What? You don’t know the Augustus Quartet? Yet, this Montreal jazz band of flexible numbers has been around for 23 years! And now, this spring, they’re presenting their sixth album. From one album to the next, the only common denominator for Auguste is the unfailing presence of respected double bassist Alain Bédard – him again! – who also composes most of the material and chooses a mysterious title in Latin for almost every opus, including this one (in all contrast), Exalta Calma.
This is yet another demonstration of the sacred sense of humour that binds these artists together under the banner of Effendi records. Contrary to the label’s reputation, which too often has a too-serious, even hermetic or cerebral jazz inclination, the menu of this new volume features compositions with contemporary and resolutely elaborate structures, but all inspired by rather zany characters and places, such as “Pou Titi”, “La méli-mélo”, “Queen Ketchup”, “La chaneleone” (dedicated to a formidable seductress) or “Debout au bout du Bout-du-Banc”, which evokes the sky and sea of the Magdalen Islands.
Of particular note is the presence of drummer Michel Lambert, a veteran who has worked with Auguste before, and the joint participation of two great jazzmen who have distinguished themselves on the local scene. First, alto saxophonist and soprano Mario Allard, blowing to heart’s content, and, to freshen things up, the now indispensable Swiss pianist Félix Stüssi. These friends met again – still with Bédard as a pillar – in Jazzlab Orchestra for the excellent album Quintessence. This didn’t prevent them from simultaneously delivering projects that were close to their hearts, such as the solo album Diaporama for Allard and the Supernova 4, in which Félix plays D’Artagnan with the three musketeers Derome, Guilbeault, and Tanguay, the super trio.
Recorded last summer at Piccolo, this collection of new and open music by the venerable AQ ends with “Insomnia”, a slice of suspense worthy of a film noir that makes us want to say, “Don’t give up, guys!”