Pas Perdus can mean lost steps, mad steps — take your choice — it all fits this wacky band. The word «perdu» also resonates in French with words like lost, ruined, distracted, doomed, and reckless. They call themselves a marching band-ska-house.
Such a description, if you didn’t hear them two years ago at the Atlantic Jazz Festival, will prepare you for this marvellously unbuttoned Montréal horn band who are brassy in every sense of the word.
The compositions and arrangements are all by trombonist, musical saw-yer, and player of various small percussion bric-a-brac, Claude St. Jean. The CD starts with a 5 second welcome track — the sound of a tone arm tracking a vinyl disc leads to a laid back 40s dance band playing You’re Driving Me Crazy. Then the tone arm scratches across the record, the hissing and popping disappears and the trombone/saxes start a typical Pas Perdu intro to Acetaminophene.
A characteristic funky rock-fusion bass line, eventually taken over by the tuba, supports solos and ensemble riffs over ricky-ticky sticks on muted cymbal and snare rim. The band is hot and cheeky, a wild thing, kind of a brass band dixie mix.
Sometimes, as in Route 20, with its deep 60s kind of mayhem, it is hard to believe there are only six players: trombone, alto sax (piccolo, clarinet) tenor sax (flute, mouth noises), sousaphone, trumpet/flugelhorn, percussion/drums and almost everybody plays a noisemaker or rattle of some description. It can be hair-raising.
Alto sax player Levasseur is a dangerous man (a dangereux zhom bloodline?). Typically the band begins a chart by establishing an off-kilter rhythmic lattice-work into whose spaces the melody instruments dodge in and out. This band is about rhythm and sheer for-the-hell-of-it playing, yet it is a very disciplined band. They play apart together.
Every track jumps to a different rhythmic groove, some with a sort of tangoish rhythm stitched together by the tuba and the sticks on the cymbals, and all of it sounding that gapped syncopated line. Incidentally on Arabesque, Levasseur plays a great, meaty piccolo solo. Piccolo may not be your normal jazz voice, though, in his too-refined way, Hubert Laws used to dazzle us with it. The substantial sound of Levasseur is a different animal altogether.