Published Jul 02, 2013Muse Hill are a tough band to describe. They are centred in jazz but draw from rock and atmospheric folk as well: at their best, they're dreamy and stirring at the same time. The band are maybe not a supergroup but certainly a union of diverse musical talent in Montreal. Front and centre is saxophonist Chet Doxas, who has enlisted the roots innovators the Barr Brothers and bassist Morgan Moore. Also in the band, if not for this show, is pedal steel provided by Joe Grass.
As Brad Barr bowed his guitar with a string to set things in motion, Doxas started an increasingly insistent assault of descending runs on the tenor saxophone. Moore joined in with a lovely, plummy acoustic bass tone before Andrew Barr got going with the rhythm. Andrew is clearly a good drummer, but he's not a swinging player, which dampened some of the passages that needed a lighter, jazzier touch. Where he does excel is in more frenetic moments, which gradually crept into the set.
Brad Barr's soloing at first was pedestrian and improvisationally limited compared to Doxas' formal jazz chops, but as time went on it became more apparent that the two were foils for each other to pleasing effect. Indeed, as the show went on the band, which can't work much due to its members many commitments, found its feet. Rust may have been a factor. Perhaps the highlight was the truly novel use of a video clip of Hunter S. Thompson, whose cadences Doxas played with. That kind of audio/video improv is the kind of thing that would definitely find them audiences beyond jazz festivals.