The Fragmented History of Québec’s Political Free Jazz of the 1970s

Using as his starting point historian Eric Fillion recent book on the socio-political and musical current of 1970s Québec, Point of Departure’s Pierre Crépon traces the ramshackle history of Le Quatuor de Jazz Libre du Québec (QJLQ). Organized in 1967 as a local response to the revolutionary music played by radical Americans like tenor saxophonist Archie Shepp, the (QJLQ), made up of tenor saxophonist Jean “Doc” Préfontaine, trumpeter Yves Charbonneau, bassist Maurice Richard and drummer Guy Thouin, soon began to splinter like the many fringe Marxist parties of the day. First adapting its uncompromising Free Jazz to affiliation with then counterculture pop performers such as singers Robert Charlebois and Louise Forestier and the massive psychedelic-rock-New music-improv ensemble L’Infonie, political currents soon became paramount. Encompassing several personal changes which at one point brought American cellist Tristan Honsinger into the group, the QJLQ became preoccupied with setting up a series of Montreal arts spaces and Québec countryside communes that would be working class, socialist and promote Québec separatism. Frequent police raids, especially when band members began affiliating with violent separatists like those in The Front de libération du Québec, soon made the political commune idea impossible. And with the counterculture becoming more hedonistic than political, plus Préfontaine’s and Charbonneau’s diverging political views, the band was finished by 1975.