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The ODD Jazz Quartet, as this Canadian group is also known, is not particularly strange about the way it plies its open-ended approach to jazz styles from funk to bop to free, all cleverly merged on Liberté 54which for some reason has only been released in Canada. The words "unusual" or "inventive" would better describe the music on this nine-track, fifty-minute album.
After a scintillating performance at last year's Montreal Jazz Festival, ODD won the festival's grand prize, which included cash money and studio time, utilized here in a most eager fashion. Jonathan Cayer's Fender Rhodes shares front line space with Jocelyn Auger's alto saxophone, though Cayer usually prefers to integrate himself within the rhythm section, providing accents and counterpoint to Martin Lavallée's peppery, versatile drumming.
On Auger's "Analytique," the quartet digs deep into a funky groove, exploring an angular theme atop a bedrock backbeat foundation. The next tune is jazzier and much dreamier, though not slow-paced, leaving holes and open ends throughout its conversational interplay. Bassist Mathieu Désy plays an important melodic role and seems to relish regular opportunities to bounce into the upper register to offer spontaneous reactions. It's fun to sit back and listen to the way the piece evolves over time through joint effort.
Meditational moments appear on Wes Montgomery's "Four on Six," which stays focused on melody and swing, without making any dramatic trips out. Similarly, Coltrane's "Naima" is like pure butter. The closing "Liberté 54" presents some heavy contrasts, exploring outer reaches of tone and attack, Auger getting right in your face more than a few times along the way.
Despite changes in pace, mood, and style, the overall vibe of Liberté 54 is one that optimistically celebrates possibilities. Rarely is music this charismatic and enticing, whatever the genre, but almost never can a group pull off such an articulate, coherent effort using such a rich breadth of material.