the Stain Bar
DVD, 38:22 mins, col.
Sales: $US10.00 + $5.00 shipping
Distributors website: http:// www.quartetofhappiness.com.
Reviewed by Kathryn Adams
If you have ever wondered
if there is a DVD out there that features
four consummate jazz musicians, one sleeping
saxophonist, a monster, a one-legged lover,
toilet paper and a garden hose, here it
is the zany, madcap 38 minute role-playing
DVD adventure with The Quartet of Happiness,
Live at the Stain Bar.
The ensemble, formed in 2003, plays original
avant-garde theatre jazz while acting
out a series of short, wacky and often
frantic skits. The result is a high-energy
performance, both visually and musically,
by four likeable and very talented musicians.
Kelly Roberge (saxophone), Rick Stone
(saxophone), Kendall Eddy (bass) and Austin
McMahon (drums) all have Masters degrees
in music and impressive CVs. They have
studied and performed with a host of accomplished
jazz musicians like Bob Brookmeyer, George
Garzone & Jerry Bergonzi. However,
jazz lovers will be disappointed to discover
that this DVD is far more about absurdist
theatre than music. Certainly there are
tantalizing snippets of impressive bebop
in several pieces. Seeing them competitively
trading phrases over a ii V I progression
leaves no doubt that these guys have really
got their chops down. The "Radio
Song" skit showcases the quartets
abilities across a variety of genres including
rock, funk, soul, Latin, folk, classical
and even country music. But you are only
given a taste of their high standard of
musicianship and if you are here for the
music you will certainly be left craving
What Roberge, Stone, Eddy and McMahon
manage to do, however, is draw from their
wide range of musical experience and channel
it into The Quartet of Happiness
to produce a variety of original pieces
that fit perfectly with their inane story
telling and crazy role-playing antics.
Watching Roberge and Stone act out their
skits with the help of the occasional
monster mask or lame prop while playing
saxophones is a bizarre experience at
first, a bit like being a part of someones
manic episode, but once you go with it,
youll be taken on a journey where
anything is possible.
This is not a slick production. Very little
energy has gone into costumes or set design.
There are repeated wardrobe malfunctions.
The lighting is poor and the sound is
appalling in parts. But despite all this,
the DVD has an unsophisticated raw energy
that gives a sense of what it would be
like to see the Quartet perform live in
this intimate setting. The Stain Bar in
Brooklyn is a unique arts lounge that
has been described as being more of a
cultural/community centre than a bar where
artists are invited to perform or try
out their certain brand of art on audiences
for a small donation. Our lively saxophonists
use the entire space as their stage, busting
out of their dishevelled set in various
guises to interact with their audience.
The DVD is available online through the
Quartets website http://www.quartetofhappiness.com
for $US10 + $5 shipping and handling.
In addition to providing the usual information
like news, bios and dates, the website
allows you to interact with
the group via email. They even invite
you to send in storyline ideas that they
can set to music and perform, promising
you a T shirt if they become
famous on your idea! There is also a touchingly
honest, live performance review from Kelly
"Its dreadful, it makes me
want to cry"!
Apart from performing and touring, The
Quartet of Happiness has been taking
their show into schools to teach role-playing,
movement, and improvisation through music.
It has been my unfortunate experience
that music programs in public schools
usually range from sadly lacking to non-existent.
If the zany antics of The Quartet of
Happiness can open the world of music
and theatre to our children and inspire
their teachers then it is indeed a welcome
If by some strange chance you had never
wondered if there was a DVD such as this
out there it still might be worth a look.
It is experimental theatre and like all
experiments, sometimes it works and sometimes
it doesnt. But at only 38 minutes
running time, its not much of a
loss if it doesnt work for you.