Proliferation of CD burners, sequencing and editing software and the exponential growth of the Internet have opened up new possibilities for disseminating music. This is especially germane for improvised and other minority sounds. By avoiding the expenses of mass distribution and manufacturing music can reach more interested listeners. Formulae have been developed to do so and each of these fine sessions uses one.
Rimouski, Quebec-based bassist/audio artist Éric Normand, who performs at Somewhere There this month, allows listeners to download sounds from his website www.tourdebras.com. One example of this is Une Règle de Trois (Tour de Bras tdbouebe002). A hand-drawn CD cover can be downloaded as well. Recorded live, this is a super-session of sorts featuring collaborations among improvisers from Rimouski, Montreal and Montpellier, France. Most of the sounds balance on steady crunches and crackles from three turntablists, with wiggling flanges and flying spiccato reprises from fiddler Catherine Massicotte and guitarist Christophe Devaux, plus puffs and bellows from Robin Servant’s diatonic accordion. Normand adds aleatoric and agitato smacks bringing the discursive theme in-and-out of aural focus, as the motor-driven clicks and clatters create a pedal point foundation.
A more sophisticated version of downloadable CDs comes from the French Sans Bruit label. Featuring improvisers pianist Noah Rosen, trombonist Yves Robert and bassist Didier Levallet, Silhouette (Sans Bruit sbr007 www.sansbruit.fr) not only captures the trio live, but also provides a professionally designed front and back cover with recording details. Rosen and his confreres’ disc is as swinging as it is kinetic, highlighting an impressive admixture of timbres, not least of which includes modern gutbucket styling from trombonist Robert. Super staccato, Aesthetic Form for instance is less aesthetic than acrobatic, as Robert’s rubato whinnies slink and sway alongside Rosen’s two-handed pump in the piano’s lowest register, until he slips to the edge of the keys to link up with Levallet’s sul tasto runs. Elsewhere Rosen’s hunt-and-peck technique predominates, along with the trombonist’s triple-tonguing and mouth gymnastics. The session culminates with Bon, bref et puis… with allegro additions from each partner expressed in slaps and pumps from the bassist, cascading comping from the pianist plus foreshortened and jagged bass-pitched slurs from Robert.
A more cerebral trombone trio is on Meshes (Another Timbre Byways at-b05 www.anothertimbre.com). This CD-R, with its well-designed cover, demonstrates another method of distribution. Certain that young improvisers wouldn’t need the number of discs in a standard official CD run, the British label created its Byways CD-R series. Certainly this gritty and pressured microtonal program from trombonist Mathias Forge, electronics manipulator Phil Julian and cellist David Papapostolou is one justification for the experiment. During two lengthy improvisations, the interaction and texture-blending is such that it’s frequently impossible to match particular timbres to individual instruments. With Julian’s electronics segmenting into chunky signal- processed lines, pulsating reverb and flat-line drones, multiplied shrills flash through the narratives like rain showers, when the static isn’t undulating underneath. Extended passages of extreme stillness also alter the tonal centre so that whistling squeaks from the cello – often hewn from the strings below the bridge – or blurry triplets strained from the trombone bell, tongue pops and flat-line blowing without valve pushes are more conspicuous. Although discontinuous in spots, the combined undulations made up of cello strings held to maximum tautness, rubato grace notes plus tremolo pedal tones from the trombonist, and electronic drones eventually reach a crescendo of inter-connected friction climaxing with a conclusive whistle and pop.
Brass and an electronic variant are also prominent on All Up In There (MrE Records 2 www.myspace.com/gordonallen) by Montreal-based, former Torontonian, trumpeter Gordon Allen, who often plays here. Figuring this concert with Frank Martel on theremin and drummer Michel F. Côté was worth preserving, Allen initially created 79 copies of the disc. With liner notes handwritten on a paper bag and the record packaged in a hand-sewn cloth bag, D-I-Y is taken to its logical extreme. But the strength of the performance suggests that more copies may eventually be needed. Sounds are cohesive and wedded to jazz-improv. Although when all musical cylinders fire at once the results appear as a solid textural block, there’s ample room for individual expression. Revealed are Côté’s anything-but-regular rhythms, the trumpeter’s choked-throat growls, and pitter-pattering string-referencing thumps from the theremin. These bass-like strokes are even more prominent midway through, when joining the drummer’s assertive backbeat, they create a solid base, allowing Allen’s plunger tones, grace note squeaks and bovine lows to float above.
Proving conclusively that quantity does not mean quality, each session uses unexpected means to get to its intended audiences.