The Varsity Magazine

Rotate This by Ian Roth
November 1995


Anyone familiar with Toronto’s jazz scene has likely come into contact with Rick Lazar, whether at a concert he was attending or more likely one in which he was performing. Along with his band, Montuno Police, Lazar is also a member of Loreena McKennitt’s band; eclectic vibesters, Mecca; jazz-fusion band Manteca; and frequently plays with (and adds more than a little flavour to Toronto jazz guitarist, Brian Hughes.

Lazar is that little guy with the freaky goatee and mop of black hair that plays every “alternative” (read non-North American) percussion instrument ever invented. The orchestration of the rest of the band, including electric violin, organ, accordion, various woodwinds, and a funky bassist, matches and complements the symbiosis found in Lazar’s bag of percussion.

Touch is a marked improvement to Montuno Police’s 1990 self-titled debut cassette, and that was excellent. Playing in styles as wide ranging as Cuban, Arabic, and Brazilian jazz and funk, Touch starts with a mere touch, intensifies to a caress, and quickly climaxes to a full-fledged bite as it takes full control of its listeners.

All 73 minutes of this album are totally amazing, never even approaching the boring threshold the other side of which so many long-playing CD’s dwell.

For those familiar with Lazar’s work, the token rap song has become more than a little familiar, but the last song on Touch, “Yo Drummer,” though it still sounds somewhat like his other rap tunes, is much more polished and includes a couple brief ragamuffin-style interludes. Clocking in at almost eight minutes, Lazar shows his ability, and more importantly, his love for versatility as “Yo Drummer” puts the cherry on top of this monumental record.

Lazar, on this album, has shown that he and his Montuno Police indisputably make up the most creative and multifaceted jazz ensemble in Toronto.