Surely this isn't a Christmas recording released at the height of summer, you ask? Not a homage to the great Yul Brynner either? No, the title in question is less obvious and thankfully more interesting than that. Its appeal is a subtle kind, which is well suited to Alex Lefaivre's supportive sensibility as bassist. His strengths lie mainly in ideas, sketching out mood-evoking compositions, choosing effective bandmates and holding it all together at the centernot that he isn't also capable of a tasteful solo or two when the time is right.
YUL's title actually comes from Montreal's airport code, and the recording conveys LeFaivre's picture of his neighborhood in classy style. The pieces often rest somewhere between bop and balladry, largely groove-based with plenty of space for the group to stretch and play. Erik Hove gets the most prominent moments on saxophone, while Nicolas Ferron's guitar evokes the smooth tone of Grant Green, alternately weaving alongside Hove's nimble leads and hanging back in the rhythm-anchor role alongside LeFaivre's syrupy electric lines. It would be missing the point to think of them as frontline or back line on a session like this anyway.
Rather, these pieces are mainly about creating a mood: often smoky and urbane, though sometimes with a left-field jolt (as in the wild, on-the-edge capering of the "Halloween" movie theme early on). "Cascade" also finds the group building to a collective clatter befitting its title, while most of the affair finds them content to groove along and explore each piece's mood together. For those who've never been to Montreal, this glimpse of its urban nightlife is a classy and compelling taste.
The Righteous; Halloween; Estelle; The Juggernaut; Nostalgia; Skyline; Cascade; YUL
Erik Hove: Alto Saxophone; Nicolas Ferron: Guitar; Mark Nelson: drums; Alex Lefaivre: bass