I love good design just as much as I love good music. That’s why I have no qualms admitting that I picked up Montreal jazz trio Misc’s self-titled album because I like the pretty colours and the cool geometric design of the artwork. Go ahead and roll your eyes at me if you want, but in this instance, judging a record by its cover worked out for me. I’ve returned to Misc over and over again because of the elaborate melodies, and the sophisticated intersection of jazz and contemporary rock on the record’s three original compositions and three covers.
The trio used to play and record as Trio Jérôme Beaulieu, but changed their name to Misc in order to reflect their decision to move towards a collective approach to composition; more full-on band than the traditional jazz paradigm of composer and band. The most traditional Misc gets is in their choice of instruments. Pianist Jérôme Beaulieu, bassist Philippe Leduc, and drummer William Côté are well versed in jazz’s improvisational history, but they embrace strong melody and rhythms in a way that moves the storied genre forward for new audiences. Like many jazz artists, Misc enjoy reinterpreting the works of other artists, but here again, they do not take on the traditional jazz standards. Their cover of Blonde Redhead’s “Messenger” retains the nuances and driving rhythms of the original. The unhurried atmosphere and ambience of James Blake’s “Overgrown” remains intact on Misc’s version, growing in intensity and intimacy as it closes out the record.
“Overgrown” is the perfect counterpoint to “La fin”, the album’s opening original composition. It touches on all the colours and shapes Misc are about to play with: passion, tension, musicianship and inventiveness. If your mind goes right to BadBadNotGood when you hear the words ‘modern jazz’, Misc’s delightful musicianship offers new musical avenues to explore and unexpected delights inside its crisp and clean cover.