Festival International Musique Actuelle Victoriaville 2011
FIMAV pulled off a remarkable feat in 2008, closing the festival with guitarist Fred Frith and percussionist Chris Cutler and a new ensemble, which also included Zeena Parkins, performing songs originally recorded by their seminal avant rock band the Art Bears. This year's finale echoed that grand gesture by bringing in another such "songbook" project, this one featuring Art Bears singer Dagmar Krause. Comicoperando (Domino, 2007) is a setting of songs written by Robert Wyatt, a founding member of Soft Machine and easily one of the more sophisticated pop songwriters of the last 40 years. The group performed songs spanning more than two decades, focusing particular attention on his albums Shleep (Hannibal, 1997), Rock Bottom (Virgin, 1974) and Old Rottenhat (Rough Trate, 1985), with the voices of Krause and Annie Whitehead (who doubled on trombone), and the voice and direction of Karen Mantler. The performances and arrangements were all satisfying, loving even, and natural, but the added pleasure was watching the rhythm section of Cutler and bassist John Edwards playing pop songseasily but not lazily.
Cutler and Edwards are master improvisers, and a week in the small town of Victoriaville can do much to blur boundaries like "pop" and "improvisation" and "jazz." Or even "art music" and "sound poetry." And with clarity.
All Photos: Martin Morissette