May 1, 2008
Jean Derome et les Dangereuz Zhoms
Ambiances Magnétiques AM 172 CD
Ambiances Magnétiques AM 174
Collage, parody, homage, elements of electronics, improvisation and composition enliven these energetic CDs, products of Montreal’s ever-pliable Musique Actuelle scene. Strongly influenced by – but not quite – jazz, the discs announce their distinctiveness by adding tinctures of rock music, studio wizardry and poetry.
Although saxophonist and flautist Jean Derome and trombonist Tom Walsh appear on both sessions, the individual discs are as dissimilar as they are notable. To Continue is the reunion CD – after a decade-long hiatus – of Les Dangereuz Zhoms (DZ), playing eight new Derome compositions. On the other hand, Clic’s 13 miniatures highlight the versatility of Bernard Falaise, who manipulates stringed instruments, keyboards and percussion. Also heard – besides Derome’s vibrating altissimo tones and Walsh’s gutbucket growls – are trumpeter Gordon Allen’s brassy flourishes and clarinetist Lori Freedman’s chalumeau elaborations. Meanwhile Jean Martin’s sympathetic rhythmic underpinning was wedged in from a separate session, as were the spidery strokes of Julien Grégoire’s marimba.
Ranging from pieces written for chorographers to a homage to composer Franco Donati, Clic announces its versatility with subsequent tracks, which, for example, mate a lyrical, madrigal-style horn line with drum backbeats, wooden marimba strokes and folksy mandolin licks; add slinky, electric trumpet pops to chromatic banjo fills and a stop-time section from electric guitar and bass; or mate percussive shuffle rhythms, dense horn vamps, and a fruity saxophone vibrato that would fit 1960s’ mood music. Among bottleneck guitar licks, reed spetrofluctuation, pseudo-African drum flams and Mariachi-styled trumpeting, Falise also japes on the tonal similarities among spoken word, penny whistle and calliope sounds.
To Continue showcases words as well. Some are sung lyrically in French by electric bassist Pierre Cartier, in counterpoint with pianist Guillaume Dostaler’s strummed chords and Derome’s slurry split tones. Conversely the title track feature a unison recitation of an English poem by the entire band, interspaced with tail-gate trombone lows, serpentine saxophone trills and honky-tonk keyboard jumps.
Versifying is one thing, but “Prières” – or prayers – is a summation of the DZ’s individuality. Languid and processional, it moves from a piano fantasia to distinct horn palindromes interspaced among the backbeats and military press rolls of drummer Pierre Tanguay. As metronomic piano clinking extends the pace, soprano saxophone timbres resemble both a bagpipe chanter and human laughing. Skirting contrapuntal trombone asides, the diminuendo variation decelerates the tempo, stressing Derome’s conclusive flute burble and a fierce drum whack. Words and music meld perfectly on both CDs.
— Ken Waxman
— For Whole Note Vol. 13 #8