Illustration Biography

For those who care for music labels, "big band jazz-rock" was a popular musical genre that began in the late 1960’s. BLOOD, SWEAT & TEARS and CHICAGO are the bands that typically come to mind. But these were by no means the only bands to fall under this label. Among such others were LIGHTHOUSE, AMBERGRIS, H.P. RIOT, and AVERAGE WHITE BAND. But, alas, arguably the least known of these bands, and today almost completely forgotten, was the Montreal-based ILLUSTRATION. Bands that end up long forgotten often deserve it for various reasons, but the lack of notoriety ILLUSTRATION now suffers is certainly undeserved. ILLUSTRATION was an excellent group that demonstrated superior musicianship in every way, but after only one formal record release poor management led to the band’s untimely demise.

Formed at the Fontaine Bleu in St. Jean, Quebec in 1969, ILLUSTRATION was essentially the combination of two other bands playing throughout Ontario and Quebec at the time: THE DYNAMICS and THE JADES. Originally formed by guitarist Jimmy Mann, THE DYNAMICS went through numerous makeovers throughout the mid sixties beginning with the departure and eventual return of Jimmy Mann. Chan Romero, famous for his song, "Hippy Hippy Shake," replaced Jimmy Mann in the interim period but subsequently left the band while the group was in Quebec. Eventually settling as THE PHOENIX OF AYRE'S CLIFF the members were Norman Burgess on saxophone, Kenny Brabant on drums, Ken Folk on bass, Bob Deutscher on guitar, Hans Stamer on vocals, and Richard Terry on organ.

THE JADES originally began as THE FLAMING STARS in the early 1960’s and were led by drummer Don Carpentier. This band played together for nine years throughout Quebec and Ontario appearing at such notable venues as the Esquire Show Bar in Montreal. Billy Ledster was the vocalist for the band with Rene Hamelin on guitar Johnny Ranger on organ.
By the late 1960’s members of both groups were moving on to other projects. Richard Terry and Norman Burgess were looking to form a bigger group with which to go the United States. When the two met organist Johnny Ranger and vocalist Billy Ledster from THE JADES who were performing at the Fontaine Bleu in St. Jean, Quebec in 1969 they formed a new group and called it THE SOUND SYNDICATE. With organist Johnny Ranger, Richard Terry moved over to bass, and the band quickly began to grow adding Claude Roy on drums, who had previously played with THE JADES, Benoit Perreault and Paul Perkins on trumpet, Garry Beattie on guitar, and Gerry Labelle on saxophone. The group was picked up by Don Seat Management of New York and began playing regularly at the Fontaine Bleu whereupon trumpeter Leo Harinen joined the group to replace Paul Perkins.

THE SOUND SYNDICATE had developed into a nine-member group and was still expanding. While playing in Boston, Massachusetts one evening in 1969 at a club called Lucifer’s a trombonist named Roger Homefield sat in with the band and found himself a new member by the end of the night. Continuing to play various clubs along the east coast of the United States, the band was in Seaside Heights, New Jersey when Gerry Labelle left to pursue work in Chicago. In need of new saxophone player the band acquired Donald Sanders and his wife, Cheri St. James, who added additional vocals to the band.
Having now eleven members, THE SOUND SYNDICATE was heard by manager Barry Wolfe who introduced the band to producer Alan Lorber. Alan Lorber was impressed with what he heard and signed the band for a one-record deal with Janus Records. The group began recording its debut album at A& R Studios in New York in late 1969. Eager to play their music the band continued to perform at numerous venues on the east coast. The band once again changed personnel as Glenn Higgins joined the band to replace Donald Sanders who had left for Nashville to produce his own music, and Billy Shiell joined the group in Miami adding a third trumpet. Prior to the band’s upcoming record release Janus Records wanted the band to change their name for marketing reasons. The band adopted their new name at the Blue Room Club, later the Stock Market Club, in St. Petersburg, Florida becoming ILLUSTRATION.

During this time the group shared the stage with some notable performers. While playing at the Newport Hotel in Miami, Florida the band backed up TINA TURNER and later performed with JOE COCKER, ROD STEWART, MILES DAVIS, H.P. RIOT, and FUNKADELIC. The band also enjoyed critical acclaim with a very positive review in the June, 1970 issue of Rolling Stone Magazine and similarly positive reviews from John Wilson, a jazz critic for the New York Times, and Dennis Washburn, a music columnist for the Birmingham News. As well, the band’s first single, "Our Love’s A Chain," did quite well on Canadian radio reaching as high as 12. However, by 1971 many of the members were growing increasingly weary of the management problems the group had been having. Despite having enough material for their next album and having taken part in various recording sessions the prospects for the group were fading. Back in Montreal, Quebec ILLUSTRATION was approached to record some music for a French-Canadian film called APRÈS SKI. Five songs were recorded at RCA Victor Studios in Montreal and released on the soundtrack to the film, but the band was never credited for their contribution to the film due to legal constraints. Shortly thereafter the group disbanded.

Several of the members of ILLUSTRATION got back together in the following years with various bands among which were FOX, THE MICHEL COMO BLUES BAND, and MAN MADE. Of these groups MAN MADE achieved some commercial success. It was a smaller band than had been ILLUSTRATION and had an altogether new sound. They met with Gille Talbot and producer Andre Perry and recorded an album on the Good Noise label. MAN MADE continued to play in Montreal with various other musicians including Jerry Mercer of APRIL WINE, Rene Hamelin, Bob Baines, and Gerry Labelle. The band, however, did not record a subsequent album and disbanded by the end of the 1970’s, and the individual members went their separate ways. Some members of ILLUSTRATION toured briefly with the JESUS CHRIST SUPERSTAR production while others went on to record with such notable musicians as STAN KENTON, BUDDY RICH, MAYNARD FERGUSON, and the MIAMI SOUND MACHINE.

It is unfortunate that ILLUSTRATION did not last. Their music was sophisticated and their musicianship was excellent. The band played with a unified musical soul that gave them a unique sound that was distinctly their own. No other band could match the power of ILLUSTRATION’s six-member horn section. Clearly, talent does not always guarantee commercial success, for if it did, ILLUSTRATION would be well known today. As it happens they are today almost completely forgotten but for a few who recall their music. Many of the former members of ILLUSTRATION, however, continue to be active in music today; and in spite of their brief tenure their music remains as impressive as ever it was.

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