Modasaurus

Jazz-Fusion Quartet

Modasaurus 4K

Modasaurus releases their second album 4K on September 25, 2020. To find out more information and upcoming performances, please sign up for James McGowan's performance newsletter. See the album here.

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Reviews of 4K

"Bright jazz fusion is injected with rhumba, samba, rock and more on Modasaurus' 4K," Richard Allen, 'Fall Music Preview ~ Rock, Post-Rock, Folk & Jazz,' A Closer Listen, Aug 31, 2020.

"Fusion in all its diversity is sure to please fans of this direction in the new work of the Quartet from Ottawa." Leonid Auskern, Jazz Quad (Russia), Sept 8, 2020. 

"A fusion crew that doesn't take things too literally or too strictly serves up a funky, swinging good time of fun jazz. Letting the music go where it takes them this crew that started out as a professor and a few of his students has grown into its own kind of juggernaut. It'll even take you back to a fine time where chops were chops and weren't just for display." Chris Spector, Midwest Record, Sept 12, 2020. 

4K 

Tune Descriptions, part 1 

1. The Four Kids

Both a literal and figurative meaning, James wrote The Four Kids (or 4K) shortly after blending homes so now there are four teen girls in the same home. With all parts layering over the opening piano groove, the resultant controlled rhythmic chaos creates a joyful sound arising where the sum is greater than its parts. The title also captures the youthful energy that the four members of band bring to create the Modasaurus sound. Written to be immediately accessible, the tune features a toe-tapping groove and a soaring melody but within a complex rhythmic counterpoint. At times it is reminiscent of Weather Report’s Birdland. Each instrument has its moment to be featured.

2. Hey Bud! & 3. Winding Way

Hey Bud! embraces the long tradition of Latin-Jazz fusion. A Rhumba feel pervades the whole tune with all the musical parts playing off the clave rhythm though usually without explicitly stating it. The guitar and piano dance through the melody together as a duo, with bass and drums energetically grounding the ensemble.
Winding Way is named after a trail in Ottawa, Canada. This jazz waltz parallels the outdoor journey with a melody that rises and falls, and a few unusual scenic twists and turns. Both tunes feature chromatic third re-harmonizations, in which the former tune reharmonizes its dominants, while the latter tune evades a functional tonic harmony until the very end.

4. Crazy Ceilidh

Pronounced “kaylee,” a ceilidh is a kitchen party from Scottish and Irish traditions, including the east coast of Canada. Crazy Ceilidh combines Celtic musical traditions with jazz to create a unique stylistic fusion, with a richness in timbre supported by the use of both piano and electric keyboard. There are three extended open solos for Alex, James, and JP, in each case capturing a different modal flavour, and dynamic comping interplay. After recording Crazy Ceilidh as a quartet, recording engineer Norm Glaude started playing along with the melody on his chromatic harmonica. After we agreed it sounded great, adding to the rich texture of the piece, he simply added it as an overdub.

4K 

Tune Descriptions, part 2

5. Khaleegy

This is a type of folkloric dance from the Middle East and North Africa. It is typically performed using lively rhythmic accompaniment, as well as rhythmically free sections. Modasaurus’ Khaleegy includes both introspective solos—such as JP’s opening extended bass solo—as well as the ensembles exuberant celebratory energy. It fuses two traditional rhythmic forms—Malfuf and Wahda Kebera—with a Latin-jazz feel, and tonally combines Hijaz maqam with a harmonic-minor scale on the Dominant.

6. Chaconne and Fugue

This third-stream work intentionally juxtaposes classical, jazz, and rock stylistic practices to create an unique musical journey, culminating in a manner that fuses together the elements into one cohesive statement. The title highlights the “classical” formal structure of chaconne, which is a practice of developing variations over a recurring bass line. In this case, the structure is an AAB form. For one of the variations, the band plays a complete four-voice fugue, based on the main theme, while still maintaining the structure of the original bass. 

7. Seen my Jawa?

An anagram from “James” and “Wayne,” the Star Wars reference has little to do with piece itself aside from the opening spacey free improvisation and Alex’s "far-out" guitar synth effect. James had originally written Seen my Jawa? for him and Wayne to play together. This is Wayne's first recording with his 1978 Gibson Les Paul Deluxe after a 20-year absence. His guitar with all his gear had been stolen in 1996 only to find it by accident after someone put it up for sale on Kijiji in 2016. The solos feature each of the musicians, with a killer closer by Jamie to end the tune. 

What is Modasaurus?

There are two intents for naming the group "Modasaurus." On one hand, it combines the musical term “mode” with an imposing and plausible dinosaur name, sounding a little bit like a mosasaurus, intense yet classy and innovative.

On the other hand, the name also suggests the multiple meanings of musical modes as one would find in a “thesaurus.” Fusing together the HML Trio—Jamie Holmes, Alex Moxon, and JP Lapensee—with pianist-composer Dr. James McGowan, the group thrives by creating a musical fusion of a variety of styles.

Modes are crucial to jazz-fusion music in its rich tonality that extend beyond major and minor scales. But a second meaning to mode—a style or fashion—is relevant here as well: the repertoire of Modasaurus would be intentionally diverse where we constantly challenge ourselves to find the fusion among jazz, rock, funk, classical, gospel, Latin, and other world music styles, while still rooting ourselves in a sound unique to us. 

The play on words in Two Intents is a tribute to James' father, the punster, who died in 2004, who would undoubtedly have appreciated it .

Two Intents is Modasaurus' first album, recorded live-off-the-floor in Kailash Mital Theatre at Carleton University, February 18, August 29 and 30, 2016 by John Rosefield; mixed and mastered by Rob Cosh.
All compositions and piano by James McGowan; Alex Moxon, guitar; JP Lapensee, bass; Jamie Holmes, drums
*On tracks 3 and 4, Modasaurus is joined by Mike Tremblay on tenor saxophone.

Funky Pteradactyl
Prime Time
Cereal and Eggs*
Seeking*
Dancing Preacher
August Evening
New Beginning
FreeFall Funk


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