W.L. Seaton Secondary student Jacob Soucy

Concert review: Cool jazz at its finest

The Rémi Bolduc Jazz Ensemble gives its own take with its tribute to Dave Brubeck.

  • Feb. 1, 2017 1:00 p.m.

Jim Leonard

For The Morning Star

The volunteers of the North Okanagan Community Concert Association’s music committee must be thanked for their hard work in bringing first-class entertainment to Vernon.

Saturday’s performance of the Rémi Bolduc Jazz Ensemble was certainly up to the committee’s high standards. But if that wasn’t enough, we were treated to an up-and-coming jazz quartet led by W.L. Seaton Secondary’s jazz phenom Jacob Soucy to start the wonderful evening.

The members, Soucy (trumpet), Craig Matterson (piano), Isley Owens (upright bass), and pinch-hitter drummer Jason Martin, wowed the audience with their take on jazz standards and an original composition by Soucy called Chocolate Milk.

Soucy then joined Bolduc’s group to play There Will Never Be Another You and held his own quite nicely.

We were informed by an earlier article in The Morning Star that Bolduc’s ensemble would not be creating a carbon copy of Brubeck’s albums. The only similarity I noticed was Bolduc’s alto sax tone. It was very close to Paul Desmond’s lighter cool jazz tone.

Many of the arrangements featured long cadenzas at the end or exploratory and wistful piano intros. I was impressed by the group’s ensemble and by the intonation of Bolduc’s sax and the upright bass played by Fraser Hollins. As I am a gigging keyboardist, I know it is a challenge for such players to adjust to the intonation of the piano.

Two arrangements stood out: Take 5 had a unique intro by pianist extraordinaire François Bourassa. He reached into the piano and created a “prepared piano” sound with his left hand resulting in a muted percussive effect. Normally this effect is accomplished by placing various small objects on strategic parts of the piano’s strings, which produce harmonics and other effects. The piece was then played as Brubeck and his quartet would have done. It was there that all similarities ended. The harmony changed and so did the 5/4 meter. The quartet began to develop the familiar opening melody in a symphonic style, teasing the audience with little snippets of the theme passed around instrument to instrument while changing its characteristics ever so slightly. To top it all off was a brilliant drum solo by Dave Laing.

The other outstanding arrangement was the group’s take on Bluette, which started with Bourassa offering an intro not unlike the music of Russian composer/pianist Alexander Scriabin (1872-1915). The arrangement had many different tonal colours, complete with a soul-searching bass solo and frisky duet between the sax and piano to finish the piece.

Other honourable mentions offered were Blue Rondo a la Turk, where the group ignored the irregular note groupings outlined in Brubeck’s piece written in 9/8 time (2+2+2+3), to create a galloping infectious groove by using the usual 3+3+3 note groupings imposed on the melody.

The other piece was Charles Matthew Hallelujah in which many short Hallelujahs à la George Frederick Handel passed between the instruments.These were interrupted by a fast 4/4 swing that jazz players call a “burner.” Within this piece were altissimo sax notes (beyond normal range) and fast scales. This all settled down, prompted by a nice bass solo, to an excellent drum solo using brushes.

The standing ovation given by the audience was rewarded with a version of The Duke, featuring duets between sax and the other quartet members. I hope for this group’s return to Vernon in the near future.

The next NOCCA concert Feb. 26 will feature pianist Sarah Hagen with tenor Benjamin Butterfield.

– Jim Leonard is a Vernon-based musician who reviews the North Okanagan Community Concert Association series.

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