Colin Stetson performing 'Sorrow' Coliseé A, Victoriaville QC, May 18

Colin Stetson performing 'Sorrow' Coliseé A, Victoriaville QC, May 18
Photo: Martin Morissette

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This was billed as Stetson leading an 11-piece band through his composition "Sorrow," but it opened with him doing a new solo piece for baritone sax, which was a monster. The baritone is a huge unwieldy instrument, and not many people can wrangle it, but Stetson made it look easy and blew an amazing solo, with fluid circular breathing, percussion via clapped tone holes and a buzzing dark roar that eventually coalesced into something that sounded like black metal.
 
There's no one except Mats Gustafsson who's currently handling a baritone with that gusto, and it was a great set-up for the gorgeous main course. Like Henry Gorecki's "Symphony #3," on which it's modeled, "Sorrow" was done in three movements with superb mezzo soprano vocals, and a stellar ensemble. The first movement in particular was a stone killer; playing a simple melodic line on bass clarinet, Stetson was joined by other instruments one by one until the air was filled with an incredible melodic pulse that gathered strength with each repetition. I couldn't figure out what text was used, but it sounded as beautifully dolorous as Gorecki's original piece — and that's saying something.