Arthur Bull

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Guitarist Arthur Bull has been active sporadically on the Canadian free improvisation scene since the ‘70s. Much like his compatriot, pianist Al Neil, or the British guitarist Roger Smith, he has kept…
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Guitarist Arthur Bull has been active sporadically on the Canadian free improvisation scene since the ‘70s. Much like his compatriot, pianist Al Neil, or the British guitarist Roger Smith, he has kept a low profile and has remained cruelly underdocumented. His playing draws inspiration in Derek Bailey's musical vocabulary, with maybe a hint of folk or American roots music in the phrasing. Bull is also a poet, with three collections published in Canada and a translator from Chinese to English. In the early 2000s he was earning a living developing local resource management programs for fishing communities in Nova Scotia, Canada.

Bull's music career starts in Toronto where he was living when American free jazz and European Free Improvisation began to stir interest in Canadian musicians. He took an active part in the communities of artists active in the '70s and '80s, playing with the CCMC -- Toronto's longest-running free improv group -- Michael Snow, the Bill Smith Ensemble, the Paul Cram Ensemble, David Prentice, John Oswald, and Paul Dutton. He occasionally accompanied the spoken word/sound poetry quartet the Four Horsemen (Dutton, Rafael Barreto-Rivera, Steve McCaffery, and BP Nichol) and shared the stage with such luminaries as Derek Bailey and Roscoe Mitchell when they were in town.

In 1990 he moved to Sandy Cove, a small village of fishermen in Nova Scotia. Momentarily disheartened with music, he focused on his writing, publishing Hawthorn and Key to the Highway. In 1996 he hooked up with Daniel Heïkalo, another experimental guitarist -- this one from Montreal -- who had moved to the Maritime province a decade earlier and lived nearby. The duo has been playing regularly since 1999. The release of the CD Dérapages à Cordes on the label Ambiances Magnétiques in 2000 marked Bull's "comeback" to public music. A solo disc, Guitar Solo, followed in 2001 on his friend's imprint Heïkalo Sound Productions. In May of that year, the group appeared at the Festival International de Musique Actuelle de Victoriaville. In 2002 they performed at the Guelph Jazz Festival and Guitarévolution (Montréal).