Live 89

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Miriodor fans should be grateful that the ProgQuébec label unearthed these vintage recordings of the band performing live in Montreal and in France during, you guessed it, 1989 (although there is also one errant track recorded in Quebec during 1987, so that, strictly speaking, the CD title isn't 100 percent accurate). Fully two decades had passed before these tracks saw the light of day in 2009, but it was worth the wait -- all aspects of Live 89 are of high quality, including the soundboard mixes with absolutely no audience noise whatsoever (were audiences even there?). Fans of latter-day Miriodor hotshot guitarist Bernard Falaise will not find him here (or, for that matter, bassist/keyboardist Nicolas Masino, saxophonist Marie-Chantal Leclair, violinist Marie-Soleil Bélanger, or any of the other various "guests" who have appeared on Miriodor discs during the '90s and 2000s); instead, this is the late-'80s trio of keyboardist Pascal Globensky (the group's only original player from its founding to this day), drummer Rémi Leclerc (aboard nearly as long as Globensky), and saxophonist Sabin Hudon (who eased out the door following Falaise's arrival in the mid-'90s). That said, the sound of Miriodor at this stage -- even live, as this set ably proves -- was often far from that of your "typical" sax/keyboards/drums trio. Miriodor in 1987-1989 may have been only half the size of the sextet lineup (also featuring Globensky, Leclerc, and Hudon) from a few years earlier in the decade, but their use of MIDI technology, sequencing, and even on-stage cassettes enabled them to retain a penchant for complex arrangements, even in concert, where the trio members played synthesizers and triggered sequencers in addition to their "main" instruments.

The music here includes material that had appeared on the band's eponymously titled Cuneiform label debut, two pieces ("Cortège," "Entreperçu") that would show up later on 3rd Warning (3è Avertissement), and a handful of pieces -- nearly half the disc, in fact -- unheard until now. The plundering-army-on-the-march midsection of "Cortège" (Procession) sounds like there are a few additional musicians crammed on-stage, and the same holds true on other tracks as well (as when Leclerc triggers horn sequences in real time while simultaneously playing drums on the hard-driving "Suspicion"). Yet even during those portions of the album when Miriodor sound only like a three-piece, their contrapuntal writing, multi-sectioned compositions, and inventive voicings (not to mention crickets chirping, wolves howling, and crows cawing on the spoken word "La Triste Histoire d'un Laitier" [A Milkman's Adventure]) still keep the listener wondering what will happen next. One of the disc's biggest revelations is Hudon, whose playing is uniformly robust and powerful, comparatively on fire when contrasted with his performances on the now out of print studio discs of the time (not that he displayed any weakness on them). On occasion here, Hudon even plays two saxes simultaneously, Rahsaan Roland Kirk or Thomas Chapin style. His assertive tone, near "sheets of sound" approach, and yes, wild whinnying on the opening "Cheval Fou" (Demented Horse) could have endeared him to avant jazz listeners who wouldn't otherwise stray anywhere near "prog rock," and his soprano work on the closing "À Bout de Souffle" (appropriately, Breathless) nearly approaches Evan Parker circular breathing territory (whether Hudon is technologically enhanced or not). As always, Leclerc's drumming is crisp, uncluttered, powerful, and filled with idiosyncratic touches. But ultimately, then as now, one must credit Globensky for providing much of what might define a Miriodor "sound" -- the uncanny combination of writing, playing, and pure sonic exploration that has always made Miriodor utterly unique.

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