“An extraordinary pianist […] Marianne Trudel is one of the most respected jazz musicians in Quebec…” — CBC
“Ingrid (Jensen) plays trumpet and flugelhorn with all the brilliance and fire of a true virtuoso, following the spirit of the muse as she creates… …warm, sensitive, exciting and totally honest…” – Marian McPartland
Renowned Quebec pianist Marianne Trudel performs in four Island centres this week with her JUNO nominated project La vie commence ici – Life Begins Here, featuring Nanaimo-born, New-York-based trumpet virtuoso Ingrid Jensen. The quartet includes gifted bassist Rémi-Jean Leblanc and powerhouse drummer Rich Irwin.
This is a not-to-miss show with two of Canada’s most gifted and passionate musicians. Here are the dates:
Wednesday, June 22 : Nanaimo – SIMONHOLT (Quartet feat. Ingrid Jensen) 7:30 pm – 6582 Applecross Rd. 250-933-3338, Tickets $25
Thursday, June 23 : Tofino- Clayoquot Sound Community Theatre (Trio) 8 pm-380 Campbell, 250-266-0133– $20
Drummer, songwriter, teacher and bandleader James McRae has played with everyone from Colin James to Marc Atkinson and Miles Black. He was born in Toronto but moved to Vancouver when he was fourteen. He’s lived on the Island since the 1980s and has long been an important part of the jazz scene here, including his time in the 1990s with the popular Victoria group Loose. In 2011 he released Slow Down, an album of original songs with a Brazilian flavour that received praise from across Canada. I interviewed McRae by telephone from his home in Nanaimo. An edited version of the interview follows.
How did you get into jazz?
Between twelve and nineteen I played along to records – Led Zeppelin, ZZ Top, The Who – I was more into prog rock actually which was off the beaten path. When I came back from travelling in Europe when I was nineteen, I decided to ask the Musician’s Association who the best drummer in Vancouver was so I could take lessons. They recommended Al Wiertz who played with Lenny Breau and a number of prominent people. He and other drummers in Vancouver, including Terry Clarke, had studied with Jim Blackley. When I went to Al, he said I’m going to teach you to play drums but jazz is the music I grew up on. I would go in and he would play the same three musical groups – the Miles Davis Quintet, the John Coltrane Quartet and the Bill Evans Trio – and show me how to play along through the Jim Blackley method and teaching ideology. After about half a year I realized I was enjoying that music. That was my indoctrination into jazz music.
What’s your musical philosophy?
There’s all these myriad influences you pick up as a musician. I think it’s a reflection of my own personality that I’ve never latched onto one particular sound or style that felt like that was it and that I had to cut everything else out of my life. On the food level the analogy would be liking all kinds of food and being really adventurous.
Everyone is different and you have to find your own place. Most of the people I play music with were born in some kind of suburb in urban Canada and they grew up with a bunch of different North American cultural influences. If you want to be someone who plays bebop – that’s coming out of a whole different cultural backdrop. Not to dishonour someone who wants to pursue a particular musical style … but I want to honour the fact that I live in a relatively small community on the west coast of Canada. What are my roots? What’s my heritage? And how do I incorporate that? That’s really my philosophy – getting into who you are and what’s unique about you.
How did your album Slow Down come about?
Ever since high school I’ve always dabbled on the piano – I’ve never taken lessons or studied with anyone formally but over the years, especially when I was living in Jordan River, I noodled on the piano to the point that I learned how to play jazz voicings on my left hand while I could solo on my right hand and that was just a part of me developing my songwriting ability. The evolution of that album is just the ongoing evolution of my ability to have an idea and present it to other people. The idea of Jennifer Scott singing without any words is very much coming out of Chick Corea’s Return to Forever, which goes back to the early influence of the Wayne Shorter album Native Dancer.
How did you choose the musicians for that album?
I had a longstanding relationship with Miles Black – I remember doing gigs with Miles when he was living in Victoria and I always had a positive rapport with him in terms of his outlook on music and so I felt Miles would be a good person to engage. He’d been working with Jennifer Scott and Rene Worst and they’d done some recordings together and I liked what I heard. I’d played a little bit with Rene – in 2000 I did a tour with Barbara Blair up to the interior with Tom Vickery and Rene was on those gigs. But basically it was the rapport Miles had with Rene and Jennifer – I liked that synergy and I thought it would be really good to include them all.
Talk about the recording process.
At the time in 2010 I was doing A Closer Walk With Patsy Cline – we did a lot of shows in the Vancouver area. Going in to do the recording I remember doing a bunch of country gigs and so we never rehearsed for that CD. We basically went into the studio and did the CD in a day. Miles layered some B3 organ on one or two of the songs but with the exception of that it was from the floor onto tape. We did mostly just two takes of the songs.
What about your role as drummer on the album?
When you play drums, especially in commercial music, you’re playing mostly a supportive role…there’s not the chance to improvise and play out. One of the reasons I think the CD worked really successfully is that I was coming out of that headspace of playing a supportive role [on the Patsy Cline gigs]. I was thinking of that CD as more an opportunity to do my songs, not as an opportunity to say ‘hey, look at me I’m a great drummer.’ Never really felt that way anyway and again that’s a reflection of my personality I suppose.
Notable Quotes from the Interview
“We’re all different and we all have a different place to go and I just want to try to honour that in other people.”
“I do enjoy working with young people maybe because they’re generally more open and less crystallized in their approach to what they’re doing.”
You can visit James McRae’s website, listen to his music and check out his playing dates here.
Leftover Dreams Brings Their Unique Mix of “Moody Ballads, Jumping Swingers and Unabashedly Romantic Love Songs” to Hermann’s.
If you like well arranged jazz vocals and richly textured solo jazz guitar then you’ll enjoy Leftover Dreams, a unique Canadian-American duo performing at Hermann’s this Wednesday evening (May 18).
Leftover Dreams is the brainchild of longtime Bay Area musician-vocalist Tony Marcus and former Victoria singer-songwriter-harpist Patrice Haan.
Marcus and Haan have put their own stamp on the great American songbook (and the occasional original tune) by creating complex vocal arrangements that swing to the compelling chord-melody guitar work of Marcus who, it must be said, knows his way around a fingerboard.
Leftover Dreams was recently featured on NPR’s All Songs Considered, winning the weekly listener’s poll with their version of Teach Me Tonight. The show is part of a northwest tour that will take them through Washington and Oregon. A must-see!
Doors at 5:30, show at 7:30. Tickets $15.
The Devil’s Horn: The History and Curse of the Saxophone to Play May 6,7,8 in Victoria. Island Jazz Readers Can Win a Free Pair of Passes.
The Devils’ Horn: The History and Curse of the Saxophone, the latest documentary by award-winning Canadian filmmaker Larry Weinstein (Inside Hana’s Suitcase and Our Man in Tehran) is coming to the Vic Theatre in Victoria for a limited three-day engagement (May 6,7,8) and Island Jazz readers have the chance to win a pair of free passes.
Weinstein, who has made films about classical music in his twenty-year career, has had a longstanding interest in jazz and got the idea for The Devil’s Horn after reading the 2005 book of the same title by Michael Segell. He told Toronto film critic Andrew Parker in a recent interview that “I thought there was a fabulous idea for a film in there because he [Segell] touches on this notion of a curse behind the sax.”
The idea of the curse goes back to the Adolphe Sax (1814-1894), the inventor of the saxophone, who, it is said, led a cursed life (he suffered seven near-death experiences in childhood, went mad and died in poverty).
The devil’s involvement seems to be connected with the Catholic Church which banned the instrument in 1903. The Nazis not only banned it but also burned saxophones and saxophone recordings.Even the communists got in on the act, routinely imprisoning saxophonists. And then there’s the tragic lives of some of its greatest exponents, mostly in the jazz world.
Weinstein’s film explores this storied history but more important, it examines the soulful and seductive power of the instrument said to be the closest to the human voice and at the very heart of modern jazz. The film features interviews with a number of saxophonists including the legendary Jimmy Heath.
If you’d like your name included in the draw, email me at gibrickATgmailDOTcom and write “ticket draw” in the subject line. Include your full name and telephone number in the body of the email. I must receive your entry no later than Wednesday, May 4 at 12 noon. The draw takes place on Thursday.
Movie times are 7pm on Friday, May 6; 4pm on Saturday, May 7; and 7pm on Sunday, May 8. You can view the trailer here.