Culture | A musical feast

Cagibi improv series brings musicians together

Entering the back room of café Le Cagibi on a Tuesday evening is like stepping into a Narnia of sorts. In the warmly lit, inviting space, the audience leans forward to watch as a woman extracts different pitches from a futuristic-looking machine, while another musician coaxes new and foreign sounds from a saxophone. This is Mardi Spaghetti, the brainchild of curatorial quartet Josh Zubot, Philippe Lauzier, Pierre-Yves Martel, and Gordon Allen. All talented improvisational musicians themselves, the event’s curators seek to foster a comfortable, inspiring space in which different forms of improv music can find a home to grow and be shared with the local community.

Since this weekly improvisational music series began in March 2008, it has attracted close to 200 musicians to Cagibi’s stage. “A guy can show up with his guitar case one evening and end up playing the next week,” says Allen. Apart from the incredible local talent that Montreal has to offer, Mardi Spaghetti has also welcomed a number of musicians from far-flung locales like Norway and Mexico. The event’s participants play a diverse variety of music, ranging from jazz, noise, new music, and rock to sound art, dance, and more. Any and all musicians are encouraged to participate, with no restrictions in regard to musical training backgrounds, as long as they are interested in the spirit of improvisation. In this way, Mardi Spaghetti serves as a unifying forum for Montreal’s up-and-coming improv community, allowing musicians to interact and create music with one another. At Mardi Spaghetti, participants are given the opportunity to experiment and grow, to recreate traditional structures in music, and to surprise both themselves and fellow performers.

To beginners who have yet to explore improv music, Allen, a trumpet player, offers no clear definition of the form. Instead, he takes a moment to sip tea from a chipped Barbie mug, and says finally, with a hint of mystery, “Just come to Cagibi on Tuesday and find out for yourself.”

“Go more than once,” Martel advises newcomers. “Give it more than one chance.” Each week features a different set of performers, speaking different languages and with varying backgrounds, so that if one week isn’t quite your scene, visiting the next ensures that you’ll see something else completely new and distinctive.

Even the future ambitions of this weekly series take on an improvisational character. All of Mardi Spaghetti’s creators simply wish to “keep it going,” and ideally to become a regular fixture on Tuesday evenings.

So this Tuesday, get over the hump of the week with some good company and live music that literally has never been heard before. After all, Zubot says with a laugh, “Everybody likes spaghetti, right?”