Quartet of Happiness takes modern jazz and infuses it with a hefty dose of cheekiness and irreverent humor, wrapping it all up in the sort of theatrics reminiscent of Blue Man Group. The group has made it its mission to take jazz out of the ivory tower and make it accessible to a wide-ranging audience. Playing games, wearing costumes, and engaging the audience with their antics, the Quartet of Happiness’ performances are at times reminiscent of a cross between an improv comedy show and a theater of the bizarre. It’s part jazz, part performance art, and all of it the child of insane wit.
The architects of Quartet of Happiness are
saxophonists Kelly Roberge and Rick
Stone. The pair met while each pursued a Master’s
Degree at the New England Conservatory of Music
in Boston. Frustrated by the role of modern jazz as
the province of intellectual wonkery, Roberge and Stone
shared the inspiration to put the sense of pure, childish
fun back in jazz.
The seeds of this quirky quartet were sown
in 2003, while Roberge and
Stone were on tour in Japan with a big band during the summer
after their graduation from conservatory. They'd been
on tour for a solid month, playing the same compositions
day after day. To keep themselves amused (and freak
out the audience), they began to act out. They'd
storm the audience during a solo, and perform various other
shenanigans to the chagrin of the demure Japanese bandleader.
It wasn't long, though, before the bandleader succumbed
to the effect that the pair's antics had on everyone and
eventually embraced the behavior as part of the performance.
Armed with this new encouragement, Stone
and Roberge began to take their ideas further, and thus
the Quartet of Happiness was born. The band
appeared in various incarnations before the more cohesive
present lineup, which now includes one of the most formidable
rhythm sections in Boston: bassist and fellow NEC alum Kendall
Eddy, and drummer Austin McMahon.
Now a veritable quartet of four kindred, goofy souls, the
Quartet of Happiness has toured the Northeast, Midwest,
equally at home playing in a downtown New York club and
schools in the middle of Iowa. An important part of the
band's ethos is reaching out to younger audiences in schools
Some notables that members of the quartet
of happiness have collectively performed and/or recorded
with include Billy Hart, Bob Brookmeyer, George Garzone,
the Either/Orchestra, Steve Lacy, David Liebman, Ira Sullivan,
and the band "Boston"