At Largo — the festival’s unofficial headquarters in the city’s Saint-Roch downtown district — multi-reedist Jean Derome paid homage to Strayhorn with an energetic performance that alluded to Lovano’s formative years in Cleveland. Derome focused on the alto saxophone but showed equal wherewithal on the baritone saxophone and bass flute. He fronted an extremely agile band — pianist François Bourassa, bassist Normand Guilbeault and drummer Pierre Tanguay — who brought their restive urgency to the forefront. Much of the performance’s delight came from Derome’s devil-may-care flair and finesse with Strayhorn’s material. While the sets didn’t rely upon unnecessary whimsy, the musicians brought inventive vigor to warhorses like Take The ‘A’ Train and Passion Flower. Occasionally, Derome shared the front line with vocalist Karen Young, who evoked Billie Holiday with the improvisational guile of Betty Carter. She meshed and contrasted deftly with Derome’s vinegary timbres on the saxophones and flutes, hitting high points on poignant readings of Strange Feeling, Imagine My Frustrations, Something To Live For and an encore performance of Lush Life. […]
Like many Québécois jazz musicians, Derome and L’Orchestre d’Hommes are shamefully under-recorded, but such unforgettable performances will have festival attendees returning to Quebec to encounter other rare treasures.