Evidently, everyone gets stripes in the Martin Maheux Circle: every player's name is printed on the album cover, and the bouncy mix and glossy production values leave nobody out in the cold. The production on Physics of Light is lively—very lively—and leader Maheux's drums & cymbals rest in the foreground and sound starkly & crisply. Jean-Francois Gagnon's trumpet bursts to life on the overture that is "Red Shift," as gurus Hassell & Isham look on. Pianist Guy Dubuc's ethereal synth noises help elevate the overall mood into an ephemerally euphoric state—like the buzzy synth patch that snakes out a medieval melody on "Spectrum Walk"— and Frédéric Alarie's upright bass sounds ominously robust. This is jazz's bubbling cider, and what's more is that it rocks nearly as much as it grooves. The Physics portion may well be the music, while the players themselves comprise the Light.
Dubuc's ivories dance through "Polychromatic" as if he conducts a small-scale ballet alongside the percussive rattles. "Traveling Through Vacuum" introduces the violin talent of Rachel Duperreault; she sets a phantasmally somber tone that intensifies with Maheux's salvo—if this album gets out to the public jazz masses, Martin's session calendar could be akin to a gigantic beanstalk. Despite cymballic pings pelting the mix like hail, they don't clash with the agile snare notes or the overseeing ride—the most respected drummers aren't just those who can keep odd times, but those who exact control. When the music school graduate slams into an insane barrage before the violin coda, only then does the camouflaged crescendo become apparent.
"Radiation Pulse" takes the scheme for a different spin with a spacey sequence programmed by Maheux, that transposes up or down several steps. Superb bass & piano solos preempt a shrieking trumpet run before the tune returns back to the pulsating sequence, with dashes of piano notes accenting the prelude to a cataclysmic resolution that resembles a prison breakout. The legato trumpet melody of "Prism Suite" is chorus-effected to produce a lush, orchestra-like quality that drapes itself across the undulating bass line. "Light Waves" closes this production with a somnolent air extracted by isolated notes & gentle chords on piano, and a long, acrobatic showcase by Alarie.
This is jazz, people, as opposed to jazz-fusion. There are rubies and emeralds, and then there are diamonds. What this album appears to be through your eyescope is up to you, but if you're familiar with Martin's main act, Spaced Out—and if you're already a fan—then the Physics of Light is an album we like to refer to as an "owner."