Artist: Roscoe Mitchell and the Montreal-Toronto Art Orchestra
Songs: They Rode For Them + Nonaah + [piece for solo sopranino saxophone]
Recorded at The Music Gallery (X Avant XI – Night 4), October 15, 2016.
The X Avant Festival concluded with this extra-special event, bringing the legendary Roscoe Mitchell to town at the head of a nineteen-piece orchestra made up of top names from the Montréal and Toronto scenes.1 The pieces that they played were derived from Mitchell's improvisations, primarily from his Conversations I + Conversations II albums — boiling down dense and compact abstractions to their essence and then blowing them up to widescreen size for the large ensemble. After a while, getting attuned to the method you could sometimes "hear" the original gestures behind the sweeping orchestrations. This was complex stuff that pushed the musicians, but it was quite often rather beautiful as well. There were a few places that lead into full-on big band free-honking, but just as striking were the moments that pulled back, including a quartet arrangement of "Nonaah" (performed by Nicolas Caloia, Yves Charuest, Lori Freedman, and Craig Pedersen) as well as a solo segment from Mitchell that opened the second set — an intense piece that spiralled outward from a drone into pure exploration that put a full lifetime's experience and technique on display. After presenting this music live in Montréal and Toronto, the ensemble also headed into the studio on the day after this show, so we can expect some formal documentation of this grand sommet to emerge in time.
1 For the record, the members of the orchestra were:
- Roscoe Mitchell – woodwinds, composition, direction
- Marilyn Lerner – piano
- Lori Freedman, Yves Charuest, Kyle Brenders, Jean Derome, Peter Lutek, Jason Sharp – woodwinds
- Nicole Rampersaud, Craig Pedersen – trumpets
- Tom Richards, Scott Thomson – trombones
- Julie Houle – tuba
- Jean René, James Annett – violas
- Rob Clutton, Nicolas Caloia – double-basses
- Isaiah Ceccarelli, Nick Fraser – drums
- Michael Davidson – vibraphone
- Greg Oh - conducting