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Suoni Per Il Popolo 2014

Mike Chamberlain By

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Suoni Per Il Popolo
Various venues
Montreal, Quebec
June 4-22, 2014

Every June, the good folks who run Montreal's Casa del Popolo and Sala Rossa hold an extravaganza of what some call "liberation music" and what they call Suoni Per Il Popolo, or "sounds for the people." Now in its fourteenth year, the Suoni has become a highlight on the Montreal musical calendar, featuring provocative music in a wide variety of genres, including jazz, among which were Die Like a Dog Quartet, Bonecrusher, Sun Rooms, From Bacteria to Boys, and the Deciders.

The early highlight of the festival was an appearance of the Die Like a Dog Trio, Peter Brötzmann, William Parker, and Hamid Drake, on a rare tour, at the Sala Rossa on June 10. Brotzmann greeted the packed room with an opening blast from his tenor sax that brought to mind the tone of Ben Webster and the ferocity of Albert Ayler. But Brotzmann is no longer the Brotzmann of Machine Gun, as we have seen in recent appearances (thinking of his solo set at Victoriaville a couple of years ago), as he went on to explore the lyrical side of his musical personality, moving from mood to mood as he switched from tenor to taragato, metal clarinet, and alto sax, drawing from the whole of the jazz tradition. Parker and Drake supplied a pulsing core of shifting polyrhythms around and through which Brotzmann wove his lines. Parker and Drake were in fine form, Drake's sureness of touch outstanding, and if on occasion they were obviously searching for a turnaround, well, that's just part of the game. Two sets, including a piece with Drake on frame drum, left the audience fully satisfied.

On Sunday, June 15, the intimate back room of the Casa del Popolo welcomed Boneshaker, drummer Paal Nilssen-Love's new trio with tenor saxophonist and clarinetist Mars Williams and bassist Kent Kessler. Kessler, the king of the ostinato bass line, is a perfect foil for Nilssen-Love to bounce his stop-time shifts of rhythm off of, and similar to Die Like a Dog, while there was no lack of power and drive in the trio's music, the emphasis was on melody and lyricism in Williams' playing.

One of the two major highlights of the festival was Jason Adasiewicz's project Sun Rooms, with bassist Ingebrikt Haker-Flauten and drummer Mike Reed, who tore up the Café Resonance, a new venue for the festival, on Wednesday, June 18. Adasiewicz had recently appeared with Ken Vandermark's Audio One at Victoriaville in May, where he shone, but in a trio setting, he totally went for it, laying everything he had on the line in a brave and thrilling pair of sets. His piece "The Song I Wrote for Tonight" was a twenty-minute tour-de-force of high-speed swing, fractured bop chords, and emotional intensity, Haker-Flauten and Reed switching gears behind the barrage of notes. Sublime.

Canadian saxophonist Paul Cram's trio with Montrealers bassist Clinton Ryder and drummer Pierre Tanguay opened for Mike Pride's From Bacteria to Boys at Café Resonance the following evening. Again, we usually see the Halifax-based Cram in a large group setting, so this was a rare opportunity to see him stretch out. Tanguay skittered around his kit, perhaps less busy than normal in a jazz setting (Tanguay has played in countless groups over the years), while Ryder's off-center phrasing provided loose counterpoint to Cram's explorations. Pride's group was a sharp contrast, on the beat, driving, in your face, with hard blowing by saxophonist Jon Irabagon and impressive playing by pianist Alexis Marcelo.

The Deciders, a European quintet comprised of Rudy Mahall, Axel Dorner, Fredrik Ljungkvist, bassist Ole Morten Vagan, and drummer John Falt, closed out the festival on June 22 in decisively lively and inventive fashion. Rock-solid rhythm work underpinned playful interweaving of Mahall's and Ljungkvist's reeds and Dorner's trumpet, with incisive solo turns by all the musicians. The compositions allowed a perfect balance of freedom and organization, and a great time was had by all.

Coming as it does before the behemoth that is the Festival International de Jazz de Montreal, the Suoni has over the years cleared a space for Montreal music lovers whose interest in music lies beyond it being a soundtrack to a night on the town or an excuse to wander around jazz Disneyland and people-watch among the crowd. The Suoni is small and intimate but, in the service of the music, its ambitions could not be larger.

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