The QJLQ Story (Final Chapter)

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This page is also available in / Cette page est également disponible en: Francais (French)

At this time a year ago, this section ­presented a conversation with historian Eric Fillion, author of a book chronicling the rise and fall of the first free-jazz group in the province, the Quatuor de jazz libre du Québec, or QJLQ for short. On the heels of its publication last May, a quadruple box set of unissued recordings was to appear soon thereafter, only to be released by late last ­summer.

The anthology, entitled Le Quatuor de jazz libre du Québec – Musique-politique (Anthologie 1971-1974), is a rather big chunk of free jazz to listen to. (Some might even call it an overdose, given the fact that the total running time of this package, issued on the Tour de Bras label in Rimouski, clocks in at four hours and 50 minutes.) But the 16 tracks are not music wall-to-wall, as there are several spoken-word segments to be heard, all in French. The band’s main lynchpins, tenorman Jean Préfontaine and trumpeter Yves Charbonneau, wear their political convictions on their sleeves, very much in keeping with those heady times, yet their revolutionary ideas do sound dated to our ears. Backing them are a carousel of bass players and drummers, with occasional added guests, the most noteworthy being cellist Tristan Honsinger.

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The package, which is not a box set at all as advertised, but a simple plastic envelope, ­contains the four discs and a 24-page LP-size booklet with a central essay by Filion, prefaced by Éric Normand, the album producer, and facsimiles of documents drawn from the group’s archives. While the packaging is a bit flimsy, this is minor quibble in relation to the one major flaw that mars this production: disc 3 contains four tracks when the booklet lists only three, the missing cut being the next to last, in which an unidentified alto and soprano saxophonist is heard. When asked about this, the producer confirms the oversight and ­reveals that Gaby Johnston is the mystery man, a ubiquitous player on the scene at the time whose voice was stilled in 1977, the result of a freak accident.

True to form, or lack thereof depending on one’s point of view, this music is vintage free jazz, so to speak: brash in delivery, loud, very raw and often going over the top, screeches and all. This pretty much characterizes the first two discs of the set, the other half allowing for more open spaces, some of these drawing on the ­abstractions of contemporary music that ­Préfontaine was sympathetic to. With one ­exception, the music is a bristling demonstration of unpremeditated playing, bumps, warts and all. Only in the last track of the final disc does the band cover a tune, L’internationale, the socialist hymn par excellence that often brought their sets to a close.

Available as a digital download, or as a physical copy by mail order from the label.


Guy Thouin, last surviving founding member of QJLQ, has just released two CDs. One of these is his duo heArt Ensemble with saxman Félix-Antoine Hamel, the other with Marilou Lyonnais Archambault added on harp and electronics. Entitled From the Basement and Oréade, these recordings can be accessed online at

This page is also available in / Cette page est également disponible en: Francais (French)


About Author

Marc Chénard is a Montreal-based multilingual music journalist specialized in jazz and improvised music. In a career now spanning some 30 years, he has published a wide array of articles and essays, mainly in Canada, some in the United States and several in Europe (France, Belgium, Germany and Austria). He has travelled extensively to cover major festivals in cities as varied as Vancouver and Chicago, Paris and Berlin, Vienna and Copenhagen. He has been the jazz editor and a special features writer for La Scena Musicale since 2002; currently, he also contributes to Point of Departure, an American online journal devoted to creative musics. / / Marc Chénard est un journaliste multilingue de métier de Montréal spécialisé en jazz et en musiques improvisées. En plus de 30 ans de carrière, ses reportages, critiques et essais ont été publiés principalement au Canada, parfois aux États-Unis mais également dans plusieurs pays européens (France, Belgique, Allemagne, Autriche). De plus, il a été invité à couvrir plusieurs festivals étrangers de renom, tant en Amérique (Vancouver, Chicago) que Outre-Atlantique (Paris, Berlin, Vienne et Copenhangue). Depuis 2012, il agit comme rédacteur atitré de la section jazz de La Scena Musicale; en 2013, il entame une collabortion auprès de la publication américaine Point of Departure, celle-ci dédiée aux musiques créatives de notre temps.

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