TorQ Percussion Quartet Lula Lounge, Toronto, ON, November 11

TorQ Percussion Quartet Lula Lounge, Toronto, ON, November 11
Photo: Kevin Jones
Currently in the throes of a four-part concert series showcasing the impressive breadth of their collective talents, Toronto's TorQ Percussion Quartet made a stop at local Latin haven Lula Lounge for the band's second presentation, explicitly titled "Notes from Brazil." For this night of South American flavours, the esteemed four-piece enlisted the helping hand of stalwart Canadian percussionist, composer and noted Brazilian music enthusiast Mark Duggan, whose own arrangements comprised the majority of the night's quizzical delights.

Taking their places in front of two stately marimbas stretched across the majority of a stage covered with an expansive assortment of percussive tools, the four-man troupe kicked things off with a piece far more Latin than Brazilian, winding their way through the tropical rhythms of opener "El Mosquito Marron." The crew's mid-tune divergence through an unexpected hand-clap session, into an intimate breakdown and onto the song's dramatic finish was a telling snapshot of the many quirky twists and turns to come, as TorQ quickly moved into a series of pieces more inline with the night's theme.

The labyrinth of onstage instruments made for some interesting manoeuvring as the players packed up their sheets and exchanged instruments after each tune. Guest Duggan was soon called upon to lead the now five-piece through the night's initial Brazilian numbers, the first of them a meandering, jazzy baião interpretation complete with triangle and zabumba, before the men took a soothing jaunt into the classy world of choro with a take on famed Brazilian composer Hermeto Pascoal's "Aquela Coisa."

Despite the night's Brazilian billing, other styles would soon find their way into the mix, like the calypso-inflected "The Songlines," a delicate and richly nuanced display that showed off exquisitely each musician's precise feel and passionate connection with their particular instrument. One exception to an otherwise mesmerizing technical exhibition, however, came in the woeful pandeiro playing that would accompany many of the night's samba-tinged numbers, an unfortunate sonic addition that likely could have been entirely left out of the few songs the instrument was featured in without any great loss.

A frenetic and slightly frightening interpretation of Duggan's own "Malandragem" closed out the night's first half and properly set the stage for a far more ambitious and experimental post-intermission run that, among other things, showed off TorQ's dazzling improvisational skills, a feat to be featured in full for the third showcase in the series come early February. A more percussive bent also filled out the early portions of the night's second turn, as the men reached into their bag of exotic instruments for a bit of fun and spectacle before taking a trip through the traditions of African storytellers on their way back to the night's Brazilian roots.

Nods to past local jazz mainstays like NEXUS drew cheers from an audience speckled with players and aficionados, as did the adventurous blending of Chick Corea and Ary Barroso classics for "Spazil," with its familiar touches from the eternal postcard-soundtracking "Aquarela do Brasil." TorQ wound their way back to the warm and comforting melodic runs of choro to wrap things up, spicing up their closing moments with a bit of gimmicky audience participation that, though a tad on the cheesy side, was just a final touch of fun after an inspired night of far-reaching and expertly executed jazz percussion.