The Jazzlab Orchestra, formed in 2004 and based in Montreal, Canada, lies somewhere short of orchestra-size. It's actually an octetbut don't let that deter you; the unison passages are generally robust and pleasing. Jazzlab does play jazz of a sort, music that may best be described as contemporary cerebral. In other words, this is not akin to the Dave Pell
or Marty Paich
octets; it's more along the lines of Gunther Schuller
, Jan Garbarek
or William Russo
. But even though the music is complex and challenging, it is by no means "free jazz." Every player has a script to follow, and no one veers from it or dares intrude on anyone else's space.
Within those parameters, Jazzlab is a well-knit and technically polished unit that accomplishes its purpose quite well. Ensemble passages are letter-perfect, solos sharp and in keeping with the nature of the music. While soloists aren't named, that's a problem only with respect to the reeds, as the lone trumpet, trombone and members of the rhythm section are readily identified. As for the reeds, Mario Allard
, Benjamin Deschamps
and Samuel Blais
(we'll name them here) deliver several of the album's more captivating solos.
There is ample variety within the chosen framework, and instances wherein Jazzlab and soloists swing in the purest mainstream jazz tradition. This happens later in the session, starting with Track 4, "Bluesy del Lunedi," and lingers more or less through the remaining five numbers. Track 2, "Humor de la Seconda Noche...," does include some nice rhythms and interplay, while "Pum la Suite," which follows, is a waltz-like theme whose midstream change of pace leads to engaging solos by piano, trumpet and trombone. The opening number, "La Grande Sauve Majeure," is more esoteric and passes up several chances to end before finally doing so but only after hanging around for more than ten minutes.
All compositions and arrangements are by Auguste le Prez, who seizes momentum on the well-grooved "Bluesy del Lunedi" and sustains it for the most part through "Criucm," "Le Grain Banc," "Casse-pattes" (excellent work by drummer Michel Lambert
), "Lunes & Marees" and "Compte-rendu II" (which ends in mid- shout). In fact, the second half (or more) of the album leans more closely toward canonical jazz and should be of keener interest to those who prefer a more established and time-tested format. That is to say, the further into the album one delves, the more often its inherent jazz components are brought to light and the better Jazzlab sounds. And as a rule, that is very good indeed.
La Grande Sauve Majeure; Humor de la Seconda Noche…; Pum la Suite; Bluesy del
Lunedi; Criucm; Le Grain Blanc Dans les Voiles; Casse-pattes/case-guele/case-tete;
Lunes & Marees; Compte-rendu II.