Alex Lefaivre Quartet: YUL
It’s an axiom of jazz that any piece is fundamentally determined by the personnel performing it. One particularly good instantiation of that principle is YUL, an eight-track set of modern jazz written by Parc X Trio member Alex Lefaivre and performed by the electric bassist with alto saxophonist Erik Hove, guitarist Nicolas Ferron, and drummer Mark Nelson. Conceived as a love letter of sorts to Montreal (the title of the album, which was recorded on January 18, 2018 at the Boutique du Son studio, references the city’s airport code), the release draws for inspiration from Lefaivre’s beloved home town, a city celebrated for its beauty and cultural vitality; renowned for its annual jazz festival, Montreal attracts musicians from far and wide, many of whom decide to stay after savouring its abundant charms.
As occurs in the largely laid-back opener “The Righteous,” Hove is often the one voicing the theme, which allows the others greater latitude to rally around him with freer expressions. Ferron sometimes pairs with him to state the melody but as often circles around it, imaginatively riffing off the changes as Lefaivre and Nelson similarly hew to the compositional frame whilst also treating it elastically. Roles switch between the four with seeming ease, with one or two providing a foundation for the freer playing of the others, and solos are democratically distributed, Lefaivre taking his share but not overshadowing the others. As the episodic powerhouse “The Juggernaut” so effectively illustrates, YUL‘s music impresses as the creative spawn of a multi-limbed unit rather than with a single player leading the charge. The fluidity of the quartet’s playing is evident throughout, but perhaps never more appealingly than during “Skyline.”
Considerable contrasts are evident, with some pieces ballad-like (“Nostalgia”) and others fiery (“Cascade”). Lefaivre largely eschews breakneck tempos, which allows the listener to better appreciate the interactions in play. In some cases, marked fluctuations in dynamics occur within a single piece, such that “Estelle,” for example, alternates between ponderous and energized episodes. YUL favours a jazz style more connected to instrumental rock and fusion than traditional swing, though the quartet’s playing isn’t characterized by the rawness associated with rock, each of the four opting for a refined, distortion-free attack that’s easy on the ears. That doesn’t mean, however, that the group isn’t capable of generating heat when the material calls for it.
In an inspired move, the album’s sole cover isn’t something on the order of “All the Things You Are” (not that that would be objectionable, necessarily) but rather a treatment of John Carpenter’s “Halloween,” its theme originating from his cult-classic 1978 horror movie. Naturally ominous in tone, the material unfolds methodically, with Hove and Ferron initially anchoring the performance by focusing on the melody as Nelson extemporizes liberally. The scene set, the saxophonist departs from a straight voicing of the theme for an explorative solo, which the guitarist matches in his own expansive turn moments later.
There’s a very specific synergy and chemistry that arises in the interactions between the four individuals on YUL. Had any one of them been substituted by another musician playing the same instrument, the album result would have been significantly different in character. As strong as Lefaivre’s compositions are, melodically and otherwise, it’s their realization by this particular foursome that is the greatest difference-maker.
Canadian bassist Alex Lefaivre creates a series of impressionistic landscapes with his pastel-toned team of Erik Hove/as, Nicolas Ferron/g and Mark Nelson/dr. Lefaivre’s pen is as subtle as his bass, creating reflective material for Hove’s fluffy alto to float like a cirrus cloud during gentle material such as “Nostalgia” the reflective “The Righteous” and contemplative title track. The team shows muscle as Lefaivre’s bass line digs a trench on the mechanically pulsed “The Juggernaut” while he leads the tender dance for Ferron’s guitar on “Cascade.” Nelson’s brushes are dainty on the subdued “Halloween” with the overall mood being as reflective as a stroll in Givenchy Gardens.
Montreal Bassist Alex Lefaivre Debuts New Quartet (Stream)
email@example.com / @helaryousMontreal, aside from hosting the world’s largest jazz festival, also harbors, like many other cities, a small yet resilient community of local musicians whose passion for jazz keeps the music alive all year long. One of the more notable figures of this scene is bassist Alex Lefaivre, member of the Parc X Trio, one of the city’s well-established bands, and founding member of Multiple Chord Music (MCM), an independent jazz label that currently holds 19 artists on its roster and has released over 30 recordings. As if that wasn’t enough, Lefaivre will be releasing YUL tomorrow, the debut album of his new quartet featuring Greg Osby disciple Erik Hove on alto saxophone, Nicolas Ferron on guitar, and Mark Nelson on drums.Taking its name from Montreal’s airport code, YUL takes the listener on a cinematic trip through the city, where dreamy, hazy summer vibes are intertwined with a gritty, metropolitan edge. “I’ve always loved Montreal, and I feel incredibly lucky to be a part of its vibrant culture. There is a particular kind of creative energy here that I have yet to see anywhere else. It’s no surprise that artists from all around the globe flock here to push themselves and their craft, all while enjoying a certain joie de vivre inspired by the city’s French roots. This record is inspired by the city I grew up in and still choose to live in. I’ve spent many years walking and driving through its streets, riding its buses and subways, finding my muse in all of its nooks and crannies”, says Lefaivre.Like the city it’s inspired by, YUL is a pleasantly laid-back opus, a perfect soundtrack for the blazing summer we’re having. Demonstrating a tremendous amount of maturity and confidence, the band can rest assured that they have done our city proud. You can stream “The Righteous”, the lead single from YUL below. The album drops tomorrow and can be purchased via Bandcamp.
We are very proud to annonce a new projet of ours. A lot of great, independent music was made in Montreal in the 90’s and early 00’s on smaller labels. When the physical distributers such as Fusion III went bankrupt, a lot of that music was lost along the way. We are hoping to re-release a lot of those gems in digital format and make them available for all to hear.
Our first candidate is Michael Alexander Gauthier/ Mike Gauthier Jazz. We will re-release his two records, First Installement (1995) and Reflections in Blue (2000). They will be soon be available worldwide on all available online platforms.
For now, enjoy Galilee on Youtube.