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Festival International de Musique Actuelle de Victoriaville 2016, Part 2

Mike Chamberlain By

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Festival International de Musique Actuelle de Victoriaville
Various Venues
Victoriaville, Quebec
May 21-22, 2016

Part 1 | Part 2

Following a memorable—in a good way—first two days of FIMAV, Saturday's program promised more highlights, anchored by three consecutive sets of musicians performing John Zorn's Bagatelles at the festival's largest venue, Colisee A, the town's hockey arena set up as a concert venue.

The day, however, started with a somewhat disappointing 2pm performance by ERIK M, who sampled, processed, and mixed material from listening stations around the world on the Locusonus.org website. This was an idea that looked good on paper, but there was little musical development or coherence to the sounds produced.

Happily, the 4 pm set by Vancouver guitarist Tony Wilson and his sextet was another story. Playing music—actual songs—from Wilson's album A Day's Life, inspired by a history of family dysfunction and substance abuse, the sextet, which included scene stalwarts Peggy Lee (cello) and Jesse Zubot (violin), presented one of the highlights of this year's festival. Jeff Younger, Aram Bajakian, JP Carter, John Paton, Clyde Reed, James Meger, Dan Gaucher, Lee Hutzulak, Torsten Muller, Ben Brown, Lisa Miller, Cole Schmidt work on trumpet and electronics was stellar, and Wilson's playing was out of this world, including a spectacularly soulful guitar solo on their opening number, the album's title track. Lee and Zubot stood front and center on the stage, their strings and Carter's electronics helping the rhythm section of bassist Russell Sholberg and drummer Skye Brooks furnish a big sound. This was a hugely popular concert, manifested by the cleaning out of Wilson's CDs at the merch table following the show.

FIMAV artistic director Michel Levasseur and John Zorn have forged a close relationship over the history of the festival, such that, with the number of appearances that Zorn has made over the years, one could almost keep track of Zorn's incredible output by attending this festival, and the three concerts on Saturday night were a great treat, a unique opportunity to hear music that has (and will) only be played live. This was the first performance of music, short pieces he calls the Bagatelles, that Zorn has been presenting at the Stone in New York City for the past year outside New York, and he brought a huge crew of musicians with him. The program included three concerts, each with performances by three separate groups of musicians, some of them long time Zorn collaborators (Mark Feldman, Sylvie Courvoisier, John Medeski, Marc Ribot, etc.) and some not usually associated with Zorn, such as Mary Halvorson, Kris Davis, and Julian Lage, among others.

Each group of musicians played for twenty to twenty-five minutes or so, starting with Feldman and Courvoisier, who set the tone with high velocity and stop-start rhythms. They were just the first of the highlights of the Bagatelles "Marathon." Others included the following group, a speed-metal trio of (very) young musicians called Trigger Alpert; the quartet of pianist Kris Davis, with Mary Halvorson, Drew Gress, and Tyshawn Sorey; John Medeski with David Fiuczynski and G.Calvin Weston; and the Mary Halvorson Quartet, with Miles Okazaki, Gress, and Tomas Fujiwara. Zorn sat offstage until the last set, Marc Ribot with Trevor Dunn and Tyshawn Sorey, who closed out the evening with a blistering set, Zorn seated beside Ribot directing the trio. All in all, this was a fast-paced and very exciting evening of music. Given that the music will probably never be recorded, it was a rare treat for the audience to hear this many fine musicians playing music of such an important composer.

In some ways, Sunday's program could not help but feel like a bit of a letdown after Saturday evening's fireworks, but the first concert, by George Lewis with a group comprised of Thurman Barker, Eli Fountain, Aiyun Huang , Tyshawn Sorey, and himself, was not. "Impromptus" is a lovely, spare composition, and the performance was unique, with the various musicians moving around from one percussion instrument to another (vibes, gongs, kettle drums) as the piece unfolded without hurry and without waste.

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