s bass clarinet and Isaiah Ceccarelli on xylophone meander in the delicate simplicity. Violinist Joshua Zubot offers a syrupy line and pause before the group — with Pierre-Yves Martel rounding out the mix on electric bass guitar — slams into a stint of rocking out. Turning on a dime, Lauzier is joined by a drifting melodica until a micro-burst of slinky jazz slips in. Livre III: XIII. Gamme pentatonique shimmers with a bloated pitch-shifting guitar (as in it sounds like someone skronking on a harmonizer pedal), slightly-out-of-tune synth and lively pizzicato from Zubot. An icy, wandering duet of wind instruments (soprano sax riffing that would make sense coming out of Evan Parker) meets lithe, mandolin-like strums, and the band slams back into the relatively pummeling, lugubrious rock; the mania of the sax persists as the rest of the crew hunker into a big ol’ groove.

Livre II: VI. Accompagnement en accords brisés comes with slide whistle sounds, pick slides, sexy rhythmic patterns, fun accordion-like chords (more melodica), the work coming off as Tom Waits scoring a Jim Jarmusch flick; Livre II: X. Méditation adopts the same aesthetic, but adds sultry tremolo guitar to the fold. Livre II: Dialogue is 43 seconds of punctuating distorted crunch whose last pluck probably ended with tongue out and a devil horns hand pose.

Makrokosmos, the final and longest piece at over nine minutes, is the quintet sinking into a wave of droning material with wispy gestures of bowed cymbals, squeaking harmonics and deep rumbles percolating to the surface. The juxtaposition of style here furthers the mystique of the album in that, sonically, it eulogizes the previous tracks. “Bartók, you are why we are gathered today, and this record is an artifact to the influence you had on us. Look at what your legacy produced!”

Technical virtuosity meets a virtuosity in cleverness is the best way to describe this music. Homage, respect, innovation: paint that on a banner and hang it at the next Quartetski show.

*This is an album that will be included in my desert island bunker.

blogue@press-5730 press@5730
1 September 2017
By Marc Chénard in La Scena Musicale #23:1 (Québec), September 1, 2017

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“In 2010, trombonist Scott Thomson left his native Toronto for Montréal. “I wanted to change scenery, he states in a recent conversation, so I moved here to stake the turf for awhile.” Luck would have it that his landlord would be none other than Jean Derome.”

[Translation] In 2010, trombonist Scott Thomson left his native Toronto for Montréal. “I wanted to change scenery, he states in a recent conversation, so I moved here to stake the turf for awhile.” Luck would have it that his landlord would be none other than Jean Derome. In the seven years since, the new man in town has fully integrated himself into the scene, earning his spot as the all-purpose bone player in the Ambiances Magnétiques collective. Over time he has proved himself as a dependable sideman while issuing two sides under his own name for that same label.

In the last year or so, he has raised his profile, chiefly as an organizer of special projects. For the 2016 edition of the Suoni per il Popolo festival, he assembled a ten-piece brass ensemble to perform a work co-written with the ever daring Hog Town saxman John Oswald. Four months later, in October, he was one of three ring leaders behind the 20-piece orchestra that closed out the Off Jazz Festival with guest composer and soloist Roscoe Mitchell. As all good things come by threes, Thomson has now taken on his greatest task to date, as new artistic director of the Guelph Jazz Festival.

Founded in 1994 by Ajay Heble, a professor of English literature at the city’s University, the Guelph jazz event has been one of the country’s prime showcases for all types of jazz and improvised music with an edge. After two decades on the job, its founder bowed out, leaving a void that was filled by two interims till this year. Having been a frequent performer in years past, Thomson was no stranger to it. This time around, he is in charge of the event, now in its twenty-fourth edition, but will remain behind the scenes.

As he recollects, everything happened quickly. “In that transitional period, the festival was in trouble financially, its future even in doubt. A new board of directors took over and decided to forge ahead. They posted the job, I applied, was called in for an interview, and just three weeks later, last January, I was hired.”

Filling the shoes of the festival’s founder was enough of a challenge, all the more when Thomson had but three months to put the whole program together under tight financial constraints. “It’s something of a litmus test, for myself, because I signed a one-year contract, but for the event too, as a sustainable one.” One thing is sure, Thomson wants to preserve the event’s adventurous streak. Unique to this festival is a scholarly symposium devoted to improvisational practices, now coordinated by Professor Heble himself.

But ensuring content is not the only responsibility of an artistic director. He also has to provide a framework that is as enticing to music fans as it is user-friendly. To that effect, the new director has introduced a range of one-day package deals for its Saturday schedule (the busiest day of the event) while offering a shuttle service from downtown Toronto to the festival site.

For all of his tasks, Thomson is still a performing musician at heart, yet he has no intention of using the festival as a springboard for his own career. “I will be there only to listen,” he insists. “If circumstances are right, I may well perform in the future, but it’s not my goal at all.”

blogue@press-5729 press@5729