Back in 1996, the Normand Guilbeault Ensemble had recorded Hommage à Mingus ("Tribute to Mingus") for the label Justin Time as the culmination of a couple of years of work and shows. The group carried on, but the Mingus project was put on the shelf, only to be dusted down a couple of times a year for special events. Slowly, the quintet came back to Mingus' body of work, changing its repertoire, and by February 2004, the Mingus project was back to full-speed, ready to be captured live over two nights at the Va-et-Vient, one of Montreal's most forward-thinking jazz clubs. Mingus Erectus offers seven revamped Mingus standards and not-so-standards, plus one original by sax player Jean Derome. Guilbeault's other partners are Ivanhoe Jolicoeur (trumpet), Mathieu Bélanger (clarinet) and Claude Lavergne (drums). The set starts with a vigorous rendition of "Pithecanthropus Erectus," led by Guilbeault's quiet yet oh-so-efficient bassline. If that one makes a predictable opener, the choice of "All the Things You Could Be By Now if Sigmund Freud's Wife Was Your Mother" and "Tijuana Gift Shop" are more surprising -- and a great change of pace. Bélanger throws in a dizzying solo in the first one, although the real treat is found in the group playing, tight and playful. The lighter "Tijuana Gift Shop" works out nicely but leaves less of an impression, while the ballads "Conversation" and "Peggy's Blue Skylight" are treated with the utmost respect -- which does not rule out some creative melodic developments. "Fable of Faubus" gets a very different treatment. Entirely updated to (dis)honor U.S. President George W. Bush, this biting "Fable of (George Dubya) Faubus" adds a lot of crunch -- good thing most listeners of creative jazz are of left-wing persuasions! Guilbeault and Lavergne's vocal imprecations make the piece stand out on this otherwise instrumental record and, if the musical treatment sticks rather close to home, the political hijacking will surely please Eugene Chadbourne fans (and a few others too!). Derome's "MDMD" is a nice slow-bop number, although it lacks some fancy. The set ends on a festive reading of "Moanin'," led by Derome's swinging baritone sax. This second installment in Ambiances Magnétiques' Jazz series makes a convincing statement, and the excellent live capture adds extra ambience to the performance.
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AllMusic Review by François Couture