Reinvention was key to a set by Quebec's Maïkotron Unit with Connecticut-based trumpeter Stephen Haynes. While they were, on the one hand, a classic piano-less quartet, the unit had a way of shape-shifting with instruments they'd morphed in advance. Frankenstein monsters of brass and reeds filled the stage: a double-reed soprano sax with an elongated neck, a trumpet body held vertical with a clarinet mouthpiece, a rather unholy sousaphone and a fairly ingenious system for mechanized mutings. But more to the point, Michel and Pierre Côté (a pair of brothers unrelated to Ambiances Magnétiques' Michel F. Côté) have learned how to play their hybrids, how to trap air and nudge it through the tubes. The quiet flutters of the ill-begotten instruments made for nice contrast with their passages of free jazz.
There are many ways to weigh a music festival, and one that might be a bit too demanding a measure is perfection. Perfection can be fleeting, and is too nebulous to really pin down. There were several moments of perfection during the 2012 FIMAV, but one stands out as the sort of thing it often takes a such festival to pull together. Manitoba-born, Berlin-based bassist Miles Perkin convened a quartet with British trumpeter Tom Arthurs, French pianist Benoit Delbecq and Canadian drummer Thom Gossage that delivered pure and serene abstraction. The music was soft and beautifully intricate, accented by mellow flugelhorn and subtle piano preparations. They played open-ended compositions with open improvisation; they played something like jazz and something like new music; and they played together with never a misstep. The point of a term like musique actuelle, or "music of the present," is to defy definition, but there could be worse things than if the Miles Perkin Quartet was offered up, by way of example, as a definition of the art.
All Photos: Martin Morissette