Jazz-Fusion Quartet

Modasaurus 4K and beyond

Modasaurus released their second album 4K on September 25, 2020. Follow the links to listen or buy a copy of the album. To find out more information and upcoming performances, sign up for James McGowan's performance newsletter. See the album here.
Click here for a clip of The Four Kids from the virtual 4K release concert at GigSpace Ottawa.

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.

The new James McGowan Ensemble features Modasaurus and Despax String Quartet in an expanded ensemble of 8–14 members to perform the classical-jazz fusion music of James McGowan, with the release of their third album in June 2023. We are honoured to have won a Canada Council for the Arts grant in 2022 in support of these initiatives.

 Modasaurus in performance

Reviews of 4K

"The group's recording 4K covers sonic ground similar that of the early Pat Metheny Quartet, with its piano/guitar/bass/drums line-up, infectious grooves and tight ensemble interplay. The band mixes up a wide range of styles: Celtic jazz fusion, middle Eastern modes, rhumbas and sambas and classical forms, while maintaining an energetic and cohesive mood from start to finish." Dan McClenaghan, All About Jazz, Sept 22, 2020.

"Modasaurus is a joyful and thought-provoking collection of music that warrants multiple listens." David Reed, 'Canadian jazz artists to add to collection,' Belleville Intelligencer, Sept 18, 2020.

"New album ‘4K’ effortlessly glides from Middle Eastern vibes to a decidedly Celtic “Crazy Ceilidh” to the Samba rhythms evidenced on ‘Seen My Jawa?’ But even if none of the above are enough to tempt you in, the final minute of this cut is just about the most enjoyable I’ve experienced since watching Donald Trump squirm trying to defend his love of racist dickheads." 'The Future Jazz-Offensive, 45 RPM Oct 1, 2020  

"Canadian quartet Modasaurus display expert musicianship in a session firmly rooted in contemporary jazz fusion. Modasaurus is a quartet of extremely skilled musicians who combine styles expertly and turn 4K into a great success. ★★★1/2" Elliot Marlow-Stevens, Jazz Journal (UK), March 24, 2021.

"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.

"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.

"Under the direction of pianist James McGowan, Modasaurus emerges as a serious, experienced and innovative entity that can deliver and refine fusion jazz in all its intensity. But while it is certainly James McGowan who is the quartet's innovative powerhouse, it is the technically and artistically skilled electric guitarist, Alex Moxon, who attracts attention in a most interesting way. His guitar riffs in a piece like Chaconne and Fugue are exceptionally impressive. Moxon is rap on guitar strings, a virtuoso who is anything but afraid of taking off in elaborate musical statements. This particular piece is like a fusion of Johann Sebastian Bach and Jeff Beck. ★★★★" Ivan Rod, (Denmark), September 25th, 2020 (translation by Douglas McCarthy, used with permission).

"'Seen My Jawa?' exits the listen with much atmosphere, as it builds into a swift jazz album highlight filled with a haze of quick percussion, dancing keys and proficient guitar work from Wayne Eagles." 8/10 Take Effect Reviews  Sept 28, 2020


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 and interplay. At times it is reminiscent of Weather Report’s Birdland and the early Pat Metheny Quartet. 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.


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. 

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*
Dancing Preacher
August Evening
New Beginning
FreeFall Funk