Watch the OttawaJazzScene.ca video story about this show: An expanded quartet rethinks the music (video)
At their GigSpace concert on Saturday, Garry Elliott and Steve Boudreau are giving their compositions an opportunity to evolve and get better.
The Ottawa jazz guitarist and pianist have played together as a duo for years, including releasing a well-received CD of quiet and nuanced originals in 2013. But on Saturday, they'll add two new musical viewpoints from Montreal: bassist Adrian Vedady and drummer Camil Belisle.
It's a chance to showcase the new music they've written in the last three years, Elliott says, but also to make their older material even better – for the benefit of the audience as well.
“The thing about writing is that you only play [your songs] once in a while. So you don't really explore them in the same way as, say, you would when you play standards. Because you're always playing the standards, so you get to know them really well.”
Back in the heyday of jazz, “the boppers or even Lennie Tristano or the Bill Evans Trio – any of those people – they played their material every night in clubs. We don't really get the opportunity to do that as much any more.”
“So it's not so much putting out too much new material but getting better playing the old material, because we really don't play them enough.”
Elliott's odd-time-signature song, “Mix Live”, was on their CD, Pre-Dawn Skies, he said, but it's “really evolved” since then. “We're playing it so much better just because we're playing it more.”
They're also expanding the sound with Vedady and Belisle. “I think it's really neat for Steve and I to share our music with people from elsewhere, too, and to play it and see what their take is on it.”
Belisle has been part of the Montreal jazz scene for more than three decades, and is pianist Lorraine Desmarais' long-time drummer. But he's from Ottawa – “I remember first hearing him at the Beacon Arms Hotel in a trio,” says Elliott – who played with him in the late 70s.
Belisle left Ottawa in 1979. “There was a mass exodus of fabulous jazz musicians that year – they all went to Montreal. There was Camil Belisle, and Jean Beaudet, and Ron Séguin. I remember going to hear them all. They'd play with Roddy [Ellias] and [bassist] Scott Alexander. They were really inspiring.”
Elliott said he was glad to be playing with Belisle again because “he's always been a really sensitive, quiet drummer. But at the same time being really contributing, without forcing anything out. Very natural.”
This will be the first time Vedady has played with Elliott and Boudreau.
“I'd first heard Adrian at Paradiso with Marc Copland: that was a wonderful trio and I thought, this guy is great. And then, of course, Roddy [Ellias] had Adrian play with him in his trio and on his CD. I heard them quite a few times and I just remember thinking, well, if I had a chance, I'd really like to play with this guy, because he's so musical and you can tell everything is very natural and very organic.”
Adding the bass and drums also gives him and Boudreau “a lot more freedom to express ourselves because we have the rhythm section there. It just makes it a lot easier for us, not as much as in a duo – although we're come a long way as a duo. But just having the rhythm section there and extra players to contribute makes it a lot more spacious and easy. We don't have to do as much to keep the time going.”
Elliott originally had the idea for this quartet from an Ottawa Jazz Festival contest. For this year's Winter Jazzfest, the festival asked local musicians to propose a group which included at least one musician they'd never formally performed with before. While Elliott's proposal wasn't chosen then, he decided he'd still like to play with Vedady and Belisle.
Last Sunday, the quartet rehearsed in Montreal, he said. “They just fit into our music like they'd been playing it for three years! They really understood it and it felt really great.”
On Saturday, they'll play both old and new compositions by Elliott and Boudreau. One or two tunes are likely to be from Pre-Dawn Skies, he said, “but the rest are tunes that aren't from the CD, that span over several years of writing.” They'll augment those with a few standards: “two Lennie Tristano melodies and then one by Wayne Shorter”.
The new material takes a “kind of a different direction” from the CD, he said, but it still includes looking for “different harmonies” and the occasional different time signature. “But I think that direction has always been inherent there."
“Some might even go backwards, with a more simple style too. I know two of the songs that we're doing are songs that Steve wrote with the Beeched Wailers and they're much easier harmonically than stuff we did on the CD."
“And then I wrote some about a year ago that were, I think, getting a little more grounded in terms of being very exact in interpreting the rhythm. Because as you know I've been doing this studying [on djembe] with Mike Longo, I learned quite a lot about being very grounded. I've got one song called “Bossa Doodle” and it's pretty straight-ahead.”
The biggest incentive for performing on Saturday, Elliott said, will be “just [to] get our tunes out there. See how other people would react. Maybe we'll get a gig in Montreal – you never know!”
– Alayne McGregor
The Garry Elliott Quartet will perform at GigSpace on Saturday, April 9, 2016 at 7:30 p.m. Tickets are $20.
Read the OttawaJazzScenene.ca joint interview with Elliott and Boudreau about their CD: