Each week OttawaJazzScene.ca highlights a live jazz or improvised music performance in Ottawa-Gatineau in our comprehensive Live Jazz Guide. There's a great deal of interesting, new jazz to choose from every week, so it's often a difficult choice!

Friday, January 25, 2019:  The Lorraine Desmarais Trio plays Bill Evans at La Nouvelle Scène

Lorraine Desmarais ©Brett Delmage, 2012
Lorraine Desmarais at a Montreal Jazz Festival concert in Salle Gésu ©Brett Delmage, 2012

Pianist Lorraine Desmarais is renowned as an inventive and nuanced bandleader and composer – a major part of Quebec's and Canada's jazz scenes. She's led her own big band, performed with l'Orchestre National de Jazz de Montréal, and more than held her own with visiting international stars like Chick Corea or the Brubeck brothers. In her 35-year career, she's released twelve albums of original compositions plus jazz standards, three of which (Trio Lorraine Desmarais, Jazz pour Noël, and Big Band) won FÉLIX awards in Quebec. In 2012, she was named to the Order of Canada; in 2002, the Montreal Jazz Festival awarded her its highest honour, the Oscar Peterson Award.

Her most compelling music has been created with her long-time trio with double bassist Fréderic Alarie and drummer Camil Belisle. (Ottawa audiences will recognize Camil from his recent performances in Garry Elliott's and Steve Boudreau's quartet.)

We heard Desmarais' trio a few years ago at the Montreal Jazz Festival in the intimate surroundings of Salle Gésu.To hear her in a simple trio setting, with pieces which complemented but did not repeat each other, showed her continuing talent, both as a performer and as a composer. Our review described her performance as "effervescent, in her piano playing, in her extended and cheerful explanations of the music, and in her intuitive interactions with her musicians. Not giddy, but rather expressing the joy of music shared with people who appreciated it."

Friday's concert is a rare appearance for Desmarais in Ottawa/Gatineau. She brought both her trio and her big band to the Ottawa Jazz Festival in 2010, and, in 2016 she accompanied vocalist Térez Montcalm at the mid-summer Parc de l'Imaginaire jazz festival in Aylmer.

For their show at La Nouvelle Scène, the trio will pay tribute to iconic jazz pianist Bill Evans, a subtle and highly influential interpreter and composer who incorporated harmonic colour from French impressionistic composers like Fauré, Debussy and Ravel in his music. Desmarais has said she was more influenced by McCoy Tyner, but in listening to her music you can hear the how both she and Evans have a deep emotional connection to what they play. The trio will recreate Evans' favourite songs in an intimate and elegant conversation.

This is a project the trio has performed for several years, including at the 2017 Montreal Jazz Festival, with tunes including “B-Minor Waltz,” “Waltz for Debby,” “The Two Lonely People,” and “Autumn Leaves.”

The concert will be preceded by the presentation of the 90-minute documentary on the life of the American pianist, Bill Evans: Time Remembered at 6 p.m. The film will be presented in English with surtitles in French. Produced by Bruce Spiegel, this comprehensive documentary recounts the life of American pianist Bill Evans; not only the musician, but also the person. The film moves chronologically from Bill's childhood in New Jersey and ends with details of his death.

The Lorraine Desmarais Trio will pay tribute to Bill Evans on Friday, January 25, at 8 p.m. If you come early at 6 p.m., you can also see the documentary film Bill Evans: Time Remembered (in English with French surtitles) as part of the show. Tickets are $30 for adults, $25 for seniors, and $20 for students - less if you have the theatre's discount card. Prices include all fees. They are available on-line on the Nouvelle Scène website or at the door.

La Nouvelle Scène is located at 333 King Edward Avenue in Lowertown, one long block north of Rideau Street. OC Transpo routes 7, 12, 14, and 18 all stop on Rideau Street nearby, and the theatre is also walking distance from the Mackenzie-King station on the Transitway. Try the OC Transpo Trip Planner to find your trip to the show!

Get the details of this show and dozens of more jazz events every week in our Live Jazz Guide, available exclusively to OttawaJazzScene.ca donors and subscribers.