VICTORIAVILLE. Que. – Fans of John Zorn, the prolific and imaginative musical innovator, will be flocking to this city starting May 19, but it won’t be to hear him play the saxophone, or even to watch him direct ensembles.
Zorn’s admirers will be coming to this city, 160 kilometres northeast of Montreal, from across North America to hear members of his musical family – veterans and new recruits – play from 300 tunes he crafted during a three-month creative burst last year.
These melodies, designed to be played with any instrument, have beginnings and endings, but it will be up to the creative minds and musical souls who will be performing to turn them into something new, exciting, and memorable.
Zorn, who dazzled hundreds at a marathon here in 2013, part of his Zorn @ 60 series of concerts, called these new compositions bagatelles, and they will be performed in three back-to-back concerts May 21 – the biggest draw among the 25 indoor concerts here during the four-day Festival International de Musique Actuelle.
According to Michel Levasseur, the originator, director general and creative head of this world-class showcase, this is the first time the bagatelles series is performed outside of The Stone, Zorn intimate musical space in New York City.
Now in its 32nd season, this festival brings together an array of of creative and innovative musical genres features exponents and experimenters from a broad musical menu– from Inuit throat Tanya Tagaq, backed by a 30-member choir to trombonist George Lewis, a veteran of Chicago’s Association for the Advancement of Creative Music, performing Impromptus with three percussionists.
Zorn has crafted the bagatelles tunes to resemble his Masada charts, only they are more atonal. The thrill is to be there as master musicians improvise and create the unexpected. Zorn will not be playing saxophone, and is not slated to conduct.
Each of three sessions will feature three separate performances, and all to be held Saturday, May 21, at the city’s hockey coliseum, divided into larger and smaller venues, with tables and chairs, bar, draped in velvet and decorated with new modern art.
The opening show features the incandescent and seasoned duo of Swiss pianist Sylvie Courvoisier and violinist Mark Feldman, followed by the power trio of electric guitarists Will Greene and Simon Hanes and drummer Aaron Edgcomb, and a quartet led by pianist Kris Davis, a rising star in New York’s downtown scene, with avant electric guitarist Mary Halvorson, bassist Drew Gress and drummer Tyshawn Sorey.
Halvorson, an Anthony Braxton disciple who has developed a strong presence in the avant scene, comes back at midnight leading a quartet of guitarist Miles Okazaki, another gig for bassist Drew Gress, and drummer Tomas Fujiwara.
For festival regulars, revisiting musicians who have played here before and reappear in different combinations and styles of music is a big part of the anticipated pleasure. Who knows what to expect from pianist Uri Caine and keyboardist John Medeski whose duo follows Halvorson’s midnight gig? The closer features the Asmodeus power trio, led by Zorn’s favourite, the supremely talented and amazing Marc Ribot, with bass guitarist Trevor Dunn and drummer Calvin Weston.
The 10 pm show presents keyboardist Craig Taborn solo, followed by the much anticipated acoustic guitar duo of Julian Lage and Dyan Riley, followed by keyboardist John Medeski in a trio.
An electronica show that looks promising is the 10 pm concert Sunday of Musica Electtronica Viva, featuring American composer/improviser/keyboardist Richard Teitelbaum with Alvin Curran on keys, computer, and small instruments, and pianist/vocalist Frederic Rzewski.
And who knows what will unfold when two Quebec improvising orchestras – Montreal’s 7-member Ensemble supermisque and Rimouski’s 7-member Super GGRIL (“a post-structuralist village band)” play together under the leadership of French guitarist/improviser/conductor Olivier Benoit.
It is another varied and exciting package, with a series of new sound installations that can be experienced on a leisurely walk along the linear park downtown.
For information on tickets, and hotel/ticket packages click on fimav.qc.ca/en/edition/tickets