Fred Frith played in Montréal recently along with some very talented
local free improv players. I was fortunate enough to catch the show…
Legendary avant-garde guitarist Fred Frith dropped by Montréal’s
Cabaret Juste Pour Rire the other night for a duo show with drummer Danielle
Palardy Roger, and an opening set by two incredible percussionists - Michel F Côté and Isaiah Ceccarelli.
Côté and Ceccarelli started things off with
nothing but drums. Côté was behind a standard kit extended with lots of
toys and two mics rigged up two a pair of Pignose amps. Ceccarelli just
had a bass drum lying on a chair along with, again, lots of toys. The pieces were all very brief
which was really nice, and despite the fact that drums alone might seem limited, each piece was
very different from those that came before - sound loud and frenetic, others quiet, one actually
managed to elicit quite a bit of laughter from the audience, which I’m hoping was a good thing.
Côté used the mics as drum sticks to great effect - creating all kinds of
unusual sounds of tension and release, friction, surprisingly dynamic feedback that almost made one
think of the expressiveness of the Theremin, and there were moments of all out, distorted,
banging-on-a-drum fun. The feedbacking drums were paired up really well with Ceccarelli’s bowed playing. A great set.
Fred Frith and Danielle Palardy Roger were up
second and once they began playing, they did not stop until their set was finished — a really long
and well laid-out musical journey with lots of highlights and unexpected twists and turns.
Fred pulled out every trick in the prepared guitar book - from the old
twanging drum stick between the strings to an array of effects and looping pedals and beyond. But
with his mastery of music and his instrument it never felt like he was depending on the gimmicks,
more using them to great effect to build up a complex, multilayered soundscape and every-evolving
composition. He was well matched up with Danielle Palardy Roger, who also
had all of the extended techniques and managed to make great music with them. They both seemed to
be following their own paths the whole way not interacting too much like some free improv players
do, creating a sort of back and forth conversation type of sound, but their individual paths meshed
perfectly well together, so maybe they were both just following the music more than their own
instrumental egos. Adding an extra oomph to the coolness of the show was when first Fred Frith let loose a barrage of percussive and wailing tribal vocals, followed a
little later on by vocal sounds along similar lines from Danielle Palardy
Roger. Took it to another level beyond the often staid confines of stylized free improv into
something more about music in a broader and more sophisticated sense.
An awesome concert, and I think it was part of a recording project so it may see the light of
day on CD in the not too distant future…