Jazz: Festive Collaborations

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François Bourassa’s Pianorama

In the years following his breakthrough as winner of the Montreal Jazz Festival Competition in 1985, pianist François Bourassa has constantly evolved. Over time he has worked his way out of the Bill Evans bag he first played in (with a few touches of McCoy Tyner), delving into a wide range of music, from the mainstream to the avant-garde. The addition of tenor saxophonist André Leroux to his trio in 1997 provided extra grit, and from then on every new recording was like a stepping stone. More than that, he has shown some daring in his choice of playing partners, for instance his surprising encounters a few years ago with saxophonist Jean Derome and drummer Pierre Tanguay, two leading names in the city’s experimental scene (a.k.a. Musique actuelle). In recent times, he has performed and recorded more through composed music, in a singular trio with fellow pianist Yves Léveillée and classical percussionist Marie-Josée Simard.

In the weeks to come, he will further his pianistic explorations at two Montreal concerts, sharing them with three other keyboardists. On June 16, during the alternative Suoni per il popolo festival, he will play solos and duos with a prominent American guest: Myra Melford. This Chicago native first rose to fame in the late 1980s within the blossoming New York experimental jazz scene of the time and vaulted from there onto the international stage. Since 2004, she has resided in the Bay Area where she holds a teaching position. On two previous occasions, she sparred with piano players, once with her Japanese colleague Satoko Fujii, the other in Australia, with one Alister Spence. She, like Bourassa, will perform a solo set, then engage in some free form duets to top off a most promising evening to take place at Montreal’s music conservatory.

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Three weeks later, on July 6, Bourassa is at it again during Montreal’s big jazz fest (FIJM). His duo partner that evening will be Marianne Trudel. This concert is dedicated to Paul Bley, the last of our city’s most famous jazz sons, who passed away early this year. The second half will feature keyboard veteran Jean Beaudet with his Trio with bassist Daniel Lessard and drummer Michel Ratté.

» Listening tip: Myra Melford – Life Carries me this Way (Firehouse 12 records), solo.

Vancouver Drops In

Equally at the Suoni fest, Trading Places is a new exchange initiative of musicians between Vancouver and Montreal. Backed by an anonymous donor, and slated for a three-year run, this venture will bring two musicians East during the festival, an follow up in November when two Montrealers head West. Guitarist Tony Wilson and harpist Elisa Thorn are the first invitees and they will first rehearse with local drummer Pierre Tanguay, violinist Josh Zubot and saxophonist Ted Crosby for a stage performance on June 13. Earmarked for this fall are alto saxophonist Yves Charuest and clarinettist Elisabeth Lima.

Brasses in the Park

A brainchild of trombonist Scott Thomson, “Parcours par cuivres” (‘Brass Treks’, for want of a better translation) is an unconventional project for a ten-piece brass band. Co-written by this former Torontonian and an old Hogtown acquaintance of his, the outcat saxman John Oswald, this hour-long concept piece, premiering June 5, will take place at Parc Lafontaine. The ad-hoc group of four trumpets, three trombones, one French horn and two tubas, called the “Fanfare R. Mutt” (i.e. the signature given by dada artist Marcel Duchamp to his scandalous 1920s work called “Fontaine”), will wander from the Sherbrooke Street end of the park to the north (Rachel), the group splitting up at times. Thomson calls it a kind of environmental piece, a happening of sorts, whose idea he had in mind for a while but that really came together during an Oswald residency in town earlier in the year. www.scottthomson.ca

Parallel Initiatives

Improvisors at the Hospital

Hearing free jazz at a hospital might be hard to imagine, but think again. Case in point: The Jewish General Hospital Jazz Festival (JGHJF). Instigated by its in-house musical therapist Bryan Highbloom in 1999, it first piggy backed itself onto the FIJM, and even succeeded in landing star performers like Jack de Johnette and Mike Stern to play for its patients. Three years ago, it aligned itself with the alternative Suoni event, and has brought locals and some out-of-towners to perform on an outdoor stage next to a busy street corner, or in an indoor auditorium in case of rain. Also included are some musical performances with patient participation, even special workshops for youths under the care of its psychiatry department. Unique in its kind, according to its organizer, this event certainly gives credence to the late Albert Ayler’s noble thought of “Music as the healing force of the universe.” www.suoniperilpopolo.org/suonijgjf

Composers at the Bar

Speaking of Rachel, there is a second one worth mentioning. Therrien is her family name and trumpet is her game. Her win at last year’s festival jazz competition has given her the opportunity to go out on the festival junket this summer (see opposite page). But she is also the organizer of a parallel event to the big jazz event simply called “The Jazz Composer Series.” The rules of the game are simple: for seven nights, from July 2 to 9, six different musicians are thrown together nightly, everyone brings two pieces, they meet for a four-hour rehearsal and hit in the evening. Now in its fourth year, the series runs at the Vinyl Bar (2109 Bleury, below Sherbrooke). Being self-organized, the event will stage a fundraiser show on June 11. From past experiences, listeners can be guaranteed a full evening’s worth of modern jazz, deftly played by locals and a handful of guests, some coming from New York. Definitely a hot tip to follow up on. www.facebook.com/jazzcomposerswww.jazzcomposers.wordpress.com

This page is also available in / Cette page est également disponible en: Francais (French)


About Author

Marc Chénard is a Montreal-based multilingual music journalist specialized in jazz and improvised music. In a career now spanning some 30 years, he has published a wide array of articles and essays, mainly in Canada, some in the United States and several in Europe (France, Belgium, Germany and Austria). He has travelled extensively to cover major festivals in cities as varied as Vancouver and Chicago, Paris and Berlin, Vienna and Copenhagen. He has been the jazz editor and a special features writer for La Scena Musicale since 2002; currently, he also contributes to Point of Departure, an American online journal devoted to creative musics. / / Marc Chénard est un journaliste multilingue de métier de Montréal spécialisé en jazz et en musiques improvisées. En plus de 30 ans de carrière, ses reportages, critiques et essais ont été publiés principalement au Canada, parfois aux États-Unis mais également dans plusieurs pays européens (France, Belgique, Allemagne, Autriche). De plus, il a été invité à couvrir plusieurs festivals étrangers de renom, tant en Amérique (Vancouver, Chicago) que Outre-Atlantique (Paris, Berlin, Vienne et Copenhangue). Depuis 2012, il agit comme rédacteur atitré de la section jazz de La Scena Musicale; en 2013, il entame une collabortion auprès de la publication américaine Point of Departure, celle-ci dédiée aux musiques créatives de notre temps.

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