Since Montreal's bustling post-war heydays of live entertainment, local jazz musicians and entrepreneurs have continually found creative ways to present the music. No strangers to the concert production business, Effendi Records' founders, bassist Alain Bédard and vocalist Carole Therrien, created the JazzLab project to actively promote their expanding roster and brand (which has recently coalesced into a distinct visual identity). Initially conceived as a live concept in 2002, the tandem released Réunion
in 2004. The formula, while quite simple, is innovative: eight varying composers/instrumentalists signed or associated to the label are commissioned works that are to be recorded and played in events, often organized by the label, hence the LABoratory sobriquet.
A shroud of mystery surrounds the title track's melody. Composed by tenorist Frank Lozano, it superimposes whimsical themes and lines over an eerie-sounding ostinato into a film noir-like soundtrack and doubled with an intense soprano solo. "Contour, with its 11/8 bass line, up-tempo piano solo and various time signatures changes, eloquently demonstrates the tightness of the unit's horns section.
Pianist John Roney's "Third Degree, a rhythmically inventive head with time-feel changes and a half-time backbeat ending, features Lozano and trombonist Richard Gagnon's soloing over minor blues changes. The more straight-ahead theme of altoist and Steve Coleman devotee Rémi Bolduc's "Song For Joe fits well with the swinging hard bop side of the unit. Bolduc's adventurous and much-praised playing has seen him perform alongside such heavyweights as Kenny Werner, Marc Johnson and Ben Monder.
Overall, the collective, while stylistically very different than akin ensembles Egea Orchestra and GRP All-Stars, fares well notwithstanding its heterogeneous artistic direction.