As the equivalent of topping gooey Québécois poutine with piquant Portuguese sausage, this square meal is hard-edged and free-form, combining the talents of Montrealers, pianist Karoline Leblanc and drummer Paul J. Ferreira Lopes with Lisbon residents, trumpeter Luís Vicente and Hugo Antunes. Throughout, the quartet members function as master chefs for whom cooking Iberian-Canadian fare is commonplace.
With A Square Meal’s flavoursome main courses, spiky extended feasts, and sonic appetizers and desserts of the same quality, the tracks are spiced with slick piano glissandi, sifted trumpet whinnies, rounded double-bass plops and drums hammered with the efficiency of a meat tenderizer. Although infused with extended techniques, these splintered and kinetic courses also have a base of rib-sticking home cooking, since melodic slices are present throughout. Leblanc, for instance, may appear to be cramming too many notes into a tremolo outpouring, but like a seasoned cook that output fits succulently. The quartet’s replication of agile line cooking is most apparent on the 23-minute Creature Comforts. Open-ended with welcoming piano chords and a languid shuffle beat from the drummer, the narrative is swiftly shaded and sharpened with aggressive, double-tongued brass rasps, paced by string crackles from the bassist and active drum smacks. Just when it appears that Vicente can’t slur any more dissonant tones from his instrument, Leblanc’s steady comping pushes the trumpeter to mid-range blowing and joins him to return to the near-romantic theme of the beginning. A Square Meal may be unusual fare, but it’s undoubtedly musically nourishing.