Novara Jazz is a special event. I've had the pleasure of performing here last year at the City Archives and Beldi Park, with Samuel Blaser and the crazy wonderful Italians Alessandro Fedrigo, Nicola Fazzini, and Luca Colussi of Hyper + trio.
This year Gordon Grdina's Haram takes Centre stage (Broletto) along with Grdina/Houle Loewen (sala DEL compasso), Add hoc sets by JP Carter, Jesse Zubot, Emad Armoush, Tim Gerwing, Liam MacDonald, and Chris Kelly round out the Canadian presence Here.
From the depths of Vancouver’s rich avant-garde improvisational music community, comes the phenomenal culture-mashing juggernaut that is Haram. This power-house ensemble, half studied in the Arabic tradition, and half who cut their teeth in Canada's improv/indie/rock/jazz scene, is led by Juno Award-winning GORDON GRDINA (Dan Mangan) who, for the Haram project, trades in his guitar for Iraqi oud.
Haram pays homage to traditional Arabic music while mixing elements of noise, electronic soundscape, and western free improv into their explosively self-expressive sound. The ensemble is formed of creative heavy-hitters:
— GORDON GRDINA: IRAQI OUD (Dan Mangan, Mats Gustafsson, Mark Helias, Gary Peacock, Paul Motian)
— JP CARTER: TRUMPET (The Inhabitants, Destroyer, Fond Of Tigers, Dan Mangan)
— JESSE ZUBOT: VIOLIN (Tanya Tagaq, Hawksley Workman, Fond Of Tigers)
— KENTON LOEWEN: DRUMS (Dan Mangan, The Crackling, Jerry Granelli)
— TOMMY BABIN: BASS (Paul Plimley, Now Orchestra, Sendero Luminoso)
— FRANÇOIS HOULE: CLARINET (Composer and trailblazing improviser & soloist)
— CHRIS KELLY: SAXOPHONE (Now Orchestra, Eye of Newt)
— TIM GERWING & LIAM MACDONALD: PERCUSSION
— and EMAD ARMOUSH: Syrian VOCALIST extraordinaire
Their music, developed over time, has reached that sublime state of effortless cohesion while retaining its sense of wild abandon.
The repertoire begins with Iraqi folk music and ends at the mid-century era of Egyptian radio music. Traditional pieces are blown wide open. The group takes classic Arabic music from great composers like Farid Al-Atrache, Abdul Whahab and Oum Khalsoum, and filters them through Vancouver's creative improvising community. It's invigorating to watch the group constantly shifting directions while building to euphoric crescendos.
Haram plays a repertoire that has been revered by millions over decades, conjuring an immense sense of respect and homage, while remaining explosively self-expressive. This unique ensemble is for anyone interested in exciting, cross-cultural, boundary-annihilating music.
“The musics backbone is traditional, but wild outbursts of free improvisation and subtle injections of noise make it quite unlike anything you'd hear in the shisha dens of Cairo or Baghdad…
...Gordon Grdina is both a skilled and slippery performer on the oud and a fiercely inventive noise guitarist” — THE GEORGIA STRAIGHT
Haram — das ist ein zehnköpfiges, kulturenverbindendes Musikspektakel aus Kanada geleitet von Juno Award-Gewinner Gordon Grdina (Dan Mangan). Haram bringt Vancouver’s Avantgard-Indie-Rock-Jazz-Artists und Connaisseure der östlichen Musik zusammen und damit die Musik grosser arabischer Komponisten wie Farid Al-Atrache, Abdul Whahab, and Oum Khalsoum auf neue Ebenen. Die traditionelle arabische Musik wird dabei mit Elementen wie Noise, elektronischen Klängen und der westlichen freien Improvisation angereichert, umfährt jeglichen Kitsch weitläufig und sorgt mit Leidenschaft und Innovation für absolute Gänsehautmomente.
Haram, Live at the Vogue Theater:
Grdina-Houle-Loewen Collective upcoming activities for 2017Read More
A joy to discuss many topics related to the clarinet with such a likeable, inquisitive mind! Sean Perrin's podcasts are a treasure throve of information.Read More
This is the final stop of this tour. We arrived in Novara after a 7am lobby call from Treviso. I can't complain about the lack of sleep as everything went so smoothly schedule wise over the last three weeks. In order to survive tours such as these, you have to learn to catch a nap whenever and wherever you can. Just have a look at Ken Vandermark's recent Facebook postings to see how brutal things can get!
After a much needed nap we headed out to the City Archives for a series of solo performances featuring the members of Hyper +, Samuel Blaser and myself. This was followed by a reception to open a short conference for Italian jazz presenters. Local wines and unbelievably delicious Gorgonzola was served for all present. We met with the director of the archive, many jazz presenters and critics, and the NovaraJazz artistic director, Corrado Beldi.
Now, Corrado was basically the person that instigated and made possible this whole tour in the first place. He contacted me via email after he had met in Germany with our very own Rainbow Robert of CoastalJazz. He has been the director of NovaraJazz for over 10 years. But, not unlike Ken Pickering, artistic director of the Vancouver Int'l Jazz Festival, Corrado is an arts lover, supporter of the local scene and a tireless promoter of creative music in this region of Italy. He has presented a who's who of the international music scene, including Evan Parker, Anat Fort, Barry Guy, Rob Mazurek, Fire Orchestra, in addition to Italy's finest creative musicians.
His passion for great music is complemented by being a collector of paintings and sculptures, following in the footsteps of his father, an industrialist and inventor of innovative processes in construction materials. Corrado's day job is to oversee the human resources of his company, which helps him balance his life long interest interest in the arts. His family's collection includes works by Moholy-Nagy, Jean-Paul Riopelle, Paul Klee, and Georges DuBuffet, among many others. Corrado was kind enough to invite me to his family home after our afternoon concert at Beldi Park (named after his father!) in Oleggio to take me on a tour of the villa grounds and to see this most impressive art collection.
The afternoon concert took the music to an entirely other level from our concert in Badoere the day before. The crowd, that seem to appeared out of nowhere, was treated to some pretty incendiary playing by all. It was a beautiful crowning moment to a memorable tour.
As I'm writing these lines, Hyper + and Sammy are on their way to Venice, where they will perform another concert sans moi. I said my farewell to Corrado, but not without exchanging a few good words on future collaborations (a possible clarinet duo with Giancarlo Trovesi and performances with Gordon Grdina's Haram are in the works!). I am enjoying a last supper of fine risotto and a glass of Montepulciano, will go enjoy the cool air and sights of Novara at night before wrapping things up by heading out to Malpensa Airport in the morning with a long flight home.
Life is good...
PS: a big thank you to all the individuals who made this tour possible, and who also made my visit so memorable; Corrado Beldi, Novara Jazz Festival volunteers, Alessandro Fedrigo, Nicola Fazzini, Luca Colussi, Giorgia Masiero and the SILE Jazz Festival team, Samuel Blaser, Alexander Hawkins, John Edwards, Oliver Weindling and The Vortex Jazz Club, Théo and Valentin Ceccaldi, Sylvain Darrifoucq, Benoît Delbecq, Dorothée Zumstein, Michelle Agnes Magalhaes, Joëlle Léandre, Lisen Rylander Love, Fabian and Josef Kallerdahl, Jon Fålt, Joe Williamson, Raymond Strid, Mattias Risberg, Isak hedtjärn, Alfred Lorinius, Nils Berg, and Per-Åke Holmlander.
Upon arriving in Treviso, I was taken by the rural beauty of the place. Canals, small lakes, and wheat fields are interspersed by small villas and old, crumbling barns. My first day there I went for a run and made friends with a horse and a couple of donkeys!
The second day, I met up with my great and hilarious friend Samuel Blaser for our first rehearsal with Hyper + Trio. Wonderful musicians. Very sweet and generous, and good composers of chamber jazz. That first encounter bode well for the concerts to come.
In the evening there was the opening reception for the SILE Jazz Festival at our hotel in Quinto di Treviso, jjust outside of the town of Treviso. There we met a few musicians and dignitaries, including guitarist Claus Boesser-Ferrari, saxophonist Nicola Fazzini, and artistic director Alessandro Fedrigo.
We had great food and the amazing locally made Pro Secco, and were entertained by the Helga Plankesteiner Trio.
It was so great to hang out with Samuel, and to look forward to play with him over the next two days. He is one of the most exciting trombonist to come out of the European scene. His control of the horn is unmatched, and his improvs are always fascinating, jumping from hard swinging lines to impressionistic shaping, with a real wide range that goes from super low to altissimo with ease of execution. I have to add that Samuel's sense of humour and endless repertoire of jokes makes him the ideal travel companion. Last summer we played a few gigs on Vancouver Island together with fantastic drummer Gerry Hemingway and pianist Benoît Dlebecq. Samuel is about the only guy I know who could manage to make these two laugh to the point of crying. After the reception I showed Samuel the new score that I picked up from Joëlle Léandre in Paris a few days before. The new work is written especially for our duo, Reed&Slide. We look forward to working on this together for concerts and recording in 2017.
Day 16 began with a trip to Treviso, which is often called the "little Venice" because of the canals crossing and surrounding the town. There we enjoyed a tasty lunch of local specialties accompanied with bubbly red wine, another unique feature of the region.
The local architecture varies widely from medieval structures to post-war modernist building. At the end of the war, the city suffered an allied bombing, which destroyed much of the historical town centre, including the now reconstructed Palazzo dei Trecento.
In the evening we set out for Badoere to perform a concert in the famous Piazza Indipendenza, the first market to be allowed outside of Venice. The concert was very well attended, with a cool first set of solo guitar by Claus. The setting was quite magical, with minimal lighting, highlighted by a beautiful crescent moon.
With only one rehearsal under our belt, the group performed remarkably well, considering the unfamiliar repertoire and the feeling out period necessary to gel as a band. Alessandro, Nicola, and drummer Luca Colussi are evidently very attuned to each other, making it relatively easy for Samuel and I to fit in. We played a full set of music, eventually rapping things up because the dew was threatening to cause our sheet music to melt to the music stands. My clarinet was soaked through and through by the time we were done!
Paris Gare du Nord
London - The Vortex
After a final early breakfast in Bondy, prepared by now 50 year old pianist Benoît Delbecq, I headed over to Gare du Nord to meet with the ever ebullient Joëlle Léandre. I am blessed to consider Joëlle as a colleague and a close friend. She is one of the most passionate musician I know. A true pioneer and ground breaker in the music world.
When Joëlle had to undergo surgery on her hand to fix tendon and cartilage issues due to years of hard playing and travelling with a double bass, I came up with the idea of commissioning her to write a piece for me. It would provide her with a bit of income while convalescing, and keep her mind occupied on something more creative than doing physio! This meeting was arranged so she could hand over the manuscript. The piece was commissioned with help from Jeremy Berkman, and to be performed with him in Canada and with Samuel Blaser in Europe. Joëlle walked me through the different section of the piece while enjoying espressos at a café across from the station. The piece looks amazing! I can't wait to learn it and present its world premiere in the near future.
After riding the comfortable Eurostar to St-Pancras, I met up with Alexander Hawkins, who made my quick visit to London a most pleasant one. We walked to Café Oto for a cup of tea (when in Britain...), then treated ourself with an early dinner of fish&chips at a restaurant nearby. Good start!
We proceeded back to The Vortex, where we had coffee on the Plaza with Oliver Weindling, the founder of the British label Babel Records. Oli regaled us with many great stories, including the fact that I appeared on his label in 1997 on one single track from an album by The Recyclers (Benoît Delbecq, Steve Arguelles, and Noël Akchoté), my first recording with Benoît ever! We were set up at Vancouver Community College Auditorium in June of 1995 for a session only to be cut short by the genatorial stall, who insisted on vacuuming the stage after we had done only one bit of recording with me on contrabass clarinet! That is the one piece that is on the CD...
The gig that night consisted of a double bill. For the first half I was joined by Alexander on piano, and John Edwards on bass. The second set was an astonishing display of ensemble virtuosity by the monster trio In Love With, composed of brothers Théo and Valentin Ceccaldi (on violin and cello respectively), and Sylvain Darrifoucq on drums, toy percussions, and ebows. Keep an eye out for them, as they will most certainly blow your mind!
The first set was sheer joy for me. To play with musicians as generous and experienced as John and Alexander is a real treat, as the music making is so powerful yet created with a certain ease. John has performed with a who's who of the creative music world, notably with Evan Parker and Peter Brotzman. He's a take-no-prisoner type of player, digging right into the thick of things while keeping a keenly telepathic ear on the proceedings. He is a combination of everything I love about bass players; solid grounding tone, impeccable time, and a huge sonic palette at his disposal. Alexander can be best described as "the most impressive pianist of his generation". If you have not heard him play with Louis Moholo, you are missing out! Same can be said for his Convergeance Quartet, with cornetist Taylor Ho Bynum, Bassist Dominic Lash, and drummer Harris Eisenstadt. I've had the pleasure of performing with Alexander in a trio with Harris at the Vancouver jazz festival over the last two years, both time to an enthusiastic crowd. The music was so electric that we are planning a trio session in Vancouver in July for a future CD for the Songlines label.
Throughout the day, Alex impressed me with his relaxed demeanour, driving through traffic while keeping up with a stimulating conversation, without ever loosing focus. I want to thank him here for making my visit so pleasant and glitch-free!
And now off to Italy! Stay tuned...
the last few days have been filled with long walks around the city, meditating on my connection to the place. In 1988/89 I had an FCAR grant from the Quebec Government to do organological research, mainly focusing on the development of the clarinet from its beginnings to the 1920s.
after several days of cold, cloudy weather, the sun came out to celebrate Benoît Delbecq's 50th anniversary! A beautiful day, spent rehearsing with this wonderful musician, in his living room, in preparation for an intimate concert for family and friends on rue du Lion. The evening concert was so much fun. We put together a list of our accumulated repertoire of original music for the duo, which adds up to over 60 compositions! Amazing!
I arrived in Paris only to find out that a Nation wide strike is affecting train services. As a result, I found myself taking the RER B to Paris, which was full packed with travellers and commuters. It took over two hours to arrive at Gare du Nord to connect with a metro to head over to IRCAM to meet with my old friend and one of France's most important pianist of his generation, the wonderful Benoît Delbecq. I met Benoît in 1995 at guitarist Tony Wilson's birthday party in his backyard at his old digs on Gladstone Street in Vancouver. We ended up taking for hours about our musical concepts, aspirations, and projects. Although we would not realize it at the time, this meeting has turned into a deep and fruitful life long musical friendship. If there is such a thing as a music soulmate, Benoît is it for me. We have collaborated on so many projects over the years, recorded 6 or 7 CDs together, and have toured Europe, Canada and the USA together on several occasions. It is always a joy to reconnect with such an inspiring human being!
Benoît is currently working on a new piano and electronics processing set up using an array of software including Improtek, Mobius, and Lemur, to generate the most complex clouds of sonorities and polyrhythmic multi layered music. He is benefitting from a collaboration with three other musicians and sound artists in preparation of a performance to open the Centre Pompidou exhibition on the Beat Generation on June 22nd, as part of IRCAM's Festival Manifeste.
On my second day here, I set out to have a crêpe breakfast and a visit to Centre Pompidou to see the amazing Paul Klee exhibit. I got to see many of his early drawings, as well of some important work created around the Second World War. Klee's work was partly influenced and inspired by music, so it was a propos for me to purchase a copy of his Theory of modern Art, which includes his imaginative sketches on form and structure, an inspiration in turn for many creative musicians (including Benoît, who's compositions are often inspired the work of visual artists and writers).
While hanging out with Benoît in studio 5 at IRCAM, he introduced me to Michelle Agnes, a remarkable compositor who originates from São Paulo, Brazil. She's currently working on chamber music compositions, as well as designing piano performances using magnets. We arranged a meeting on to discuss her processes, as I am very interested about the compositional process and instrumental preparations.
A fine couple of days in great company in Paris!
After an uneventful train ride from Gothenburg to Uppsala (via Stockholm), I met up with Mattias Risberg at a pub next to the Omnikvariatet. Here we enjoyed a glass of local Rhubarb beer, along with a real Irish style dinner. Unfortunately, we heard the sad news that Raymond Strid's mother had passed away a few days earlier, which meant he wouldn't be available to play with us. I was quite saddened by that, as I've always enjoyed working with this amazing musician. Raymond Strid is considered a legend on the Swedish scene. Not satisfied with the state of international dissemination of Nordic jazz in the late 80's, largely dominated by the ECM label, which created a strong stylistic profile, lead by Norwegian saxophonist Jan Garbarek, Raymond joined forces with pianist Sten Sendell and saxophonist Mats Gustaffson to form the Gush trio, which would go on to tour internationally and collaborate with some of the finest improvisers on the scene, notably with British musicians Barry Guy, Evan Parker and Paul Lovens. I first played with Raymond at the Vancouver jazz festival in the early nineties in a trio with French bassist Joëlle Léandre. We recorded two albums with this trio (C'est Ça - Red Toucan, and Last Seen Headed - Ayler Records). Last time I played with Ray and Joëlle was at the New Perspective Festival in Vasterås, Sweden, so I was so looking forward to see him. Until next time, Ray Battle!
On the positive side, Jon Fëlt was able to come from Stockholm on short notice to join us for an evening of spirited music. Mattias and him obviously have a great mutual respect and love of improvisation, making it easy for me to fit in. The venue was full of really great, knowledgeable listeners, including a few local musicians and students, who expressed their enthusiasm immediately after we finished.
After the gig Mattias and I enjoyed a beer by the canal, and reminisced on what had been a fantastic week of music. I will miss you, Sweden. Thanks to All the musicians who shared in playing, and all of those who came to hear us play and meet me. I can't wait to come back.
next stop: Paris!