CANAILLE performing as part of WAVELENGTH with THEOLOGY 3 and LOUWOP at Sneaky Dee's (431 College), Sunday (December 7), 9 pm. Pwyc ($5-$10 suggested). wavelengthtoronto.com.
One of the biggest challenges facing the improv music community is how to expand the audience beyond the close-knit cadre of players already involved.
Saxophonist Jeremy Strachan of Feuermusik notoriety didn't assemble a space jazz side project to solve this conundrum, but the groove-oriented sound of Canaille seems like a step in the right direction.
Also, performing shows with artists in other genres (as in Sunday's Wavelength bill boasting hip-hop poets Theology 3 and Louwop) can only help broaden the outreach.
"I wanted to put together a flexible group of musicians I'd been working with on other projects," says Strachan, "to focus on some catchier tunes that we could have a good time playing. I really liked some of Sun Ra's small and mid-sized band recordings from the late 50s and early 60s that were based on really strong melodies, so we started with my arrangements of a few of those songs, like Satellites Are Spinning and Love In Outer Space, maintaining a solid groove that would allow everyone to stretch out without getting too, er, abstract."
The inclusion of tenor saxophone scorcher Colin Fisher (of Sing That Yell That Spell) gives Strachan, who typically plays tenor with Feuermusik, the chance to get down on baritone sax and flute alongside Nick Buligan's enjoyably whimsical trumpet rips, while bassist Mike Smith (of Muskox) and drummer Brandon Valdivia make for a formidable rhythm section. It's a stacked lineup of serious players who've all earned considerable respect on the scene.
"I play with a lot of fantastic musicians and composers who are very, very serious about every aspect of what they do and how it's perceived. Not that I'm saying that's a bad thing, but with Canaille we didn't want to take ourselves too seriously.
"Many people feel alienated by the sort of intensely introspective improvising that goes on, which is why I feel it's important that we keep our songs fairly short, with strong groove-orientation, in hopes of connecting with an audience who might not normally go out to see improv. Having fun with this music is a huge part of what we do."