RT 9325 (2004)




10 ans de RED TOUCAN


    Disc 1

  1. Charles Papasoff, baritone and soprano saxophone, flute; Baikida Carroll, trumpet, flugelhorn; Santi Debriano, bass; Pheeroan Aklaff, drums: Serious (10.32);
    from Papasoff RT9301 [1994]

  2. François Houle, clarinets; Tony Wilson, electric guitar; Dylan van der Schyff, percussion: Prayer (06.05);
    from Schizosphere RT9303 [1994]

  3. François Houle, clarinet: Song for Jeanne Lee (03.20);
    from Any terrain tumultuous RT9305 [1995]

  4. Joëlle Léandre, bass; François Houle, clarinet; Georg Graewe, piano: Such as it is (03.20);
    from Live @ Banlieues Bleues RT9306 [1996]

  5. Ron Samworth, guitar, effects; Peggy Lee, cello; Bill Clark, trumpet; Dylan van der Schyff, percussion: Deep pocket (08.04);
    from The mirror with a memory RT9307 [1996]

  6. Glenn Spearman, tenor saxophone; Lisle Ellis, bass; Donald Robinson, drums; James Routhier, electric guitar: Go left out of Shantiville (06.15);
    from Let it go RT9308 [1997]

  7. Dana Reason, piano; Peter Valsamis, drums, sampler: Border crossings, part I (03.25);
    from Border crossings RT9309 [1997]

  8. Roscoe Blur, tenor and soprano saxophone; Paul Plimley, piano; Danny Parker, bass; Dylan van der Schyff, drums: Stable chaos (06.43);
    from Stable chaos RT9310 [1997]

  9. Michael Jefry Stevens, piano; Mark Whitecage, alto clarinet, alto and soprano saxophones: Bittersweet (06.57);
    from Short stories RT9312 [1997]

  10. Joëlle Léandre, solo bass, voice: No comment #1 (06.01);
    from No comment RT9313 [1998]

  11. Andrew Drury, drums; Craig Flory, tenor saxophone, bass clarinet; Timothy Young, electric guitar; Phil Sparks, bass; Eyving Kang, violin; Brent Arnold, cello; Steve Moore, trombone: Polish theatre posters (04.22);
    from Polish theatre posters RT9314 [1998]

  12. Joëlle Léandre, bass, voice; François Houle, clarinet; Hasse Poulsen, acoustic guitar: C'est ça #7 (04.43);
    from C'est ça RT9315 [2000]
    Disc 2

  1. Nikolai Yudanov, drums; Peter Brötzmann, saxophones; Sakari Luoma, electric guitar: Monkey wrench (08.26);
    from Fryed fruit RT9316 [2001]

  2. Frank Gratkowski, alto saxophone, clarinets; Wolter Wierbos, trombone; Dieter Manderschied, bass; Gerry Hemingway, drums: Rotation (05.39);
    from Kollaps RT9317 [2001]

  3. John Butcher, saxophones; Gerry Hemingway, drums, percussion, sampler: Shooters and bowlers (05.00);
    from Shooters and bowlers RT9318 [2001]

  4. Achim Kaufmann, piano; Michael Moore, alto saxophone, clarinet, bass clarinet; Henning Sieverts, bass; John Hollenbeck, drums: Beq (05.44);
    from Gueuledeloup RT9319 [2002]

  5. Georg Graewe, piano; Frank Gratkowski, alto saxophone, clarinets; John Lindberg, bass: Arrears #2 (07.32);
    from Arrears RT9320 [2002]

  6. Joëlle Léandre, bass, voice; Masahiko Satoh, piano: Signature #4 (06.08);
    from Signature RT 9321 [2002]

  7. Joëlle Léandre, bass, voice; Masahiko Satoh, piano: Signature #C (05.06);
    from Signature RT 9321 [2002]

  8. Laura Andel Orchestra: Entering (04.41);
    from Somnambulist RT9322 [2003]

  9. Kyle Bruckmann, oboe, english horn; Jeb Bishop, trombone; Tim Daisy, percussion; Kurt Johnson, bass; Jen Clare Paulson, viola: Rather dour (06.18); from Wrack RT9323 [2003]

  10. Michael Vatcher, drums, percussion; Steuart Liebig, Eb contrabass guitars, applied tools; Vinny Golia, soprano saxophone, stritch, alto flute, clarinet: Transit (07.43);
    from On the cusp of fire and water RT9324 [2004]

  11. Dave Liebman, soprano saxophone, flute; Michael Gerber, piano: The empress (08.15);
    from Souls and masters CAC9901 [1999]

  12. Michael Jefry Stevens, piano: Hommage à Debussy (02.10);
    from Portrait in red CAC9902 [2001]

Matthew Sumera, ONE FINAL NOTE

amalgam(e) is proof enough that Red Toucan has been a vital addition and contributor to today's jazz scene. Originally formed to document vital Québec jazz, but later developing significant relationships with a variety of Canadian-born and international improvisers, from clarinetist François Houle to contrabassist Jöelle Léandre, Red Toucan has consistently presented cutting-edge improvised music, devoid of pretension and brimming with thoughtful, potent musicianship.

Comprising twenty-two tracks and over two hours of music, amalgam(e) is a fantastic starter course for those unfamiliar with the Red Toucan diet. Beginning at the beginning with a humorous pre-song dialogue among musicians that culminates in what could be a Red Toucan motto, "check your hang-ups at the door", Charles Pappasoff's "Serious" is both reminiscent of "Lonely Woman" and a driving beast of a tune with the ever-resourceful Pheeroan Aklaff in the engine room.

Tracks two through four take a sharp left turn in presenting some of the many wonderful sessions Red Toucan has captured with the aforementioned Houle, including recordings where the clarinetist is partnered with label-staple Léandre, as well as Marilyn Crispell. Houle's sound, crisp and clean, is rare in these times of multi-multi-instrumentalism, and it is indeed a treat to hear the clarinet in the hands of a studied master. Mostly eschewing extreme harmonics for more classically-reminiscent tonalities, the three selections manage to showcase the range of Houle's talents, including an almost klezmer-like swing in "Prayer", a rough and tumble affair with Crispell, and a free-improv setting with Léandre and Georg Graewe.

The remainder of disc one highlights a variety of group, duet, and solo settings from increasingly well known, and hopefully soon to be better-known players, with particularly nice statements from Dana Reason on piano (from border crossings), Dylan van der Schyff in fine, Bennink-link playfulness on drums playing with Paul Plimley and others (from stable chaos), and a start-stop big band piece alternating between Zorn-like hopping and Threadgill-like orchestration, with trombone, cello, violin, electric guitar, tenor sax, bass, bass clarinet, and drums (from polish theatre posters).

Disc two starts with a Peter Brötzmann blowout, acerbic as ever, but with a bit of the ridiculous, unfortunately, in the guitar of Sakari Luoma, who appears to be in full heavy-metal attack. The hoped-for Last Exit sound never quite emerges, and the piece is one of the few low points on the compilation. Tracks two and three, both featuring Gerry Hemingway in very different settings, on the other hand, are quite beautiful and return to the high level of disc one. Hemingway's duet with John Butcher (from shooters and bowlers), in particular, is beguiling as ever. A trio piece (from arrears) with Graewe, Frank Gratkowski, and the redoubtable John Lindberg on contrabass is again a moving piece of improvisation, with Lindberg spending the better part of the first four minutes on the body of his bass, thumbs and fingers, only to move to a percussive statement on the strings, followed by some inside-the-piano finessing from Graewe: A nice, evolving piece of collective improvisation.

Back to Léandre for tracks six and seven of disc two, this time in performance with Masahiko Satoh—not entirely a meeting of the minds (almost a sense of two competing aesthetics), but only in light of the other remarkable performances from the bassist throughout the rest of the compilation—and Yuji Takahashi—whose meeting with the bassist turns out to be a much more satisfying endeavor. The Laura Andel Orchestra is featured on track eight (from somnambulist) in a four-minute take on sustain—bowed cymbals, heavy on the strings, with some processed (?) white-noise accompaniment. A haunting piece, truly. In with a few Chicagoans for track nine, (from wrack) with Tim Daisy and Jeb Bishop teaming up with Kyle Bruckmann (on oboe, English horn), Kurt Johnson (bass) and Jen Clare Paulson (viola): Some early steam turning into a saunter and eventually evaporation, only to restart again.

The last two tracks are highlights from the Cactus Records label, dedicated, as the liner notes to amalagam(e) state, to "music of a more composed nature". An interesting if less then audible distinction—certainly the likes of polish theatre posters are heavily composed works. Nonetheless, two pieces from Catus records are included, the first being a welcome duet setting for Dave Liebman. The second track and the closer to amalgam(e), is "Hommage à Debussy", performed by Michael Jefry Stevens: A fitting tribute and lovely end to this spectacular two disc set.

One Final Note

Jerry D'Souza - ALL ABOUT JAZZ

Ten years is a long time in the life of an independent label. It takes commitment and a love for the music to keep it going that long. It is all the more impressive when one considers the fact that the initial impetus was to document musicians from Quebec. It was a bold move, but pioneers go out on the twin limbs of risk and hope. And so was conceived Red Toucan.

The first artists to be signed to the label were Charles Papasoff and Normand Guilbeault, both making their debut recordings. Papasoff had Baikida Carroll, Pheeroan AkLaff and Santi Debriano in his band, an appreciable group of musicians. However, the larger imprint and the extension that the label was looking for came when they met François Houle, a man whose vision roamed wide. A decision was made to go in for improvised music with a difference, even if it would seem to be far removed from jazz. In a sense it may have been, but it was improvised and did not lack an adventurous spirit. From then on the scope could only broaden. Houle recorded with several musicians who brought in an exciting perspective, among them Marilyn Crispell, Georg Graewe, Joëlle Léandre and Hasse Poulsen.

While Quebec was the takeoff point, Red Toucan subsequently signed artists in Vancouver, thanks to Houle. And sure enough it recorded Peggy Lee and Dylan van der Schyff. But the label did not forge ahead regardless of the consequences. In 1997 it came to a point it termed a crossroad. Red Toucan lay back and reflected over the next 16 months and returned with a resolution to release music from artists who were on the cutting edge of jazz and deserved to be heard. From that commendable purpose came works from bands that had Paul Plimley, Wolter Wierbos, Peter Brötzmann, Mark Whitecage, Achim Kaufmann, John Butcher, Gerry Hemingway, Michael Moore, John Lindberg and Frank Gratkowski. That indeed is a stellar cast!

During this time, Red Toucan has released 25 albums, including Amalgam(e), a compilation of tracks from earlier releases. Of the total 23 are in print, an exceptional number and an indicator of the strength of the records. The first track, “Serious,” from Papasoff is a muscular devolution from the soprano saxophone of Papasoff well countenanced by the linear trumpet of Carroll. Glenn Spearman sets up a taut framework that essays into yowls and screams to “Go Left Out of Shantiville,” from the CD Let it Go, pursued by Lisle Ellis, who shifts resiliency and gives the bass a broader dimension, with James Routhier extending the momentum using sharp lines on the electric guitar. Quite a different bag is stirred by the rumbling piano of Dana Reason on “Border Crossings Part I,” from Border Crossings, that opens up the vent to use space judiciously. There is plenty more; the two disc set comprises 24 selections, including two from Cactus Records, a sibling, so to speak, and devoted to “music of a more composed nature.”

Red Toucan has a creed which is “the necessity of documenting original projects by creative musicians.” Long may this label continue to do so.

All About Jazz



"Bird Lives" was perhaps the first case of widespread graffiti in New York following the death of Charlie Parker, and the phrase could have been co-opted by some of the fans of the Montreal-based Red Toucan label after 1999, when it appeared that it was no longer in existence. Fortunately the label is still going strong and amalgam(e) celebrates ten years of providing a forum for improvising artists, originally centered in Quebec but spreading to Vancouver and elsewhere. Releases like this occupy their own little niche; neither complete statements by an artist or group, nor taken from festivals to provide listeners with the essence of the event, they serve as a "this is who we are" type of mission statement. I have no idea what went into selecting the individual cuts for these discs, although time considerations must have been a primary factor, but amalgam(e) should serve as an excellent marketing tool in which to give listeners - both owners of the disc or anyone partaking of radio programming interesting enough to play it - a sampler to use to make future purchases.
I bought my first Toucan in 1998, the wonderful Polish Theatre Posters by Andrew Drury. Since then I've acquired a sizeable chunk of the catalogue but was still open to having my curiosity piqued by this collection. Indeed the songs from the initial release, Papasoff by reed player Charles Papasoff and The Mirror With a Memory by Talking Pictures, merit future attention. The label has had many appearances by the wonderful Joëlle Léandre (present here on five songs), François Houle, George Graewe and Frank Gratkowski, and there are two selections from the associated Cactus label, which concentrates on music of a more composed nature. Ten years and counting; here's to many more.

Paris Transatlantic