Quartet of Happiness
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 it's 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 and clinics. 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."