35th edition of the 2014 Montreal
International Jazz Festival, the Vincent Rehel concert
was by far and away my first pick in the pleasant surprise category,
in part because he was joined by the very gifted singer/guitarist
the very first piercing, aching organ notes that sounded like
they had been subjected to unspeakable crimes and punishment,
was transformed into a confessional and its captive audience brought
to its knees by music that stuck to the skin like sap.
somewhere in the world there is a place deficient in gravity whose
sole inhabitant can see the ground but cannot touch it. This is
where Vincent Rehel was born and has spent his entire life trying
shape (obliterate) his destiny, and attain to a place that is
always just out of reach. Every composition, every solo is a variation
on this epic struggle – man against his predicament, his
predilections -- and no matter what he does, he is unable to escape
who he is and life circumstances not of his choosing. His album,
Images du Lendemain (Images of the Following Day) is
a record, an archive, a bearing witness, a blood count of the
energy and effort expended in refusing to abide by the imperatives
successful artist is one who is able to make his art equal to
his demons and torment, Vincent Rehel has succeeded by any measure.
The ground that eludes him is reconfigured as music that becomes
the place he calls home, where home is safe harbour, hallowed
ground, a domain reserved for those for whom the language of music
knows no eclipse.
that issue from the instrument that is his heart vacillate from
the ghostly to the macabre to the outright psychotic. His notes
occupy space as if they have been scalded in steam, or spent the
night staring at Edvard Munch’s “The Scream.”
The rendering is his self-portrait; the brutal chord sequences
and runaway improvisations expansive to bursting one moment and
paralyzing the next. We’re not sure if the composer is offering
or begging for a blood transfusion. A Vincent Rehel away from
his music for three days is a dangerous proposition for the world.
We dare not ask what is turning on his spit because we know what
turns in his mind is vividly, vitally, consummately conceived
music that is out of this world in such a way that it brings us
closer to it.
Rehel has listened to his Zappa (200 Motels) and has
been brought to tears by Mahler’s adagios. From his 2013
CD, the tracks “La Chapelle” and “Images of
Tomorrow” combine what is signature in the Rehel concept:
jazz and chamber music mixed to unmask a composer whose relationship
with the world is both a vendetta and a rite of sacrifice. In
the middle sections of both tracks, Rehel’s organ and the
bass and drum fall silent, leaving the sound to either a trio
of orphan voices or the cello and violins, a single tragic timbre
transmuted into liquid, a gigantic tear that has nowhere to go.
As the sustained note writhes in anguish, Rehel listens, transfixed,
immobilized, a corpse on a cross, head thrown back beseeching
an invisible god to slit his jugular, not to bid adieu to ‘the
beautiful life’ but because his muse feeds on blood.
last half of the concert, he was joined by one of Quebec’s
most gifted artists, singer sans égal, guitarist
par excellence à la Badi Assad ( a well kept secret)
-- the incomparable Diane Tell. Her voice has never been richer
(think Carmen McCrea) and now that she’s been there, seen
it all, mostly in France, we salute Vincent Rehel for persuading
her to return to Quebec and tell. Half way through her first song
I thought to myself it’s time for Tell to put out a CD of
standards in the language of her choosing.
to the festival programmers' daring for showcasing a music that
falls outside every recognizable category, for whom jazz is just
one of many points of departure, and always an occasion to exhibit
portraits of the soul and solitudes of artists as Jung men.
CD emptor: Vincent Rehel is not to everyone’s taste.
After the release of Images du Lendemain, he was disowned
by his family, and I’ll be wearing a disguise until this
review blows over. But for those for whom music magically, cathartically
provides a sense of belonging, Rehel’s audaciously conceived,
oxygen-rich alternative worlds world are proof that the best answer
to pain is the act of creation, and that in the right hands music
fulfils this function like no other art.
is Rehel is for real.