Monicker

Roger Turner (drums, London) has been playing, touring, and recording with countless other stellar musicians since the early seventies. Arthur Bull (guitar, Digby Neck, NS) has been playing, touring, and recording with countless other stellar musicians since the mid-seventies. Scott Thomson (trombone, Montreal) was born in the mid-seventies and has been playing, touring, and recording with countless other stellar musicians only during this millenium. It is a new trio founded on Arthur and Roger’s experience playing as a duo, and Scott’s November 2017 residency in Halifax through suddenlyListen, where he joined them. Monicker music has been and will be improvised. The trio released its first record, Spine (Ambiances Magnétiques 246), in late 2018, and its second record, Libr’aerie (Bug Incision), in early 2020.

Read Stuart Broomer’s glowing review of Spine.

Among [Arthur] Bull’s international associations is one formed in 2002 with drummer Roger Turner, a charter member of the British school of free improvisation. Turner’s sometimes machine-like approach can be traced directly to an early appreciation of the brilliant precision of Dave Tough, the drummer who propelled the rise of Chicago jazz over 90 years ago. Anyone who imagines free improvisation to be somehow vague in its contours simply hasn’t heard Roger Turner. In 2018 Bull and Turner expanded their duo with the addition of trombonist Scott Thomson for a tour (as Monicker) that stretched from Southern Ontario to Nova Scotia.

No blow-by-blow description could do justice to Spine: the music is mercurial, each of the CD’s six tracks a continuum of shifting, permutating relationships and voices, much of it conducted at incredible speed, from Thomson’s burbling register leaps and runs, squeezed through a metal mute, to Turner’s high-pitched clatter. Bull’s voices range from long, wandering bass glissandi to high-speed flurries of metallic scattershot, liable to be confused with some of Thomson and Turner’s own voicings; but the very determination with which the three proceed soon destroys any identikit game of ‘he said, he said’ with a conclusive ‘When was that?’ It’s a high-water mark in Canadian free improvisation.”

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Here is a good video from June 2018 in Québec at La librarie St-Jean-Baptiste, a tiny, wonderful venue where Roger could only fit a snare drum and cymbals. A recording of this concert became the 2020 Bug Incision release, Libr’aerie.

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Mike Chamberlain reviewed Monicker’s set, June 2018, at the Suoni per il Popolo Festival, Montreal, in All About Jazz:

“The improvised music part of the festival concluded with Monicker, the trio of percussionist extraordinaire Roger Turner, trombonist Scott Thomson, and guitarist Arthur Bull. Turner was brilliant, the musical ideas seeming to simply fly out of the man, offering a stern challenge to Thomson and Bull, who responded with lines that were more complementary than directly confrontational.”

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Marc Chénard reviewed the same set in La Scena Musicale:

Monicker Trio était la résultat d’une rencontre assez nouvelle et très complice entre deux Canadiens (le tromboniste montréalais Scott Thomson et le guitariste Arthur Bull de la Nouvelle-Écosse) et le vétéran batteur britannique Roger Turner, Reconnu comme un improvisateur pur et dur de la première heure, ce dernier a pourtant un sens aigu du rythme et de la pulsation, tenant par moment des tempos fébriles sur l’une de ses cymbales. Pour un percussionniste, Turner est doué d’une rare qualité, soit de ne jamais piocher sur ses tambours en les jouant à toute vitesse, sa frappe très sèche lui permettant de contrôler sa dynamique. Le guitariste, de son côté, avec son instrument de taille réduite, s’inscrit dans la lignée des émules de cet autre radical anglo-saxon, Derek Bailey, autant par son jeu fracturé que par son refus de triturer ses phrases avec toutes sortes d’effets électroniques. Le tromboniste, enfin, gloussait sur sa coulisse, pétrissant son son avec différentes sourdines. À l’écoute, chaque musicien semblait s’endiguer dans son propre chemin, tracé non pas à l’encontre des autres mais en parallèle, d’où l’impression d’une singulière cohésion au sein de l’ensemble.”