Festival International Musique Actuelle Victoriaville (FIMAV) 2004
English reedman John Butcher, who's developed a language on the saxophone closely linked to fellow countryman Evan Parker's (incorporating circular breathing, clicks, pops, and single-note variations), flutters breaths through his mouthpiece making one wonder whether such sounds have ever been recreated through a horn. Such a convincing likeness of blowing bubbles from under water one moment, then inspirational if only occasional licks reminiscent of Johnny Hodges circa '20s Ellingtonia, and Gershwin's "Rhapsody in Blue" the next. Alternating between tenor and soprano, Butcher notelessly breathed through his horns, warming up to the hints of an actual note before kissing without the puckered exclamation, conjuring up all sorts of images through an amazing (though occasionally electronically processed), generally unadulterated vocabulary. Interestingly enough, the trio's pre-encore captured Butcher's soloistic nature at its best, a context that can be at times difficult to listen to him outside of at least in the realm of his more "jazzier" music projects. His trio of Thomas Lehn (analogue synthesizer) and Andy Moor (electric guitar) were at their most spaciously empathetic towards the closing of their set.
Other "jazz" events included ECM clarinetist Louis Sclavis' Napoli's Walls, Montreal trombonist Tom Walsh's NOMA, Quebec guitar veteran Andre Duchesne, Englishman and AMM founding member Keith Rowe's minimalist "Four Gentleman of the Guitar" project, and American guitarist Vernon Reid who rocked more than jazzed even in his rendition of Monk's "Brilliant Corners" (which he dedicated to the recently departed Elvin Jones). Lori Freedman played a creative bass clarinet and clarinet with the unnecessary accompaniment of Kaffe Matthews who provided superfluous and disconnected sounds on computer laptop and digital sampler that distracted and muffled Freedman's intent more than complemented the overall impact of the music, while percussionist Cyro Baptista' Beat the Donkey group turned out to be the most highly attended crowd-pleaser. Their exhausting performance took place in the largest of the three spaces and was as much performance art as an extravaganza of percussive syncopation. Think Blue Man Group and Max Roach's M'Boom meets a Bobby McFerrin vocal ensemble fronting the Afro Celt Sound System and you're pretty close.
This music festival is neither for the faint of heart nor for those lacking "open ears", and jazz fans certainly have their pick of some adventurous music interspersed within a growing trend of electronics. The spirit of improvisation, which is at the very root of what separates "jazz" from most forms of music, is placed at the forefront of their events, which likewise borrow the concept of freedom and expression, two of the more significant elements inherent in "jazz". With much of the programming bringing up the age old question of what is art, or rather what is music in this case, FIMAV served as a platform for encouraging experimentation which generally succeeded on most fronts, occasionally falling short elsewhere. Kudos to festival organizer Levasseur, who again was centrally responsible for one of more original music festival programs in existence, especially where the very nature of jazz and its foundation of improvisation is concerned.
In this day and age where so-called "jazz" festivals hypocritically feature the likes of Al Green, Buddy Guy, or Lou Reed - FIMAV does not function under the misrepresentation of being a "jazz" festival even though it is much more that than most others under such auspices. It presents as diversified a music program as possible annually, and Levasseur's closing remarks hit the nail on the head in this era of music labeling: "Improvisation is a much stronger word than jazz, as is originality, creativity, and humanity." As stated in the FIMAV program, their mandate clearly states what's most important in who and what they present: "The discovery, the creative risk, the new...all with respect to tradition...and continuation!"
Visit FIMAV on the web at www.fimav.qc.ca .