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Victoriaville is home to innovation and improvisation

May 2012

With open ears and an open mind, you will find there is everything to love in the annual experimental and improvised music festival in Victoriaville that invariably features exciting and innovative performers.

The big names this year, all from the U.S., would already make it worth the 160-kilometre trip, were it not for the equally attractive prospect of checking out all 19 varied concerts over four days in the peaceful, if not quite bucolic Victo setting.

Free jazz, as varied as the impulses, inspiration and mindset of its performers, is the big calling card this year, edging out such more extreme genres as ear-splitting Noise that gave previous editions a different flavour.

Topping the list is saxophonist/composer John Zorn, New York founder of the pioneering Tzadik record label, who will be leading two groups on May 17 and 18 at 10 pm. The hockey coliseum will be set up cabaret style with tables and chairs, a bar, and draped on two sides with new art.

Zorn, who in 2006 won the McArthur Foundation’s Genius Award—$100,000 a year for five years—leads an all-star group, very much part of the Tzadik family, in Nova Express, fashioned around the 1964 novel by Beat writer William Burroughs.

Wadada Leo Smith will perform in the retrospective Ten Freedom Summers. Photo: Scott Goller

The work, performed for the first time, combines Burrough’s technique of cutting up texts in fragments, then reassembling them with hard-hitting Ornette-Coleman-style ensemble delivery. You can easily set that information aside and just listen and enjoy as Zorn directs drummer Joey Baron, electric bassist Trevor Dunn, pianist John Medeski and vibraphonist Kenny Wollesen. ($38)

On Friday night, Zorn adds violinist Mark Feldman and cellist Eric Friedlander to his crew to play The Concealed, another world premiere. Zorn will lead and narrate 15 pieces, linked to an image and a short text reflecting various mystical traditions, as selected by mystic/artist David Chaim Smith. Zorn says the music, in various ensemble combinations, will be in the tradition of his Masada works. ($42)

Trumpeter Wadada Leo Smith will be performing and leading an all-star ensemble on Saturday, 10 p.m., in his musical retrospective called Ten Freedom Summers, inspired by the heroic figures who risked their lives in the American civil rights movement from 1954-64 to end official segregation and endemic discrimination. Videos will accompany pianist Anthony Davis, drummers Susie Ibarra and Pheeroan AkLaff, and bassist John Lindberg. ($36.)

On Sunday night, pianist Muhal Richard Abrams, a co-founder of the influential Chicago-based Association for the Advancement of Creative Music and free jazz pioneer closes the festival. Abrams, with saxophonist Roscoe Mitchell and trombonist George Lewis, will be performing an improvised concert. These musicians know each other so well and have played together so often that they have developed a common language. ($36)

There are other plenty of other veteran and local emerging voices among the performers worth checking out. The full lineup is available at Packages include $105 per person for concerts at 8 and 10 pm and overnight stay (double occupancy) at le Victorian Hotel. A festival pass to all concerts is $325, and there are various other discount packages. 1-819-752-7912.



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