François Houle 5 + 1

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A milestone in the musical journey of clarinetist-composer François Houle. Solos by cornetist Taylor Ho Bynum and trombonist Samuel Blaser weave through the unique voicings of pianist Benoît Delbecq in a set of dazzlingly inventive chamber jazz compositions.
– Mark Werlin, HRAudio & NativeDSD Reviewer

One of Canada’s premier contemporary classical clarinetists, François Houle is equally a virtuosic and original avant-jazz improviser and notable composer.

François Houle 5 + 1 (now known as the Genera Sextet) consists of outstanding international leaders in jazz/creative music, including New York based Canadians Michael Bates and Harris Eisenstadt, Swiss trombonist Samuel Blaser, and Braxton associate Taylor Ho Bynum.

“The lineup was very crucial, as I wanted to explore colors and varied instrumental combinations while retaining a classic jazz sound. I also desired to have strong idiosyncratic voices in each chair of the band so that the compositions would be designed for the players’ personalities, coming to life in a kind of Ellingtonian way.” The group coalesces in an intense and moving collaboration that balances spontaneous exploration and disciplined ensemble, dense textures and spare, off-kilter lyricism.

From one angle this is as much of a jazz record as Houle’s beautiful 1998 John Carter tribute In the Vernacular; from another it brings together his classical music interests with free improv. The common factor is a keen awareness of 20th century music in its various manifestations and a fascination with the structure and organization of sound in both composition and improvisation. “I’ve been very influenced by the music of John Carter and Steve Lacy, primarily because of their mastery of orchestration in small groupings. Jimmy Giuffre would be another important influential figure in terms of orchestration. I’ve always been seduced by a kind of composition that makes full use of instrumental colors: Stravinsky, Prokofiev, Elliott Carter, Ligeti, Xenakis. In the jazz arena I would be attracted to the more colorful approaches of Gil Evans, Toshiko Akiyoshi, Bob Brookmeyer. I wanted my new band to have that kind of versatility, but with the writing focusing on instrumental combinations at the micro level.” An example of these ideas is how Benoît Delbecq’s piano sounds combine progressively with the other instruments in “Piano Loop (for BD).”

“My ideas always come from a musical standpoint, putting tones, pitches or rhythms together. How I process these ideas, however, borrows from many sources, including art, literature, architecture, mathematics, science. For example, I am very much into neuroplasticity, new understandings of how our cognitive functions adapt to our environment, and also how we perceive time. This knowledge inspires a different way of looking at our relationships to sound and rhythm. A good example is found in “Concombre I,” where all the lines are derived from the main melody in the clarinet, except that for each of the other parts I stretch the rhythm values incrementally. The end result is a strange diatonic counterpoint producing a very potent mood.

“Most of the compositions on this record started from a sound, a small of group of sounds, or a rhythmic cell. So the intent, feeling, mood of the compositions are already present at the start. It was really important for me to realize and construct ideas from an evocative primary state. I called the album Genera to express this idea of a genetic code that is present from the very beginning of the creative process….Ultimately, you want your playing to be in line with an inner purpose, be it raw or sweet. Your job as a musician is to tap into these potentials via sounds. You become a vehicle for something that is intrinsically a human experience. At least that is what I sense when I hear great music making. It always seems to come from a very deep place. If I can walk the fine line between virtuosity and expressivity, then I shouldn’t be too far off my ideal of what music means to me personally.”

François Houle 5 + 1
François Houle, clarinets, compositions
Taylor Ho Bynum, cornet, flugelhorn
Samuel Blaser, trombone
Michael Bates, bass
Harris Eisenstadt, drums
Special Guest: Benoît Delbecq, piano, electronics


Please note that the below previews are loaded as 44.1 kHz / 16 bit.
Le Concombre de Chicoutimi I
Essay 7
Le Concombre de Chicoutimi II
Old Paradigm
Piano Loop for BD
Punctum II
Sulfur Dude
Mu-Turn Revisited

Total time: 00:55:26

Additional information





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Graemme Brown at Zen Mastering


John Raham at Afterlife, Vancouver BC.


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Original Recording Format

Recording Engineer

David Darlington

Recording Location

Recorded at Water Music, Hoboken NJ., March 23, 2012.

Release DateJune 14, 2024

Press reviews

All About Jazz

Celebrated Canadian progressive jazz clarinetist Francois Houle enlists an all-star support system for a comprehensive album that radiates numerous slants amid ethereal backwashes, scrappy improvisation and softly explorative passages.

Signal to Noise

Houle’s Gil Evans influences can easily be felt in the ensemble writing, making this sextet sound like an even larger group. Genera is a challenging and bracing listen, which always stays on the side of tonality and lyricism even in the freer moments.

Point of Departure

While the ensemble at first seems as though it would be closer to unfurling expansive open-form music with hints of post-bop, especially judging from the pedigrees of Bynum, Eisenstadt and Blaser, Houle’s compositions both play to the chosen musicians’ strengths as well as getting his own structural interests across….Genera is a very fine record that displays excellently Houle’s writing and the ability of his chosen ensemble to both strut their stuff and express composed vision, and is well worth investigating – especially for those unfamiliar with his work.


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