In the mid-’90s, Jean Derome et les Dangereux Zhoms was Montréal saxophonist Jean Derome’s prime project. The group released three albums from 1994 to 1998. Although activities have slowed down, it continues to perform around the world — in the Ambiances Magnétiques roaster it stands as the most popular act abroad.
1992 was a good year for Jean Derome. He recorded the final (and best) album by his duo Les Granules with René Lussier and the first by his trio Évidence, among many other projects including music for dance and theatre. He was touring like crazy and began to keep a travel diary in which he jotted down musical impressions. It appeared to him that this “road music” screamed for a band of its own. Drawing from all of his activities, he put together Jean Derome et les Dangereux Zhoms (“Jean Derome and the Dangerous Guyz,” to pick up the intentional misspelling in the last word). The group, conceived as a road band just like the music, consists of the avant-garde jazz trio Évidence (Derome, bassist Pierre Cartier and drummer Pierre Tanguay), plus Les Granules (guitarist Lussier), plus two of Derome’s regular sidemen, trombonist Tom Walsh and keyboardist Guillaume Dostaler.
For this unit Derome penned a repertoire of pieces that blend avant-jazz, avant-rock and free improv, focusing on jazz stylings Évidence derived from Thelonious Monk, the saxophonist’s idiosyncratic contrapuntal writing and the warped stage humor that was the trademark of Les Granules. They gave one hell of a dynamite show. The Dangereux Zhoms began to perform in Montréal and the East Coast. A first CD, Carnets de Voyage (“travel diaries”) was recorded and released in 1994. Navré came out a year later. The group continued to tour extensively, in the US and soon in Europe too. By the end of 1997, tensions between Derome and Lussier had reached new heights and the two parted ways after two decades of close collaboration. The group was put on hiatus and Derome produced a live album from tapes recorded at the Théâtre La Chapelle in Montréal in February 1996. Torticolis was released in 1998 and the three Dangereux Zhoms CDs were packaged together as the box set 1994-96. The chapter was closed… or so it seemed.
In 1999 Derome reactivated the unit, minus Lussier. Local performances have been sparse and limited to special events (like a two-week Derome residency/retrospective at the same Théâtre La Chapelle in 2000), but the group still performs regularly outside Montréal and has appeared at jazz festivals in Guelph and Vancouver and at the 2001 RingRing festival in the Czech Republic.