Festival International Musique Actuelle Victoriaville (FIMAV) 2004
Van Hove's first piece lasted approximately 40 minutes ending in an immediate standing ovation. His second shorter piece had a much more rhythmic-centric component that was locomotive-like in its forward momentum and sheer force, utilizing a recurring dramatic theme in the bass clef with randomly placed treble flurries for heightened urgency as well as quick reprieves with suddenly placed pauses and short-lived rests. A "Flight of the Bumblebee"-like chase between his hands took the intensity of the apex from Ravel's "Bolero" up yet another notch, as my hands even began to hurt as I sat and concentrated, staying on the train without mentally wandering for even a split-second afraid that, otherwise, I would never be able to hop back on if I fell off! With both of his hands working simultaneously in the great stride tradition (e.g. Luckey Roberts and Willie "The Lion" Smith) - Van Hove was even Tatum-esque in his technique and musical ability. The 20-minute finale similarly brought the audience immediately to their feet with thunderous and appreciative applause - ending an event that served as a precursor to his visit a few days later to New York's Vision Festival (where he performed with trombonist Johannes Bauer) - and by all accounts was nothing short of an historic occasion. Many were in agreement to Lavasseur's comments afterwards, "It was a rare moment. It was like seeing one of the giants."
Another solo set was by the near 60-year old French baritone saxophonist Daunik Lazro whose every tune called for a specific reed change to match the desired timbre and emotion. Nimbly working around the burly horn as if it were his "second" instrument (he left his alto sax across the Atlantic for this occasion), Lazro focused solely at times on the altissimo register while tending to ignore the more natural bottom-end range generally expected from a baritone sax. His style consisted of a miraculous circular breathing technique which maintained a continuous and almost overwhelming and certainly unrelenting delivery through very dense material, including one of his set highlights - an abstract blues dedication to Joe McPhee and Evan Parker (with whom he's recorded and toured as a trio). The closer, Coltrane's "Lonnie's Lament" offered a reprieve to the set's technically transcendent characteristics, and offered to even the most untrained of ears an invitation to listen in and enjoy what was a festival highlight.
The ever-musical Dutch percussionist Han Bennink - the last of three invited unaccompanied soloists - with two of the strongest ankles and feet in the business, worked his pedals in overdrive, providing extraordinary sights and sounds alike. He stuffed the ends of both his drumsticks in his cheek pockets cranking the sticks counterclockwise while tapping them against his teeth and humming a melody akin to "His Truth Is Marching On"; he took more than one drum solo literally sitting on the ground which he played ignoring his kit altogether - mind you, he had casually yet musically knocked piece by piece of his drum set to the ground in the most rhythmic fashion imaginable (after which he played the portions of his kit while they lay flat on the stage floor!); he also kept time on his cymbals with his drum stool, lightly tapping them with the stool's legs while he transported it from behind his kit to center stage along with his snare (ala Max Roach, Bennink is one of jazz' finest jazz brushers on the snare, ending a portion of a solo appropriately with the Dizzy Gillespie/Kenny Clarke bop anthem "Salt and Peanuts"); and finally Bennink capped off a solo that found him in the middle of the audience rhythmically tossing each of his drumsticks from 15 feet away hitting his cymbals onstage without missing a beat! Like any of the classic rent party pianists from back in the day, Bennink can light up rhythms on just about anything that might be considered a percussive tool, creating the most musical of sentiments that respective "instrument" may have ever known previously and will ever know again.
Also invited to this year's FIMAV were several New York City-based ensembles that, strangely enough, rarely if ever perform here under such guises as the FAB trio, Tim Berne's Expanded Science Friction Band, Ellery Eskelin's trio with Andrea Parkins and Jim Black, and the so-called "Emergency Replacement Band" of William Parker, Charles Gayle, and Henry Grimes.