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Mostly Other People Do the Killing: Paint (Hot Cup)

The first release by the piano trio configuration of Mostly Other People Do the Killing and features bassist/composer Moppa Elliott, pianist Ron Stabinsky, and drummer Kevin Shea, with each composition named after a small town in Pennsylvania that contains a color, and the town of "Paint, PA" lent its name to the title, with one apt Duke Ellington cover. ... Click to View


Moppa Elliott : Still, Up In The Air (Hot Cup)

Solo double-bass improvisations from Mostly Other People Do the Killing bassist and leader Moppa Elliot, consisting of sequences of contrasting themes, or musical cubism in the spirit of Picasso and Braque, presenting 7 of 14 sequences where the improvisation is a series of disparate musical ideas that transition rapidly in an attempt to disrupt the linear progression of thematic development. ... Click to View


Leandre / Minton: Leandre / Minton (Fou Records)

Phil Minton started as a trumpeter and became one of free improv's most outside vocalists; Joelle Leandre is a double bassist who also performs free vocal improv; this is their first recorded collaboration, and it's an unusual and wonderful album of heavy tone improvisation, plucked and bowed, and a masterfully odd free association of vocalisation. ... Click to View


Talibam! : Endgame Of The Anthropocene [VINYL] (ESP)

Talibam!'s 1st cinematic album of through-composed ecogothic geosonics, the "soundtrack to 2048's despotic nationalism and crumbling international infrastructure, underscoring an eco-mercantilistic tragedy and the desperate plundering of the last pristine landscape on Earth" from NY's duo of Matt Mottel on mini moog and synths, and Kevin Shea on drums, and midi mallet percussion. ... Click to View


Talibam! / Matt Nelson / Ron Stabinsky: Hard Vibe [VINYL] (ESP)

Talibam! with Matt Mottel on sax, Kevin Shea on drums, Matt Mottel on Fender Rhodes and synth and Ron Stabinsky on organ take inspiration from Herbie Hancock's 70's electronics, Miles Davis' "On the Corner" and Albert Ayler's New grass in compositions that transforms aspects of rhythm changes into a disciplined sequence, a new take on psychedelic jazz. ... Click to View


Crys Cole / Oren Ambarchi: Hotel Record [VINYL 2 LPs] (Black Truffle)

A double LP and the second release from the duo of Crys Cole and Oren Ambarchi, also romantic partners, as they explore their relationship through sound and voice, each side presenting a unique approach to their collaboration while maintaining a certain somnambulist feeling over rich guitar and organ work, and other unfathomable sound. ... Click to View


Boneshaker (Mars Williams / Paal Nilssen-Love / Kent Kessler): Thinking Out Loud (Trost Records)

The third album from this international trio of powerful improvisers--Norwegian drummer/percussionist Paal Nilssen-Love, Chicago bassist Kent Kessler, and Chicago/NY saxophonist Mars William-- in four odysseys that take the listener from introspective playing to out and out blowing, using technique to serve their incredible dialog. ... Click to View


Sven-Ake Johansson / Alexander Von Schlippenbach : Schraubenlieder [VINYL] (Trost Records)

Drummer Sven-Ake Johansson is also a poet, writer and visual artist; here he joined forced with Alexander von Schlippenbach in 1988 to record these songs, never previously released, sung in German and English, for a set of 9 fascinating narrations that engage the listener independent of language, as von Schlippenbach improvises with prodigious technique. ... Click to View


Annette Peacock & Paul Bley: Dual Unity (Bamboo)

Reissuing the debut album by vocalist Annette Peacock and pianist Paul Bley recorded during their first European tour in 1970, in a quartet with compatriots Mario Pavone on bass and Laurence Cook on drums, Bley using an early Moog synthesizer; unique and original avant jazz. ... Click to View


Paul Bley Trio: Closer [VINYL] (ESP)

A vinyl reissue of Paul Bley's 2nd ESP album from 1966, a lyrical and lush trio setting with material mostly from Carla Bley, one Ornette Coleman number, and one from Annette Peacock, with Steve Swallow on bass and Barry Altschul on percussion, exploratory free jazz that uses melodic intention in assertive but not aggressive aways; a classic. ... Click to View


Pharoah Sanders : Quintet [VINYL] (ESP)

A vinyl reissue of Pharoah Sanders' 1965 debut release on ESP, in a quinet with Jane Getz on piano, William Bennett on bass, Stan Foster on trumpet and Mavin Pattillo on percussion, decidedly a jazz album from this outside player known for his association with John Coltrane in his freeist moments, here bridging lyrical and avant worlds with powerful playing. ... Click to View


Wadada Smith Leo: Najwa (Tum)

Paying tribute to musicians whose vision paved the way for modern creative players to use new approaches, language and philosophy in improvisation, trumpeter Wadada Leo Smith's band with four guitarists, electric bass, drums and percussion dedicates five incredible compositions to Ornette Coleman, John Coltrane, Ronald Shannon Jackson, and Billie Holiday. ... Click to View


Wadada Smith Leo: Solo - Reflections And Meditations On Monk (Tum)

An intimate album of solo trumpet from Wadada Leo Smith, performing compositions by Thelonious Monk, Smith professing in an essay in the accompanying booklet that he was motivated to become a composer by Monk above other contemporaries for his ideas of composition and bands; his admiration and love of Monk's work is clear in this beautifully lyrical album. ... Click to View


Aki Takase / Alexander von Schlippenbach: So Long, Eric! Homage to Eric Dolphy (Intakt)

Alexander von Schlippenbach and Aki Takase assembled an ensemble of Dolphy interpreters that includes bass clarinetist Rudi Mahall, saxophonist Tobias Delius, vibraphonist Karl Berger, trumpeter Axel Dorner, trombonist Nils Wogram, &c, for a fresh take on compositions from one of free jazz's most iconic composers, Eric Dolphy, captured live in Berlin, 2014. ... Click to View


Steve Noble / Yoni Silver: Home (Aural Terrains)

The two-headed snake on the cover of this album aptly describes the sublimely sinuous and dark interplay between London free jazz drummer Steve Noble and bass clarinetist Yoni Silver, their 4-part improvisation taking on sinister elements of exceptional cymbal techniques, unusual drum tones, and extended lower register tones and high harmonics; excellent. ... Click to View


Various Artists: Asian Meeting Recordings #1 (Doubtmusic)

Otomo Yoshihide started The Asian Meeting Festival in 2005 to foster creative interaction between Japanese and other Asian musicians, since 2014 curated by DJ Sniff, and here in the 2017 edition at GOK Sound, in Tokyo, Japan with a who's-who of players including Yoshihide, Ryoko Ono, Ko Ishikawa, Son X, KEITO, Yuji Ishihara, Yuen Chee Wai, &c. &c. ... Click to View


Jim Black Trio: The Constant (Intakt)

A beautiful example of the modern piano trio, led by in-demand drummer, Jim Black, with Elias Stemeseder the pianist and Thomas Morgan on bass, in a lyrical album that uses Black's compelling and elusive drumming on 9 original Black compositions and one unexpected standard, as all three deliver complex playing that sounds accessible and engaging, a true achievement. ... Click to View


Fred Frith / Barry Guy: Backscatter Bright Blue (Intakt)

Both bassist Barry Guy and guitarist Fred Frith are key artists of Switzerland's Intakt label catalog, but surprisingly the two have never shared a stage together; Intakt had a feeling about their pairing and brought them into the studio, this superb duo album being the result in 10 brilliant tracks intertwining acoustic double bass and electric guitar. ... Click to View


Fred Frith Trio: Another Day in Fucking Paradise (Intakt)

Proclaiming that he nothing more in mind then getting together with a couple of formidable musicians, guitarist Fred Frith and Mills College alumni Jordan Glenn on drums and Jason Hoopes on electric and double bass take their listeners through 13 connected pieces that reference rock, jazz and ea-soundscape in an impressive album from a remarkable new group. ... Click to View


Lotte Anker / Fred Frith: Edge Of The Light (Intakt)

An intimate dialog between frequent collaborators, UK guitarist Fred Frith and Copenhagen saxophonist Lotte Anker, both players listening carefully as they interact in a fragile dialog of profound technique and inventive approach, using texture and nuance to create unusual and captivating interchanges that demonstrate how compatible these two very different instruments can be. ... Click to View


Schlippenbach Trio (Schlippenbach / Evan Parker / Lovens): Features (Intakt)

The long-standing Schlippenbach Trio with Evan Parker on saxophone and Paul Lovens on drums presents 15 concise "Features", improvisations of great depth and diversity, from the beautifully stark solo piano that opens the album to intense collective interactions, avoiding excess in deference to the profound expression of an inspiring group chemistry. ... Click to View


Mark Dresser : Modicana [VINYL] (NoBusiness)

Double Bassist Mark Dresser, a mainstay of the Downtown NY scene as an improviser and composer, and also prominent on the US West Coast and as an international touring artist, releases a powerful album of distinctive solo playing, both technically and melodically, with 2 tracks caught live at the Umea Jazz Festival and others recorded at the University of California, San Diego. ... Click to View


Bobby Bradford / Hafez Modirzadeh / Ken Filiano / Royal Hartigan: Live at the Magic Triangle [VINYL] (NoBusiness)

A live concert at Amherst, Massachusetts in 2016 as part of the Magical Triangle Jazz Series from the quartet of legendary cornetist Bobby Bradford, Turkish saxophonist Hafez Modirzadeh on tenor, in-demand New York bassist Ken Filiano, and percussionist/drummer Royal Hartigan, the band performing two Bradford compositions, with one each from Filiano, Modirzadeh and Hartigan. ... Click to View


Andrew Lamb / Warren Smith / Arkadijus Gotesmanas: The Sea of Modicum [VINYL] (NoBusiness)

Captured live at the 2016 Vilnius Jazz Festival, the free jazz trio of saxophonist Andrew Lamb and percussionists Warren Smith and Arkadijus Gotesmanas provide a unique orchestration, with the percussionists building rhythmic structures over which AACM alumni Lamb's powerful saxophone work emerges; a great album of solid exploratory free jazz. ... Click to View


Yedo Gibson / Hernani Faustino / Vasco Trilla: CHAIN (NoBusiness)

A fiery and energetic album of masterful free jazz from Brazilian saxophonist Yedo Gibson, Portuguese-Brazilian drummer and percussionist Vasco Trilla, and Portuguese bass player Hernani Faustino (Red Trio, K4 Quadrado Azul), recording in the studio for 6 dynamic dialogs that uses a variety of approaches and references to free jazz and creative improv. ... Click to View


TON-KLAMI (Midori Takada / Kang Tae Hwan / Masahiko Satoh): Prophesy of Nue (NoBusiness)

Ton-Klami was an influential Japanese free improvising band active in the 90s, and leading to the solo careers of percussionist Midori Takada, pianist Masahiko Satoh, and saxophonist Kang Tae Hwan; here the band is heard in a 1995 live concert recorded at Design Plaza Hofu in Yamaguchi, Japan, recorded by Chap-Chap Records but never released. ... Click to View


Liudas Mockunas : Hydro [VINYL] (NoBusiness)

Lithuanian reedist Liudas Mockunas in an unusual record of clarinet and saxophone improvisations, from solo work of powerful technique to pieces using water prepared instruments to create a wealth of bubbling and aberrant sound on the instrument, side A presenting the 7 part "Hydration Suite", Side B the 3 part "Rehydration", and "Dehydration". ... Click to View


James Ulmer Blood W/ The Thing: Baby Talk (The Thing Records)

The Thing with Mats Gustafsson on tenor and baritone sax, Ingebrigt Haker-Flaten on electric and double bass, and Paal Nilssen-Love on drums and percussion, are joined by Downtown NY legend, guitarist James Blood Ulmer, for a live set at the Moldel International Jazz Festival in 2015 performing an exuberant and all-out impressive set of Ulmer composions. ... Click to View


James Ulmer Blood W/ The Thing: Baby Talk [VINYL] (The Thing Records)

The Thing with Mats Gustafsson on tenor and baritone sax, Ingebrigt Haker-Flaten on electric and double bass, and Paal Nilssen-Love on drums and percussion, are joined by Downtown NY legend, guitarist James Blood Ulmer, for a live set at the Moldel International Jazz Festival in 2015 performing an exuberant and all-out impressive set of Ulmer composions. ... Click to View


Sun Ra & His Myth Science Solar Arkestra: The Lost Arkestra Series Vol 1 & 2 [2 10-INCH VINYL RECORDS] (Art Yard)

A double 10" featuring unreleased and rare Sun Ra recordings, including a live track from Paris in 1983, two unreleased cuts from the "Disco 3000" concert tapes, a quartet session with Sun Ra on the Crumar Mainman synth, and three selections from the Sub-Underground series of Saturn LPs, including a ballad and new material from "Live at Temple" and "What's New". ... Click to View


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  Separatism and Sound in French Quebec  

a parait pas, mais a parait


By Mike Chamberlain 2002-12-19

At the Guelph Jazz Festival in 1999, Jean Derome, leader of Les Dangereux Zhoms, provoked unease in the middle Canadian audience when he declared that it was a pleasure to play in Canada for a change.

When I asked Derome about the statement later, he told me that it was, in fact, the first time the group had played in Canada, "including Quebec," he added, in about a year. "So I wasn't really making a political statement by saying that." He paused for a moment, then said, "But of course, it is a political statement."

As Rene Lussier says in "Salade du Chef:" a parait pas, mais a parait. Translated, "it's not obvious, but it is." Or, one could twist the phrase a bit and get "spares pas, mais spares." (That is, "Not separate, but separate.)

Even as an English-speaking resident of Quebec whose stance on the question of Quebec's sovereignty is as much pragmatic as emotional, to hear Quebec and Canada referred to as two different countries can be a bit jarring. But it is also clear to me that the question of Quebec's status as a nation-as opposed to an independent political entity-is hardly in doubt, and that even if the sovereignty project is stalled for the moment, with Quebec in an uneasy 50-50 impasse after two failed referendums, psychologically, at least, Quebec and Canada might as well be two different countries.

a parait pas, mais a parait.

Derome and Lussier are two of the founding members of the record label Ambiances Magnetiques, a Montreal-based collective whose music has been labelled as musique actuelle. The term, most famously associated with the Festival International de Musique Actuelle de Victoriaville, was coined-most people agree-by Universite de Montreal composer Pierre Mercure sometime around 1960. Mercure meant music of now, and the path he took indicated a break from the European hegemony of contemporary classical music in Quebec. Since then, the term has acquired new meanings.

In his book, Plunderphonics, Pataphysics, and Pop Mechanics, Andrew Jones described musique actuelle as "distinct music for a distinct society." My question is, what is particularly quebecois about musique actuelle? Additionally, and particularly, how do discourses within and around this musical practice tie in with discourses of Quebec nationalism?

In dealing fairly quickly with the first, and elaborating a bit on the second by examining several works of Rene Lussier, I hope to open up avenues for further discussion.

In 1982, Michel Levasseur inaugurated the Festival International de Musique Actuelle de Victoriaville. It is unclear whether Levasseur had even heard of Pierre Mercure at the time, but the mix of programming at Victo came to define the eclecticism for which musique actuelle is known.

Ambiances Magnetiques was founded as a non-proft collective in1983 by seven Montreal musicians-Jean Derome, Andre Duchesne, Joanne Hetu, Diane Labrosse, Robert Marcel Lepage, Rene Lussier, and Danielle Palardy Roger. Shortly after, Michel F. Cote and Martin Tetreault joined the collective. The musicians came from a variety of backgrounds-jazz, classical, folk, and rock-but they were all experimentalists who had experienced difficulty in getting their music recorded and released. The term musique actuelle-which only record stores in Quebec employ as a musical category-came to be applied to the work of the various members of the Ambiances Magnetiques collective.

The materials used by the Ambiances Magnetiques musicians had Quebecois antecedents: the non-serial contemporary classical music of Pierre Mercure and the Societe Musique Contemporain du Quebec; the free jazz of the politically radical Quatour Jazz Libre du Quebec of the late 1960s; Walter Boudreault and Raoul Duguay's mix of classical, jazz, rock, and multimedia experimentalism with L'Infonie; and traditional Quebec folkmusic. The notion of metissage, or mixing, then is integral to the practices of musique actuelle. For Rene Lussier, as we will see, metissage is also a vital component in the formation of Quebecois cultural identity.

One must also consider the historical context of the emergence of this new hybrid music. I hesitate to call it a style-musique actuelle is defined more by reference to methodology than to genre. The central problem for the Quebecois is in pursuing a national project based mainly on preservation and of a French-language heritage and the evolution of identity within an overwhelmingly English-speaking environment culturally and economically dominated by the United States. However, while there is anxiety about the emerging modernization of Quebec society, for creators, modernization presents opportunities as well.

Robert Marcel Lepage claims that it was in the process of translation of the music that the members had in their large, eclectic record collections that the shape of musique actuelle was formed. As he puts it, "For the creative musician, the Tower of Babel is a blessing, not a curse. When we played Albert Ayler, we would mix it up with folk music. So you might get a free jazz jig." Again and again in conversation with the Ambiances Magnetiques people, the word transformation came up. In fact, something is gained, not lost, in the translation.

Turning to the work of Rene Lussier, Le Tresor de la Langue is an exemplary text that deals with vital questions in the formation of a Quebecois identity. Lussier took to the roads of Quebec in the late 1980s, asking people the simple question, "Is it important to speak French in Quebec?" One can hardly imagine an English-Canadian asking the same question outside Quebec. Tresor immediately foregrounds the difference between Quebecois French and the French spoken in France, as the first interlocutor is a woman from France who says that it is important to speak French in Quebec but that she has difficulty understanding the Quebecois dialect.

Rather than engaging in a useless debate over the relative merits of standard French and Quebecois French, Lussier explores the richness and the musical possibilities of Quebecois French, which has been formed by its 400-year separation from France and its incorporation of native and English terms and phrases. Among other things, he turns Charles de Gaulle's famous "Vive le Quebec libre" speech at the Montreal City Hall in 1967 (in which he riled federalists by openly supporting a "free" Quebec) and the FLQ (Front de Liberation du Quebec) manifesto into musical texts. So we see the process of translation and transformation at work in Tresor.

Quebec aux Quebecois. This phrase, which we see and hear at public spectacles such as the St. Jean Baptiste Day parade, is an ominous one for non-francophone Quebecois. Imagining the nation involves delineating the borders of the community, and the notion that there are pure laine Quebecois who constitute the nation is frightening for those who do not fit into this category. One thinks of then-premier Jacques Parizeau's infamous concession speech after the 1995 referendum when he asked what "we" (the separatists) were defeated by? His answer: "money and the ethnic vote." Thus, anti-separatists employ the term "ethnic nationalism" to discredit Quebec nationalism.

For Lussier, Parizeau's position is a non-starter. A central thesis that emerges in Tresor is that the Quebecois identity is itself a metissage of French, English, native, German, Italian, Greek, Portuguese, Haitian, and North African elements. Instead of marginalizing the ethnics, he incorporates them into the cultural heritage of Quebec. By valuing the non-francophone elements of culture as part of the very patrimonie of Quebec, Lussier shows a way out of the dilemma posed by the cosmopolitan nature of Quebec society. Or, if it's not a way out for francophones, it is a way in for non-francophones.

Lussier's impatience with certain dominant nationalist discourses that have served to hold up the sovereignty project can turn to despair. While the dream of a sovereign Quebec is still a vitalizing force for most members of Ambiances Magnetiques, there has also been a shift in emphasis to more personal concerns, which are, nonetheless, political. This is a turn away from a focus on the preservation of the French language in Quebec to be found in Derome and Lussier's "P'tit Pain" or anxiety over the attractions and pitfalls of modernization expressed in Andre Duchesne's "Train, Train." Lussier's song, "Salade du Chef" is ostensibly concerned with the economy and technology of food production, but it can also be read as a comment on the current political situation in Quebec.

Making une salade du chef involves mixing in all kinds of food. Once ingested, the salad becomes part of the body. Lussier considers modern food production, with its reliance on chemicals (fertiilizers, herbicides, pesticides), antibiotics, and genetic modification, noting that even the lettuce is not in control of itself. Modern agriculture is not about growing healthy food, and it's not about stewardship of the land. It's all about money. "Toutes est au cash."

Taken literally, the lyric expresses Lussier's concerns of daily life, not different from people anywhere. For the past several years, he has spent most of his time in a rural region where industrial pig producing facilities have polluted the rivers and ground water. His retreat is analogous to the retreat from overt separatist concerns by other Ambiances Magnetiques artists, such as Diane Labrosse and Michel F. Cote. Labrosse noted that her work has become less political and more poetic since the heady days of nationalist fervor around 1980. Cote, whose work as a sound artist tends to be less political in anyevent, now regards the sovereignist project as irrelevant to the challenges posed by globalization.

Lussier might-he didn't say as much, and I don't want to put words in his mouth-agree with Cote's view that Quebec premier Bernard Landry is only a little less stupid than Canada's prime minister, Jean Chretien. But "Salade du Chef," given a reading in light of the current Quebec government's obsession with economic development and the recent history of the separatist movement in Quebec, reveals deeper meanings.

Even if my translation is imperfect, the transformation can be quite productive in terms of the issues discussed here. Lussier's text is saying, quite clearly, (ca parait pas, mais ca parait) that we are all part of this salad,this metissage, but we are subject to the totalizing discourse of global capitalism in which we are regarded as no more than productive units (toutes est au cash). We are prisoners, the 5000 pigs under one roof, the cattle, the sheep, the turkeys, even the vegetables, who are not in control of themselves, and we only have to look at the very basic elements of our lives to see this reality. Jacques Parizeau said that the sovereignists were defeated by "money and the ethnic vote"but money was really just a code word for anglo Quebecois. As I noted earlier, Lussier disavows the separation between the terms Quebecois and ethnic or anglo, but it is really our obsession with money that hinders the creation of a healthy body politic and keeps us apart.

Ca parait pas, mais ca parait. Separes pas, mais separes.



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