At the opposite end of Saint-Joseph, in a spare, garage-like nightclub, the Montréal-based Évidence trio channeled Thelonious Monk through the distinctive wit of saxophonist Jean Derome and drummer Pierre Tanguay. While many musicians treat Monk with kid gloves, Derome, Tanguay and supple electric bassist Pierre Cartier never lost sight of the composer’s humor, joyfully exercising the license to treat Bright Mississippi, Four In One and Brilliant Corners as improvisational vehicles.
Évidence is a jazz trio based in Montréal and solely devoted to the repertoire of Thelonious Monk. Its biggest particularity is its lack of a pianist. Led by Jean Derome on alto saxophone, the group gives highly personal renditions of Monk tunes, illustrating why jazz innovators quickly hailed him as major figure.
Évidence started in 1985 but its roots extend as far back as 1973 when Derome and bassist Pierre Cartier included Monk pieces in the repertoire of their duo “Flûte et Basse.” The idea of a Monk-exclusive formation came from saxophonist Sylvain Leroux in 1982. The group included Cartier and Derome and was named “Mysterioso” (the title of one of the pianist’s tunes, of course). They played the Montréal Jazz Festival that year, before Leroux left to work in the United States. The two remaining members kept things alive and when drummer Pierre Tanguay settled in Montréal in 1985 he was immediately drafted and the unit rechristened Évidence. Other musicians have performed with the trio, including pianist Guillaume Dostaler, clarinetist Jean-Denis Levasseur and drummer Michel Ratté, but most of the time it performs and records as a trio.
For many years, the group remained a hobby for the three musicians, an excuse to get together and revel in Monk’s music. Since each of their rare live appearances seemed to draw a big crowd and sympathetic reviews, they decided to record a studio album. Musique de Thelonious Monk came out in 1993 on the avant-garde music label Ambiances Magnétiques (which Derome co-founded in the early 1980s). It remains to this day one of its most listener-friendly titles. In 1999, Évidence embarked on a series of concerts meant to cover the repertoire in its entirety, but plans failed when the art space Casa Obscura had to close down. A couple of evenings had already taken place and the CD Live à la Casa became the group’s second offering in 2000.