Alex Lefaivre: Naufragés
Multiple Chord Music
Based on the merits of YUL (2018) and now Naufragés (“Castaways”), electric bassist Alex Lefaivre should be better known outside his Montreal home base. As a course lecturer, label co-founder (of Multiple Chord Music), and on-call musician for numerous local artists, he’s a valued property in his home province, but Naufragés argues Lefaivre’s talents deserve to be recognized beyond its borders. Five of the eight pieces are by him, with the rest covers of tunes by Miles Davis and Gil Evans, Pierre F. Brault, and—quel surprise—Led Zeppelin.
Apparently Naufragés encountered some logistical hurdles along the way, with attempts to record derailed by the pandemic. Tracks were finally laid down in two sets on April 5th, 2021 at Montreal’s Studio Madame Wood, with the bassist joined by alto saxophonist Erik Hove, guitarist Nicolas Ferron, and drummer Alain Bourgeois. With only four musicians involved, the material has lots of room to breathe, and while personality and character differentiate one composition from another, ample space for individual expression is also present.
The Davis-Evans tune, “Time of the Barracudas” (from 1963’s Quiet Nights), receives an inspired reading. Hove elevates the performance with a bright tone and acrobatic display, after which Ferron begins his solo with a chords-heavy attack before unleashing a bluesy exploration. With Bourgeois and the leader powering the quartet with locked-in playing that’s both tight and free, “Time of the Barracudas” sets the bar high for what follows. “Passe-Partout,” whose title references musical material Brault wrote for a children’s TV show that began airing in Quebec in 1977 and still airs, receives a breezy treatment that’s equal parts highlife, jazz, and dub. If the quartet’s rendering of “Immigrant Song” (from 1970’s Led Zeppelin III) doesn’t match the original for heaviness, the performance still grooves mightily when the four refashion its familiar roar.
Concerning the Lefaivre originals, “Boiler Room” tickles the ear with a melodic design that’s as winding as a Möbius strip. Mobilized by a rock-styled groove, the piece nevertheless engages as strongly as the Davis-Evans opener thanks to the breathless clip at which it’s delivered. The infectiously swinging “Sneaked” slinks in like the title music from an espionage soundtrack before achieving liftoff with dynamic interplay. As enticing are “Reset,” which drapes a lyrical melody across a funky strut, and “Sin City,” a languorous beauty whose relaxed tempo bolsters its seductive allure.Throughout Naufragés, Hove and Ferron show themselves to be solid front-liners, with Bourgeois and Lefaivre as impactful. The material allows the four to play with subtlety and nuance but to also let it rip when required. Control and abandon sit comfortably side-by-side in these performances, the contrasts effectively balanced in the quartet’s execution. On a release that’s definitely worth checking out, Lefaivre’s bass playing is stellar, but he distinguishes himself as a composer also.