L'Orkestre Des Pas Perdus L'Astral, Montreal QC July 3

L'Orkestre Des Pas Perdus L'Astral, Montreal QC July 3
Hometown favourites L'Orkestre Des Pas Perdus might be the most crowd-pleasing unit ever on the Ambiances Magnetiques label. They are a contemporary nonet: big enough for that full festival sound without pricing themselves out of North America. For the Montreal Jazz Fest, they proved popular enough to fill L'Astral with cheering fans.

There's no electricity whatsoever involved in their setup -- just brass -- so the fat and funky bass presence is created by tuba player Philippe Legault and baritone saxophonist Roberto Murray with trombonist and leader Claude St-Jean dipping in to help. This underpins a shifting array of brass groupings involving trumpet, two more saxes and French horn.

Providing furious rhythm are Martin Auguste and percussionist Rémi Leclerc, whose role often doubles or accents other things going on in the ensemble. Stylistically, they can't help but remind the listener of other forward-thinking bands of their type -- bands that have a debt to Ellington and Thad Jones/Mel Lewis but add in tenser harmonies, broken rhythms and musical non-sequiturs. The Lounge Lizards, Microscopic Septet and even the Hypnotic Brass Ensemble are good modern-day starting points of reference.

Individual moments shone: Legault singing through his tuba, the alto sax brilliance of Marc Villard and the rhythm duo working up a sweat. After a while, especially after two sets, the band seemed to be a limited bag of tricks: it was one avant-action theme after another.

There is so much potential to go every which way in this band with the odd ballad or two, but it rocks non-stop. Thus, it was an enjoyable show where each individual song had a number of highlights but two sets was a shade too long.