January 2008

François Houle Octet
at the 35th Annual IAJE (International Association for Jazz Education) Conference
January 12, 2008 Constitution Hall Toronto
by David Fujino

In this concert of Houle's compositions, the 'serious' clarinetist not only played and soloed, he frequently conducted and cued in the members of his octet.

Houle explained that the first tune, "Guanera", was dedicated to his kids; it had a deep and ancient sound, with pianist Jon Ballantyne up front, priest-like and presiding over his chordal vamps and dissonances. Out of this emerged Jeremy Barkman's trombone tour de force. His solo voice in the mid and upper registers was so mellow that it merged with his singing through his horn. This was so pleasurable, especially when it became a curtain of vibrating, glistening sound.

"Albatross" — his personal tribute to cell phones and Blackberries — revealed François Houle to be fearless. Instead of worrying about beautiful playing, he pressed on like Trane's soprano and kept reaching for the next cycle, the next feeling, the next idea ...

François Houle
And then his separate tunes, "Track 2" and "Cruiser 2", got segued into two clarinets playing, then a running trumpet and trombone duet that fell into crashing anarchies of sound. It was unusual, the cacaphonous inserts as well as Vancouver-based J.P. Carter on trumpet sounding like a blistering and airily spittle-toned Bill Dixon.

But they made the right decisions, these eight musicians, and whether they were playing what was written or were contributing an improvisation, or both, it didn't seem to matter. This segued piece ended with J.P. Carter twirling knobs while blowing his sampled trumpet and all this time a violin's swift bowing did not stop.

I thought François Houle, and his talented octet, were pretty fine, but I also wanted to affirm the obvious. Houle's a real player.

François Houle Octet
François Houle — clarinet
Jesse Zubot — violin
J.P. Carter — Trumpet
Jon Ballantyne — piano
Tommy Babin — bass
Dan Gaucher — drums
Jeremy Barkman — trombone
Even Arntzen — saxes and clarinet
We welcome your comments and feedback
David Fujino
• • • • • •
The Live Music Report
• •

| Home | Archives | CD Reviews | Photo Galleries | Concert Listings | Contact |

Please contact us to secure permission for use of any material found on this website.
© The Live Music Report – 2008