I assembled The Rent toward the end of 2007 as an instrumental quartet (with Brandon Valdivia originally on drums) to research the music of Steve Lacy. By the autumn of 2008, Susanna Hood had joined the group, which held its first two-month residency at the old Somewhere There in Toronto. The group continued to perform regularly throughout 2009, as I continued to collect and transcribe Lacy material from various sources and arrange it for the band. Brandon left Canada during the winter of 2009-10 and Nick Fraser replaced him on drums for The Rent’s second two-month residency at Somewhere There as well as the group’s first studio recording in January 2010. This recording, produced by me and Jean Martin, was released in May 2010 on Ambiences Magnétiques as The Rent: Musique de Steve Lacy (AM 197), featuring cover art by my friend, John Heward, who was also Steve Lacy’s friend.
The Ambiences Magnétiques site has disc information, audio samples, a compilation of reviews, and the means to buy the record online.
Since the record was released, The Rent continued to play regularly until 2012, including a few festival dates, and to develop its Steve Lacy repertoire. In addition, I wrote a book of songs for the group, settings of poetry that I admire, much as Lacy did. In particular, I composed a suite of songs based on poems by P.K. Page, which became a fairly regular feature of concerts by The Rent. (This suite, The Muted Note, is now the primary repertoire of The Disguises, my Montreal quintet.)
In addition to concerts by The Rent, I play in a trio with Susanna and Kyle that we call The Open, a more ‘chamber’ context in which to explore Lacy material, and one where Susanna’s extraordinary dance improvisations are given a more prominent role. In particular, The Open has focused on Lacy’s “Tips,” a suite of song fragments based on aphorisms from the notebooks of Georges Braque, and which is written for voice and two horns. As an outcropping of this group’s work, Susanna led a separate project to investigate how choreography can mirror how fixed song material can be improvised on by musicians, using “Tips” as a case study. This research by The Open plus Christine Duncan (voice) and Alanna Kraaijeveld (dance) was presented (minus Christine) in a workshop at the 2011 Guelph Jazz Festival. A video of this workshop is available here.
The Rent and The Open have been on hiatus but could easily come together and would love to play in your city; please contact me if you would like to make this happen.
There is an interview by Ted Harms with Scott Thomson and Susanna Hood about The Rent in a 2012 issue of Eartrip Magazine.