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Marianne Trudel Quintet: An exhilarating, subtle start to the 2014-15 NAC Presents jazz series (review)

Marianne Trudel and Ingrid Jensen shared a strong musical link at Saturday's concert. ©Brett Delmage, 2014

Marianne Trudel Quintet
NAC Presents
NAC Fourth Stage
Saturday, October 25, 2014 – 7:30 p.m.

View photos of this performance

Marianne Trudel appeared spent but exhilarated at the end of her quintet's concert at the NAC Fourth Stage Saturday night. The Montreal pianist had just released a new album, La Vie Commence Ici, and this was the last stop on a week-long tour to promote it.

With notable improvisers like Ingrid Jensen and Trudel herself on stage, the show was far more than just a reenactment of the recording. The quintet – the same musicians as on the CD – expanded upon the music, adding new interpretations and texture, in an energetic yet subtle concert.

If the star power in the quintet was provided by Jensen on trumpet, the other four musicians (who played together on Trudel's 2007 live recording) created equally interesting musical moments. It was very much a joint endeavour, with sax and trumpet frequently playing in unison, with several trumpet-piano duets, and with creative bass and drums working together to propel the music forward.

The CD consists of ten original compositions by Trudel, most composed in the last 18 months and written for for this group. During the 80-minute show, they performed eight of the pieces, beginning with the title track.

Morgan Moore's bass notes echoed around the room, as he opened the piece with a deep, inquiring melody. Trudel joined in on piano, slow and stately, and then Jonathan Stewart on soprano sax and Jensen on trumpet soared over in unison. Trudel plucked strings inside her piano, creating a muted, staccato sound; the rhythm was echoed on trumpet and sax. The overall feel was melancholy; the overall style was symphonic and dramatic, swooping from very soft to very intense and back again.

They continued with “Soon”, the earliest composition on the CD. It again began full-bodied and flowing with the trumpet and tenor sax in unison, but then Jensen abruptly made a left turn into a much more demanding direction. Her trumpet cried out repeatedly – even stretching to reach some notes – and Trudel on piano and Robbie Kuster on drums changed to match it, becoming abrupt and frantic. And then the trumpet stopped, and the music resolved into sparkling piano and melodious bass. When Jensen reentered, it was very quietly, her trumpet simply filling in under the piano. Stewart joined in on tenor, and their combined lines again restated the theme, at first very fast and then slowly as they faded out. The audience greeted the piece with strong applause.

“Le Vent est une chance” was a lovely evocation of the wind, with atmospheric cymbals, exploratory piano, and waves of sound from Jensen's trumpet and Stewart's soprano sax, in unison and alternating.

“Night Heron” was inspired by Trudel's first vision of that bird: “c'est tellement beau!” Only she and Jensen played on this romantic and beautiful piece; it began with Jensen blowing into the piano and over its strings, and Trudel drumming percussively on the piano body. Together they created an otherworldly, almost mystical, mood. As Jensen played long, evocative lines on trumpet, Trudel slowly added in a piano melody. They both ended quietly, with Jensen again blowing into the piano. This song really exemplified the strong connection developed between the two musicians.

An immediate contrast was the quintet's extended version of “Urge”. More upbeat and forceful than most of the other pieces in the concert, it soon built to a bright, melody-filled song in which each musicians got to spread out. Trudel's piano playing was so emphatic in places that she almost sounded as though she was channeling Oscar Peterson. The audience particularly enjoyed it, acknowledging it with strong applause.

Just before “Deux Soleils”, Trudel noted that it felt about 45C on-stage. “I think it's these lights”. “No, it's the music!” immediately came from the audience, followed by “It's the love!” from Jensen. The music which followed fit that temperature, starting out as a warm-hearted piano ballad, and with drums and tenor sax and trumpet then adding a catchy Latin feel.

Trudel said she heard “L'abri” (Shelter) ideally as a symphony: “Just imagine 20 strings!”. It began as a quiet piano ballad, with muted trumpet lines calling out above, and then built to a full-out, rough-edged climax before ending thoughtfully with a patter of piano notes.

The show ended with “Choral”, a piece full of hope which overlaid different lines and textures into a harmonious and satisfying whole. It exemplified Trudel's music in this concert: complex and multi-layered, and deserving of close attention. The audience appeared engaged and intent throughout, although I sensed that the music was more immediately connecting with the more experienced jazz listeners. At the end, the group received a partial standing ovation.

This was the first jazz concert in the NAC Presents series for 2014-15. It will be a memorable season if the series continues to present such unforgettable, beautifully-presented music by such talented instrumentalists.

    – Alayne McGregor

Read the OttawaJazzScene.ca interview with Trudel about La Vie Commence Ici:

All photos ©2014 Brett Delmage