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Jazz on Mars at the Cheval Blanc

Adam Kinner, The Gazette, 18 mars 2009

Of all the great breweries in Montréal, one of my favourite is the Cheval Blanc. Luckily all of us music lovers have an extra incentive to drink from the horn of plenty this month; le Cheval Blanc is hosting live jazz throughout the month of March.

This just after the bar expanded, buying the adjoining property and nearly doubling the space. If it lost some of the intimacy of the old Cheval, it made up for it in décor. The new space has a sort of John Waters vibe, with a big neon clock on the red velvet curtain behind the 50s-era stage, huge photos on the walls, and what seems to be the original diner-like panelling.

The music series, called Jazz sur Mars, brings some of the best avant-jazz bands to play every Tuesday (and occasionally Saturday). Last night featured Stuffy Turkey, a band dedicated to playing the compositions of Thelonious Monk. Monk, the genius pianist who famously molded jazz to mirror his own eccentric personality, deserves the treatment he got last night. Matana Roberts, the inimitable alto saxophonist from NYC, joined Montréalers Gordon Allen (trumpet), David Payant (drums) and Thierry Amar (acoustic bass) in a reckless and joyful ride through the topsy-turvy Monk compositions. At once playful, jagged, and violent, these tunes provide endless fodder for anyone committed to figuring them out. And it’s obvious that Stuffy Turkey has done just that.

Granted, Saint Patrick’s Day might not have been the best night for an acoustic jazz show at the bar. Some subtlety was lost under the din of Irish wannabes. But the mood was festive, as I’m sure Monk would have liked it to be.

Trio Lauzier-Perkin-Kuster plays Saturday March 21st, Nicolas Caloia’s Trephining Quintet plays Tuesday March 24th. Entry is free.

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