Sunday, January 20, 2008
As a Canadian writing about jazz for U.S.-based publications I often get asked what the "scene" is like here, and who is making interesting music (in fact, there is an entire column of reviews of new Canadian CDs by me in the current issue of DownBeat). It's difficult to describe the scene without talking about Canada's defining "two solitudes," and at that point I usually see my American friends' eyes glazing over. But how else can you explain why Jean Derome, and in particular his quintet Les Dangereux Zhoms, are not known throughout Canada as the best band in the land? Their new CD To Continue is their first new recording in a decade, and it reminds me what a terrific group this is. Aside from Derome's expressive writing and playing — primarily on alto here — the band has the great Tom Walsh on trombone and Pierre Tanguay, who I think is one of the most exciting drummers in the music anywhere.
Perhaps the best thing about Derome's music, though, is that it is part of the tradition, yet distinct from music that would have been made anywhere but in Quebec. It is hard to pinpoint the distinctive regional features — it is in Derome's humour, in his fascination with language, and in a certain outsider's perspective that shines through.
If there was one recording that I'd want American listeners to hear so they might reach a better understanding of the diversity of improvised music here, this might be it.