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Suoni Per Il Popolo 2017

Suoni Per Il Popolo 2017
Mike Chamberlain By

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Casa del Popolo, Sala Rossa, La Vitrola
Suoni Per Il Popolo
Montreal, Quebec, Canada
June 1-24, 2017

This year's edition of the Suoni per il Popolo, or Suoni as it is popularly known, was the 17th since the inception of Mauro Pezzente and Kiva Stimac's Casa del Popolo mini-empire, which also encompasses venues La Sala Rossa and La Vitrola on Montreal's St-Laurent Boulevard. For lovers of avant-garde musics, the Suoni has become a bucket list event, as the locus of venues becomes the best place in the world to be during the first three weeks of June.

The festival program is eclectic, to say the least, and while outside jazz/creative music always has a big part in the schedule, this year's schedule was jam-packed in that regard, and this review will focus on some of those performances.

The festival began on June 1 with events dedicated to the memory of Pauline Oliveros, in conjunction with the International Institute for Critical Studies in Improvisation (IICSI). As a member of IISCI, Oliveros had been involved in planning a series of events, including a display of Oliveros scores, notes, recordings, interactive sites, etc, at the McGill University music library to commemorate her 85th birthday on May 29. However, at the time of her passing in November, Oliveros was apparently unaware of the plans for a musical tribute to her, in the form of an evening of music composed by former students and inspired by or dedicated to Oliveros in some way.

For anyone who might be visiting Montreal this summer, the Oliveros exhibit at the McGill University music library is a must-see. The opening was preceded by a real-time Second Life performance with musicians in different parts of the world, their avatars projected on a screen, along with four musicians on a stage at McGill's music faculty. Friday night's tribute at the Sala Rossa was somewhat more conventionally staged, as an assembly of nine mostly Montreal musicians (Marianne Trudel, Lori Freedman, Isaiah Ceccarelli, Jennifer Thiessen and others)sympathetically interpreted the compositions dedicated to Pauline Oliveros, whose spirit was very present in the room and at the events as a whole. It really was too bad that the great lady could not have been there in earthly form, for she surely would have enjoyed it.

One could write a full-length review that only comprised the concerts that I missed, for one reason or another. Among them were performances by Phill Niblock, Peggy Lee with Mary Margaret O'Hara, Alan Licht, the Anthony Braxton Sextet, and Perch Hen Brock & Rain. Fortunately, there was a lot of other interesting music on offer, so I will focus on what I did see.

The duo of saxophonist Peter Brötzmann and steel guitarist Heather Leigh had the stage at the Sala Rossa on Tuesday, June 6. This unlikely pairing has received critical acclaim for their 2016 recording Ears Are Filled With Wonder (Not Two), so the concert was highly anticipated. Normally, I prefer to listen to improvised and/or so-called creative music in a live setting, as the mood of the particular performance is more readily apprehended when all one's senses are employed. However, this performance did not really work for me, as it seemed to be caught between the atmospherics of the pairing of steel guitar and reed instruments (tenor sax and clarinet) and the urge to move forward the music forward, without a clear direction of where to go. This may have been a bad night or a case of unrealistic expectations on my part. Fortunately, I will be able to hear the duo again this year at Jazz em Agosto in Lisbon, and I hope to appreciate them more that time. In any event, you will be able to read my review of Jazz em Agosto on AllAboutJazz.

Chicago-based saxophonist Dave Rempis has been on a tour since February in which he plays a solo set and then a set with local musicians, and he stopped at the Casa del Popolo on Thursday, June 8 for his Montreal date on the tour. Rempis did five improvisations, three on alto sax and two on tenor. Rempis's playing is both ruminative and forceful, as he likes to work off of arpeggiated phrases from which he launches explorations and then turns back. His set with bassist Aaron Lumley and drummer Michel Lambert hit the stage running, and didn't let up for the length of the 45-minute set. The playing was nimble and intuitive, as the trio displayed excellent musical communication.

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