I think I’m really falling in love with Quebecois music. There was some very top-notch music being made in that area of Canada in the “rich progressive decade of the 70s” and that tradition continues to this day. I was very surprised with this one. By the looks of the artwork on the cover, I was expecting something along the lines of RIO or something akin to chamber rock music. This is really nothing like that. I would call this something like energetic fusion or upbeat jazz. The unusual instrument configuration (more on that later) and enthusiastic performance make these compositions come to life with a vibrant energy very rarely found in any style of music.
L’Orchestre Sympathique, or L’OS for short, was a quartet that formed in 1976 and unlike most bands, their entire recorded output was live albums. They found this to be a more economical way to fund their releases. The sound quality is very good here and until the audience started applauding wouldn’t have thought this was recorded live. The group consisted of Mathieu on drums, François Richard on flute and piano, Jean Vanasse on vibes and marimba, and rounding out the quartet was Warren Stolow on bass. Very rarely do you find a band where the main lead instruments are the flute and vibraphone but it works very well in this band and has me wondering why I don’t see it more often, even in jazz.
The music here can be light and breezy but more often things are vigorous and even quite aggressive. Léger is a very impressive drummer and his style reminds me slightly of what Phil Collins was doing in Brand X at the time. Although Stolow is certainly no Percy Jones, he does manage to provide a very strong supporting role on the bass. The vibes are what really makes this music stand out; Jean Vanasse has an excellent playing style that sometimes has me fooled thinking it’s a keyboard like a piano or organ if I’m not paying full attention. And last but certainly not least, Richard’s beautiful melodic flute work is what holds this ensemble together and gives the music such wonderful character. On a few occasions he’ll put the flute down for a minute and play a few riffs on the piano and I even believe I heard a few parts where he’s playing both at once! His playing really shines on the final track of the disc “Biplane”.
All of the reissues on the ProgQuébec label have been outstanding and this is no exception. The CD booklet comes with some nice pictures and a brief bio of the band. I hope they decide to release the other L’OS albums because I’m enjoying this one tremendously. It’s a great thing that someone is willing to help refresh people’s memory of the wonderful music of the past and bring that music to a new generation of listeners.
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