EDMONTON | JUNE 24, 2011 – As one of the nation’s top jazz artists, you would expect that Francois Bourassa knows something about what defines Canadian jazz. He certainly likes what he hears.
“It’s a great mix,” he offers. “It’s hard to generalize and there are many different styles, some more in the tradition, some more in the avant-garde. But it’s a very positive climate to work in because we have the bluesy American influence, and the European esthetic at the same time. We can take a little of both to create Canadian jazz.”
As a fixture of the Montreal jazz scene for several decades, Bourassa, 51, has witnessed the growth of so many gifted artists in Quebec and dozens of other acts who show up from across the country for that city’s jazz festival (the world’s largest). Regular touring to Europe and elsewhere has increased his international status.
When the brilliant, award-winning pianist and his quartet perform two shows Friday to help kick off this year’s Edmonton International Jazz Festival, you can hear one of the most sharply honed, virtually telepathic jazz bands anywhere performing material from their inspired new album Idiosyncrasie (Effendi Records). Bassist Guy Boisvert has worked with Bourassa since 1983 and the musical camaraderie with reedman André Leroux and drummer Philippe Melanson is equally deep.
“We’re very good friends but we don’t talk much about the music. I think that helps it flourish and it feels so easy to play together.”
Over the past couple of years, the pianist has taken on side projects too, working in an edgier collectively improvised trio (“a sort of liberation”), and finishing his first concerto for orchestra and percussion (“a lot of work”). He admits both pursuits have had an unconscious effect on his quartet. One of the most thrilling things about the group is the tightrope they walk between sumptuous melodic structures and delicious conversational tangents. Idiosyncrasie takes it all further.