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The Jazz Workshop/L’Atelier de jazz (1966–1968)

Pierre Crépon


The Barrel, Le Baril in French, opened in October 1965 in Montreal, a few steps below street level on 1191 Mountain Street. Operating first as a discotheque and as the setting for productions of plays such as LeRoi Jones’s Dutchman, The Barrel started featuring jazz in late 1966 through the work of promoter Mike Armstrong. For his jazz club presentations, Armstrong used the name Jazz Workshop, or L’Atelier de jazz. Starting with local bebop groups, the programming took a forward-looking turn with the months-long residence of guitarist Sonny Greenwich in the spring of 1967. The club first operated four nights a week, Thursday to Sunday, dedicating after a while Thursday evenings to local blues or blues-rock bands. In May 1967, during Greenwich’s stay, policy switched to nightly presentations throughout the week, with blues acts in the evening (8 p.m. to midnight) followed by the main attraction, a jazz group, from midnight to 6 a.m. [1]

The Jazz Workshop’s main claim to posterity was a remarkable series of booking of New York avant-garde musicians in the summer of 1967 and beyond. “This was the year Coltrane had died [July 17] and the bar owner, Mike, brought in all of the band members who had played in his Ascension ... in quartets, quintets,” said drummer Dave Wynne, a member of several of the evening bands. [2] The avant-garde roster was summed up by a recurring slogan on Jazz Workshop adverts: “vedettes sur disques ESP, directement de New York." Other featured slogans, in somewhat broken French, included “le roi de jazz contemporain,” “le nouveau ‘Ornette Coleman,’” or “les nouvelles sonnes avant-garde.”

Although Jazz Workshop gigs were not well-attended — the massive world’s fair ongoing in Montreal not helping up-and-coming avant-gardists to stand out —, some carried special significance as early international jobs for musicians active in a scene until then strongly identified with New York. It was the case for saxophonist Noah Howard. “Albert [Ayler] got me my first concert outside the US. So my first international voyage was to Montreal, Canada,” Howard wrote in his autobiography. “After we arrived in the hotel the night before the concert, I checked the drummer’s room but did not get an answer ... When I entered, I found the drummer on the floor opening his bass drum where he had taped LSD tablets and ‘reefer.’ ... That night we all took a tablet and played a strange gig. I still don’t know what we played but the audience seemed to like it. ... After the concert, in the taxi leaving Montreal, we heard that Otis Redding and his whole band had crashed in a plane [on December 10]. I quickly told the driver that enough musicians had died that day and we would not fly out but return to the hotel.” [3]

Around the Howard gig, another significant residency took place at the Jazz Workshop, which was still operating nightly except on Mondays. The Quatuor du nouveau Jazz Libre du Québec (later Quatuor de Jazz Libre du Québec), a local outfit, made its first public appearances. According to historian Eric Fillion, the influence of the in-person appearances of the American musicians was significant. The band would go on to become the most notable offshoot of the jazz avant-garde in Quebec. [4]

The last confirmed gig at the Jazz Workshop fell to pianist Paul Bley in February 1968.

The listing below has been assembled using primarily Jazz Workshop advertisement in the French-language daily newspaper La Presse, which has been made available digitally by the Bibliothèque et Archives nationales du Québec. [5]

The data presented should be considered as partial and, as is usually the case when it comes to details of club work, conditional. Because of occasional gaps, gigs have been grouped on a monthly basis, with acts separated by semicolons. Exact dates were only available for visiting American bands. Despite the gaps in the source material, a sampling of Coda magazine mentions of Jazz Workshop activity confirm that this listing should constitute a fairly accurate picture of the Jazz Workshop’s programming.

Advertisements were usually placed in La Presse on Saturdays. In the absence of results through the BAnQ search engine, Saturday issues have been perused page-by-page. Identified gaps in Saturday advertisement were as follow: one week in November 1966; the full month of December 1966; two weeks in March 1967; one week in May 1967; one week in August 1967; data becomes highly fragmentary starting in September 1967. Listings in La Presse’s concert announcements section have made it possible to supplement partially gaps in advertisement.

The appearance of a handful of musicians announced as anticipated “soon” at various times could not be confirmed. Those gigs likely did not materialize. Concerned musicians were Yusef Lateef, The Art Quintet, Burton Greene, Roswell Rudd, a returning Albert Ayler, and Byard Lancaster.

Jazz Workshop gigs garnered La Presse coverage by journalist Gilles Ouellet which was remarkably extensive. Ouellet profiled the musicians, sometimes using short quotes from interviews, and reviewed the music in detail. Those articles have permitted confirmation of the personnel of most American bands. A listing of Ouellet’s articles has been included in the bibliography accompanying this article.

Groups announced at the Jazz Workshop (1966–1968) in La Presse

November 1966 [Thursday–Sunday]Ron Proby Quintet; Montreal Jazz Quartet; Harry Marks Quartet.
January 1967 [Thursday–Sunday]Sadik Hakim Trio with guest Jack Bonus.
February 1967 [Thursday–Sunday]Paul Bley Trio; Sadik Hakim Trio; Jack Bonus with Orgasmic Trio.
March 1967 [Thursday (evening)]Blues Project; Albert Failey Blues Band.
March 1967 [Friday–Saturday or Sunday]Jack Bonus Quartet; Sonny Greenwich Quartet.
April 1967 [Thursday (evening)]Blues Project; The Garden.
April 1967 [Friday–Sunday]Sonny Greenwich Quartet.
May 1967 [Monday–Thursday (evening); daily (evening)]Blues Project; Albert Failey Blues Band.
May 1967 [Friday–Sunday; daily]Sonny Greenwich Quartet.
May 1967 [Sunday (matinee)]Royal Family; Albert Failey; The Garden; The Toilet.
June 1967 [evening]blues band.
June 9–10, 1967Paul Bley Trio.
June 1967Sonny Greenwich Quartet.
June 1967 [Sunday (matinee)]The Garden; Influence.
late June–mid July 1967Marion Brown Quartet with Dave Burrell, Norris Jones, Rashied Ali.
July 1967 [evening]Influence.
July 14–23, 1967Sunny Murray Quintet with Alan Shorter, Carlos Ward, Grachan Moncur III, Alan Silva.
July 24–August 6, 1967Archie Shepp Quartet with Roswell Rudd, Jimmy Stevenson, Beaver Harris.
August 1967 [evening]Influence; The Urge.
August 8–21, 1967Grachan Moncur III Quartet with Warren Chiasson, Cecil McBee, Frank Clayton.
August 22–27, 1967Albert Ayler Quintet with Don Ayler, Call Cobbs, Bill Davis, Rashied Ali.
September 1967 [evening]The Rabble.
September 1967Frank Wright Quartet with Bobby Few, Duane Alston, Leroy Williams;
Marzette Watts Quartet with Richard Dunbar, Dick Griffin, Oliver Turner, Norman Connors.
October–November 1967Quatuor du nouveau Jazz Libre du Québec with Jean Préfontaine, Yves Charbonneau, Maurice Richard, Guy Thouin.
November 28–mid December 1967Noah Howard Quintet with Ric Colbeck, Leslie Waldron, Norris Jones, Bobby Kapp.
January 1968 [Monday–Thursday (evening)]The Haunted.
January 1968Quatuor du nouveau Jazz Libre du Québec.
mid January–early February 1968Norman Connors Quartet.
February 16–17, 1968Paul Bley Trio with Barry Altschul.

Index of Musicians

  • Ayler, Albert
  • Bley, Paul
  • Blues Project
  • Bonus, Jack
  • Brown, Marion
  • Connors, Norman
  • Failey, Albert
  • Garden, The
  • Greenwich, Sonny
  • Hakim, Sadik
  • Haunted, The
  • Howard, Noah
  • Influence
  • Marks, Harry
  • Moncur, Grachan, III
  • Montreal Jazz Quartet
  • Murray, Sunny
  • Proby, Ron
  • Quatuor du nouveau Jazz Libre du Québec
  • Rabble, The
  • Royal Family
  • Shepp, Archie
  • Toilet, The
  • Urge, The
  • Watts, Marzette


  • Crépon, Pierre. “Free Jazz/Québec Libre: Le Quatuor de Jazz Libre du Québec, 1967–1975.” Point of Departure 72 (September 2019),
  • Howard, Noah. Music in My Soul. Köln, Germany: Buddy’s Knife Jazzedition, 2011.
  • Fillion, Eric. Jazz libre et la révolution québécoise: Musique-action, 1967–1975. Saint-Joseph-du-Lac, Quebec: M Éditeur, 2019.
  • Miller, Mark. Of Stars and Strings: A Biography of Sonny Greenwich. Toronto: Tellwell/Mark Miller, 2020.
  • Ouellet, Gilles. “‘New Thing’, c’est le ‘Black Power’ en musique.” La Presse (August 5, 1967): 21.
  • Ouellet, Gilles. “Grachan Moncur III ou la voie de l’abstraction.” La Presse (August 19, 1967): 23.
  • Ouellet, Gilles. “Albert Ayler: ‘Je ne suis pas de ce monde’.” La Presse (September 2, 1967): 34.
  • Ouellet, Gilles. “Frank Wright: Une musique imprévisible.” La Presse (September 23, 1967): 31.
  • Ouellet, Gilles. “Un mauvais élève de grands maîtres: Marzette.” La Presse (October 7, 1967): 41.
  • Ouellet, Gilles. “Dans le sillage des grands démons noirs du jazz libre.” La Presse (October 21, 1967): 22.
  • Ouellet, Gilles. “Le ‘Groupe’ au Baril et l’environnement global.” La Presse (December 9, 1967): 20.
  • Ouellet, Gilles. “Noah Howard: Mieux que la drogue, la musique!” La Presse (December 23, 1967): 25.
  • Ouellet, Gilles. “Paul Bley: Le lyrisme à froid de l’introspection.” La Presse (February 24, 1968): 43.
  • Roberge, Françoys. “Jazz au Baril: Norman Connors et la démesure.” Le Devoir (January 31, 1968): 10.
  • Warburton, Nick. “Influence.” The Strange Brew, 2010,


Thanks to Mark Miller.

[1] For a more complete description of the club, see Mark Miller, Of Stars and Strings: A Biography of Sonny Greenwich (Toronto: Tellwell/Mark Miller, 2020). The relevant chapter has been excerpted in Point of Departure 71 (June 2020), Accessed November 16, 2021.

[2] Nick Warburton, “Influence.” The Strange Brew, 2010, Accessed November 16, 2021.

[3] Noah Howard, Music in My Soul (Köln, Germany: Buddy’s Knife Jazzedition, 2011), 41.

[4] See Eric Fillion, Jazz libre et la révolution québécoise: Musique-action, 1967–1975 (Saint-Joseph-du-Lac, Quebec: M Éditeur, 2019). For information in English, see Pierre Crépon, “Free Jazz/Québec Libre: Le Quatuor de Jazz Libre du Québec, 1967–1975,” Point of Departure 72 (September 2019), Accessed November 16, 2021.

[5] BAnQ Numérique, Accessed November 16, 2021.

Author Information: 
Pierre Crépon is an independent researcher based in France. He has written for The Wire, New York City Jazz Record, Point of Departure, and Improjazz, among others. His research deals with the history of avant-garde jazz, with a particular focus on the American and French scenes of the sixties and seventies.

This listing compiles groups announced at the Jazz Workshop/L’Atelier de Jazz club in La Presse. A bibliography of reviews is included.

Jazz Workshop, L’Atelier de jazz, Montreal, Canada, jazz, chronology

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