Clarinetist François Houle has established himself as one of today’s most inventive musicians, in all of the diverse musical spheres he embraces: classical, jazz, new music, improvised music, and world music. Twice listed by Downbeat magazine as a “Talent Deserving Wider Recognition” and was hailed as a “Rising Star” in Downbeat’s  Critics’ Poll. He has released more than a dozen recordings, earning multiple Juno Award and West Coast Music Award nominations.
François’ clarinet pImage Yitzhak Francois from Chris Ruhle publicistlaying transcends the stylistic borders normally associated with his instrument. Check out the video and you'll hear what I mean. Inspired by musical innovators such as Steve Lacy, John Carter, William O. Smith and Evan Parker, he has developed a unique improvisational language, virtuosic and rich with sonic embellishment and technical extensions.
 JK: What drew you to the clarinet?

FH: My parents were big bands fans. They loved dancing to Glen Miller, Artie Shaw, Woody Hermann, but most of all Benny Goodman. As many band leaders were clarinetists, they got me a clarinet at a very young age and I never looked back! I also had a teacher in my hometown of Châteauguay, just southwest of Montreal, who really inspired me by teaching me scales and chords, classical repertoire and big band playing. His name was René Aubin. He ran a big band, played the dine-and-dance club in town on Saturday nights, and organized the music for church services on Sunday mornings. He played alto sax like Johnny Hodges and clarinet like Artie Shaw! Beautiful player, and a real father figure to me.  I loved playing the instrument from the get go, with huge curiosity about what it could sound like, how it worked, how it was built. I was always fascinate by its rich history, and how it became the go to instrument in Dixieland, Swing, and Jazz over several decades.

JK: As a performer who is obviously at home in many different genre styles, do you get something different out of each type of genre, or is there a common thread?

H: Yes I do, of course! There is something to be gained that is very distinct with the different genres of music I’m interested in. The obvious focal point for me is the instrument, in all its varieties of shapes, fro Persian Guaranay to Sicilian Launeddas, Macedonian and Azerbajian instruments. I play a Backun clarinet, which is made a few minutes away from my home in Vancouver, Canada. It is the go to instrument these days. Riccardo Morales of the Philadelphia Orchestra endorses them, as well as jazz great Eddy Daniels. Fantastic instrument! That is basically one the common threads. The other being creativity. In all the genres I embraced, I look for the unusual in music. Little elements that speak to the craftsmanship and the innovative mind behind the music. How did Jimmy Giuffre come up with compositions like “Jesus Maria”, or John Carter with “On a Country Road”, Ab Baars with “Faded Yellow”. When performing my music, I look at finding, unearthing these fledgling ideas that take you (and the listener) outside of yourself, into the world of imagination and creativity. In classical music it has to do with how you shape a written line. In improvised music it is about taking the notes on a journey. Regardless of the style, you have to have the ability to recognize those magical moments and capitalize on them.

JK: That was quite amazing technique on the youtube video, how do you achieve that kind of sound.  In particular with the trills (not sure if that is the right word to describe it), the breathing technique looks quite amazing.  Can you please tell us more about this? 

FH: Thank you! These little videos I made for people to see what is going on physically, in response to people having heard my CDs or live radio performances, wondering what the heck is going on! They are not trills on the video, but actually really fast cyclical patterns that unfold upon themselves in a quasi-organic way, sort of a descendant of John Coltrane’s “shetts of sound” approach. I circular breathe, something I learned by myself, but further refined by watching British saxopohnist Evan Parker, and the lengendary Launeddas player Luigi Lai. Like circular breathing, I aquired a number of techniques from various sources along the way. Multiphonics and double clarinet playing from Contemporary music and William O. Smith. Slap tonguing from listening to Ernie Cecceres (an early jazz clarinet and sax player from Chicago) and Burundi drummers!

JK: What other projects do you have in the pipeline?

FH: I am currently in Montreal performing and recording a piece by composer Gordon Fitzell for clarinet and chamber ensemble. I have two CDs to record in May, one of Canadian contemporary composers, and a second of Central and South American composers. I also plan to do a sequel to my first solo CD “Aerials” which is what I will be presenting in Australia for this upcoming tour, alongside performing Yitzhak Yedid’s wonderful “Myth of the Cave”. I am also composing a lot these days for many different, wide-ranging projects. While in Australia I will team up with Oliver Bown in Sydney to record improvisations with his computer system, which is, in my view, one of the most advanced AI set up for interaction. We met in Vancouver and did a performance at Simon Fraser Unversity, which was quite a revelation! Since I had already plan this Australia tour I asked him if he’d be into doing some recording session with me. So, I sort of saw this opportunity to do something quite new and fresh! I also keep a busy teaching and freelance schedule in Canada, along with seeking out touring opportunities around the world.

JK: Thanks so much and wishing you all the best for your Australian tour.

FRANCOIS HOULE – YITZHAK YEDID – Australian Tour – 2014
SYDNEY:  Wed 5 Feb – 7.30pm:
VJ's (North Shore Temple Emanuel) – 28 Chatswood Avenue,  Chatswood
François Houle and Yitzhak Yedid
First set: Yitzhak Yedid’s Myth of the Cave; Second set: New works for trio
CANBERRA:  Fri 7 Feb – 8.00pm:
SoundOut Festival Extended – Smiths Alternative Bookshop, 76 Alinga St Canberra City. ph: 02 6247 4459
François Houle
First set ‘Aerials’ solo; Second set with Psithurism Trio (John Porter, Rhys Butler, Richard Johnson; saxophones)
BRISBANE:  Sat 8 Feb – 8pm:
Brisbane Jazz Club – 1 Anne St Kangaroo Point
François Houle and Yitzhak Yedid
First set: Yitzhak Yedid’s Myth of the Cave; Second set: New works for trio
MELBOURNE:  Mon 10 Feb – 6pm:
Melbourne Recital Centre, The Salon – 31 Sturt St Southbank
François Houle and Yitzhak Yedid
tickets: Standard $38 – Concession $28
Yitzhak Yedid’s Myth of the Cave
More information on François Houle  
François has performed and recorded with Marilyn Crispell, Myra Melford, Ab Baars, Marc Dresser, Georg Gräwe, Joëlle Léandre, Evan Parker, Dave Douglas, Benoît Delbecq, and Michael Moore. By mastering each of the diverse musical genres he approaches, François demystifies music for his audiences, and has become known as one of today’s most engaging and stimulating musicians. François is on faculty at Vancouver Community College School of Music, and was Artistic Director of the Vancouver Creative Music Institute for five years.A special 10th anniversary performances of Yitzhak Yedid’s ‘Myth of the Cave’ and François Houle’s solo, trio and quartet
Two outstanding musicians and composers are featured in a series of ground breaking concerts in February this year. Renowned Canadian clarinetist François Houle is regarded as one of today’s most inventive virtuosos. Israeli born, Brisbane based Yitzhak Yedid is a master pianist and composer who has been awarded numerous international prizes for his work synthesizing jazz and contemporary classical music.
Houle and long-time collaborator Yedid will join forces with bass player Sam Pankhurst to perform Yedid’s stunning composition Myth of the Cave which Houle and Yedid recorded together over ten years ago for the German ‘between the lines’ label.
Houle, Yedid and Pankhurst will also be performing original new works. Houle will perform ‘Aerials’, a suite of solo works for clarinet, and will collaborate with three saxophonists in Canberra for a special, extended edition of the SoundOut Festival.  
Houle studied at McGill University, went on to win the National Debut competition, and completed his studies at Yale University.  He has been an artist-in-residence at the Banff Centre for the Arts and at the Civitella Ranieri Foundation in Umbria, Italy, and was a featured soloist in the International Clarinet Association’s 2007 and 2008 ClarinetFests.  He is a faculty member at the Vancouver Community College School of Music, and served as Artistic Director of the Vancouver Creative Music Institute from 2006 to 2010.  In 2008 he was appointed as “Associate Composer” of the Canadian Music Centre.
Yitzhak Yedid
Yitzhak Yedid has been acclaimed as one of the world’s leading composers of third stream music (Bailey, AAJ 2006). A master pianist and shrewd composer he has multiple awards to his name. In 2009 he received in Israel the Landau Prize For the Arts for his contribution to Jazz and in 2006 he was awarded the prestigious Israel Prime Minister’s Prize for Classical Composers. He also won first prize at the International Oud Festival in for his composition Oud Bass Piano Trio and the first prize for his solo harp work ‘Out to Infinity’ at the 17th International Harp Contest (regarded as the most important harp competition in the world). Yedid was awarded The Judith Wright Artist in Residence grant in 2009 and was a composer in residence at WAAPA in 2006.
American Jazz master Lee Konitz wrote about Yedid “To hear such a young man as you feeling the music so deeply is a very pleasant experience.” and Ake Holmquist (Norra Skåne, Sweden) wrote that “Yedid integrates specific stylistic influences into a personal created unity. The manner in which he describes folkloristic influences and melancholic specific themes can remind of Béla Bartók; improvisatory float of hovering à la Keith Jarret”.
Inspired by literature, philosophy, art and landscapes, Yedid’s compositions form a narrative of pictures, textures and colours. His music incorporates a wide spectrum of contemporary and ancient styles and creates a unique integration between jazz, Arabic genres and contemporary Western classical music. A confluence between the Maqamat (the Arabic music modal system), heterophonic textures of Arabic genres and compositional approaches of jazz and contemporary Western classical music have been created to produce an original sound.
Yitzhak Yedid has performed at the Carnegie Hall in New York and Jordan Hall in Boston. He has performed his compositions with many ensembles in festivals and venues across Europe, Canada, the USA, Asia and Africa. His music has received hundreds of reviews in the international media. Yedid has 12 international CDs, released by prestigious labels: Challenge Records International, Sony, -btl-, Muse, Naxos, Allegro, MCI, and Kaleidos.
Dr Yedid has been based in Australia teaching and mentoring university music students since 2005. Currently, Yedid lecturers jazz piano at the Griffith University Queensland Conservatorium.

Interview between Francoise Houle by Joanne Kee