Montreal composer / multi-reedist Philippe Côté has joined great pianist Marc Copland and the Saguenay String Quartet on two new recordings, “The Bell Tolls Variations” and “Fleur Revisited”. The music will be released on November 5.
“Variation, recomposition, different points of view, respect for original ideas while researching my own material, and also finding other angles and layers of meaning in my own work: these are all central themes in creation. of this project, ”said Côté. Playing the soprano saxophone and bass clarinet, Côté joins forces with Copland on these two evocative multi-movement suites, navigating the orchestrations involved in Côté and undertaking daring improvised flights in synergy with the members of the Saguenay String Quartet (formerly Alcan Quartet).
“We recorded at Domaine Forget,” said Côté, “a beautiful venue in the Charlevoix region of Quebec, enjoying its excellent acoustics and fantastic Steinway concert grand piano. “
And who better than Marc Copland to occupy the piano chair of Côté’s inventive variations on the pianist’s “The Bell Tolls”. Copland recorded this piece in 2009 with bassist Drew Gress and drummer Bill Stewart for the album “Night Whispers: New York Trio Recordings, Vol. 3. “
“One of the things I love about Marc’s compositions is that they are very harmonically rich,” Côté said. “These harmonies are often polytonal, juxtaposing two simple elements to create complexity. ‘The Bell Tolls’ is like that. My idea was to take this musical object and highlight different elements of it, while adding as little of myself as possible – only illuminating certain areas of Marc’s original piece. There is a life / death element, also clear / dark, a sense of oneness that could be linked to the poem by John Donne and the novel by Ernest Hemingway which I think the inspiration comes from.
Côté first recorded “La Fleur et La Roche” with a 13-piece wind ensemble and a jazz rhythm section for his Mythology album “Lungta” in 2016 (with David Binney, the album’s producer, as Leading soloist on alto saxophone alongside Côté on tenor.
“The goal was to use 12-tone rows and try to make the most beautiful music with that intellectual / rational starting point,” Côté said. “The image in my mind was a flower growing on a rock in a very harsh environment.”
One of the movements “Fleur Revisited”, “Circadia”, appeared for the first time under the title “Fleur Variation 3” on “Twisting Ways: The Music of David Braid and Philippe Côté”, a collaboration in 2021 with the pianist Braid and the Winnipeg Jazz Orchestra.
Whether on soprano clarinet or bass clarinet with its darker chamber tone, Côté’s voice is eloquent and melodic, on par with Copland’s ruminating presence on the piano.
“I’m a listener first and a music lover and a musician second,” Côté said, “and I’ve been a fan of Marc for a long time, long before I studied with him for about 10 months in 2007. The Bell Tolls’ myself, I found a few triads that steered me towards something more classic. But I didn’t want the strings, sax, and piano playing together all the time. Everyone has their moment in different combinations until they come together at the end for “The Bond”. All the extra-musical layers of meaning were more subconscious, and I’m still amazed how they end up in the job without trying.
Côté is currently completing a doctorate under the supervision of John Hollenbeck at McGill University; he is also the coordinator of the jazz program at the McGill Conservatory, which is part of the university’s community school. He has received numerous awards including grants from the Canada Council for the Arts and the Conseil des arts et des lettres du Québec, composing for orchestras and chamber ensembles such as the Orchester national de Jazz de Montréal, the Winnipeg Jazz Orchestra. and the Paramirabo Ensemble.