It should come as no surprise to any "Jazz Cat" that Canada has been producing tons of incredible new progressive jazz bands and Unicorn Records has been responsible for putting many of them out into the world.
As with most progressive bands, the Martin Maheux Circle has plenty of talent, chops, and licks to go around and then some, but the thing that separates this group is that they don't do it in a show-offish way, but instead, they stay reserved and serve the music.
Martin Maheux, the drummer/keyboardist of the circle is what you might call a natural talent learning by ear at the age of seven to play the piano, and the guitar before finding his true instrument, the drums at age 11. He has made a name for himself playing in bands such as Space Out, before putting together his own project in 2001 with the release of Physics of Light, in the summer of 2002.
For his second album, Martin added a string quartet to his regular jazz quartet, adding elements of chamber and classical music.
The Circle is made up of some stellar performers; Rachel Duperreault, adds a welcome twist with the violin, which may not be a usual instrument associated with jazz, but then again this is not your usual outfit. Frederic Alarie is on the upright, Guy Dubuc on keyboards, and Jean-Francois Gagnon does the job of trumpet -- and quite nicely, I might add.
All in all the two quartets that Martin Maheux has meshed together not only can handle working together they also compliment each other and create something unique.
Sibylle, the Circle's second release, reminds me mostly of a independent romance film, there is plenty of drama, with highs and lows pulling at the heart strings. In addition to chamber, and classical this record also has elements of swing, rock, and straight-forward jazz. I can't think of any other group that I could compare the Martin Maheux Circle to, which I mean as a huge compliment.
My favorite track off of Sibylle would have to be "Metamorphose," which is supported by feverishly paced drums, then layered over by a smooth yet advanced melody. I hope to hear much, much more from this group, and my ears, and my soul would like to thank the Martin Maheux Circle.