Jean Derome et les Dangereux Zhoms +7

Plates-formes et Traquenards
Victo cd 114

Two suites for 12-piece polyphonic orchestra composed by Montreal-based reedist Jean Derome exhibit his cunning musicality on this notable CD. A mainstay of Victoriaville, Que.’s Festival International de Musique Actuelle (FIMAV) – where the CD was recorded – Derome titles “Plates-formes” with a pun on the name of the organization which oversees the festival. “Traquenards” celebrates another musical organization, which like FIMAV, celebrated its 25th birthday when this recording was made.

Augmenting the five-piece Dangereux Zhoms with additional horns and strings, ensures that both suites emphatically balance on the edge between improvised and notated sounds, as well as extrapolating timbres that add a tincture of rock’s rhythmic muscle, vocalist Joane Hétu’s Dadaesque intonation, plus crackles, hisses and LPs’ music from Martin Tétreault’s turntables.

Consisting of multiple jump-cut variations, contrasts and connections characterize both suites. Expressively tonal and unfussy, Derome’s themes suggest folk songs and Tin Pan Alley ditties. Yet he constantly undercuts lyricism with asides and interpolations such as his own jutting alto saxophone phrasing, gutbucket echoes from trombonist Tom Walsh, plus whining frails and strident string-snapping from guitarist Bernard Falaise.

Maintaining the compositions’ equilibrium, despite altissimo disruptions and tutti explosions where the players wallow in every sort of abrasive shriek, are Guillaume Dostaler’s pounding piano syncopation and the measured ruffs and back beat of drummer Pierre Tanguay.

Pastiches as well as interludes, Derome’s compositions are memorable for architectural soundness, but arranged inimitably so that their most satisfying interpretation come from this band.

— — Ken Waxman

— For Whole Note Vol. 15 #1