Picture of Modasaurus quartet

Jazz-Fusion Quartet

Modasaurus released their second album 4K on September 25, 2020. 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 James McGowan, the group thrives by creating a musical fusion of a variety of styles.  

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Modasaurus - 4K (September 25, 2020)

The jazz-fusion quartet Modasaurus formed in early 2016 when Carleton University professor, pianist and composer James McGowan joined together with the HML trio: Jamie Holmes, Alex Moxon, Jean- Philippe (JP) Lapensée, some of the busiest musicians and educators in Ottawa, Canada.

With the name “Modasaurus,”

Modasaurus - 4K (September 25, 2020)

The jazz-fusion quartet Modasaurus formed in early 2016 when Carleton University professor, pianist and composer James McGowan joined together with the HML trio: Jamie Holmes, Alex Moxon, Jean- Philippe (JP) Lapensée, some of the busiest musicians and educators in Ottawa, Canada.

With the name “Modasaurus,” they combine the fun yet imposing dinosaur name with “mode,” which is crucial to jazz-fusion music in its rich tonalities and sonic palettes. A second meaning - that of a style or fashion - is relevant here as well: the Modasaurus sound is a fusion of a wide range of styles, such as the Celtic-jazz fusion in “Crazy Ceilidh” and Middle- Eastern jazz in “Khaleegy.” “Hey Bud!” and “Seen my Jawa?” are Rhumba- and Samba-inspired, while “Chaconne and Fugue” integrates classical form and technique with jazz and rock styles. Completing the album are two pieces that inspired the graphic design for this album, the jazz waltz “Winding Way” and “The Four Kids” (4K), which set the playful tone of the album.

The pieces feature considerable interaction among the four musicians, both in the album’s through composed passages and more highly improvisatory sections. These performances are collaborative and engaging, written to be enjoyed in the moment, while still encouraging repeated critical listening.

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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. ★★★1/2" Dan McClenaghan — All About Jazz, Sept 22, 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. 

"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

"Modasaurus is a Canadian jazz quartet which, although it plays a rigorous form of fusion jazz, also adds elements of rock, funk, classical, Latin and Middle Eastern music. 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 25, 2020 (translation by Douglas McCarthy, used with permission).

“The upbeat “The Four Kids (4K) includes Steely Dan-ish guitar and peppy piano, with a similar Royal Scam feel is delivered on the classy “Seen My Jawa?”. A dramatic “Crazy Ceilidh includes a Gaellic keyboard atmosphere.  Gorgeous flamenco guitar and bass propel the dramatic dance of “Khaleegy” and some Bach-ish grooves set the tone for some searing guitar work on “Chaconne and Fugue”. The map is large that this band covers in  one journey.” George W. Harris – Jazz Weekly, 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

“4K is a jazz-fusion lover's delight. With a contemporary production and a nod to the early creators of the fusion sound, the musicianship is thunderous and exhilarating with each player's skillful abilities being showcased. The compositions are cohesive and conceptual without being complicated, and the emphasis seems to be on having fun and bringing colour to the overall delivery. A satisfying and joyful ride, certainly.” Marty DeliaThe Jazz Music Blog, October 8, 2020

“'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

Press photos

1. The Four Kids

Both a literal and figurative meaning, James wrote The Four Kids (or 4K) shortly after blending homes with four teens 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. Written to be immediately accessible, the tune has a toe-tapping groove and a soaring melody, along with complex rhythmic counterpoint and interplay. At times it is reminiscent of Weather Report’s Birdland or 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 it as a quartet, recording engineer Norm Glaude started playing along with the melody on his chromatic harmonica. After we agreed it was a strong addition to the texture of the piece, he added it as an overdub.