The Fanfare Pourpour’s second album is not as much a leap forward from the first, but an overall solidification of the group’s assets. While remaining true to the debut CD Tout le Monde, Le Bal is more cohesive, entertaining, daring, and better recorded. Sax player Jean Derome, one of the most important artists on the Montréal avant-garde scene, produced the album and contributed five new pieces, including the brilliant title track, a painstakingly slow waltz with a Nino Rota-like melody. The line-up of the ever-changing group still features a healthy blend of amateur, semi-professional and established musicians. The core of the group is back: accordionist Lou Babin, guitarist Luc Proulx, violinist Guido del Fabbro, trumpeter Nemo Venba, valve bass player per Christine Lajeunesse, and the one-of-a-kind rhythm section of Jaco Duguay (marching bass drum and cymbal) and Jonas Slowanski (snare drum), a.o. In addition to Derome, Normand Guilbeault (the hardest-working jazz bassist in Montréal) and Claude Vendette (ex-4 Guitaristes de l’Apocalypso-Bar and other André Duchesne projects) round up the ranks. Special guests include violinist Mara Tremblay and drummer Pierre Tanguay, along with singer Tomás Jensen (of the group Les Faux-Monnayeurs) who delivers the dark “Monsieur." Whether it is a fast-paced street fanfare number or a nostalgia-tinged waltz, every song is heartwarming, entertaining, and highly creative. The group draws inspiration from musette, avant-garde jazz, Quebec and Cajun folk, and dixie, adding its own brand of street-bound big band music with a communal spirit. Certain pieces are simple to the bone, fueled only by the joy of playing together and the craft of its arrangements, while other tunes (namely Derome’s and Del Fabbro’s) push back the bounderies, toying with unusual chord changes and melodies that hide their originality in a second or third listen. Favorable comparisons to Pascal Comelade and the Japanese group Pascals are absolutely in order, as the music finds a striking balance between naive and soulful. Le Bal is highly refreshing, imaginative and creative — and despite the above mentions, one of a kind. Highly recommended.