William Lamoureux ©2017 Brett Delmage
William Lamoureux ©2017 Brett Delmage

When William Lamoureux starts playing his violin, there's an instant alertness in the audience, a focus on him on the stage.

Perhaps it's the fluidity and energy of his playing, or the way he can switch effortlessly between percussive bowing and bittersweet melodies, or how his violin can sing so expressively.

Lamoureux is only 21 years old. He was raised in Gatineau, where he studied classical violin for ten years at the Québec Music Conservatory. But at the end of his teens, he made an abrupt change in focus – he decided to study in Humber College in Toronto, whose well-regarded program covers jazz and popular music. He studied there with jazz musicians including violinist Drew Jurecka, guitarist Ted Quinlan, saxophonists Kirk MacDonald and Pat LaBarbera, trombonist Alastair Kay, and vocalist Denzal Sinclaire. He was awarded the college's Board of Governors’ Award in 2016. In June, he graduated with a bachelors degree in music.

In the last four years, he has spread his wings in many different projects. His solo Playground Project is a one-man-band act where he interprets well-known pop tunes arranged live on stage with vocals, violin, percussion and effects pedals. He founded the Québec rock group, the Billy Love Band, which also includes local jazz musicians J.P. Lapensée and Andrew Ferderber. In Toronto, he belongs to four bands: the 12-piece R&B/Soul/Latin band 7Sould; the gypsy jazz sextet, Hotline Swing; with vocalist Kalyna Rakel; and the improvising world music quartet So Long Seven.
[read the OttawaJazzScene.ca review of So Long Seven]

Toronto is now home to Lamoureux – but he frequently returns to Ottawa and Gatineau to perform with jazz and pop musicians here. One frequent collaborator is jazz vocalist Nicole Ratté. He'll perform as part of her quintet on Tuesday, July 25, in a free outdoor show at 7 p.m. in Le Parc des Deux-Ruisseaux in the plateau area of Gatineau.

Last Friday (July 21), Lamoureux tried a new collaboration: with Afro-Cuban pianist Miguel de Armas, in de Armas' Friday evening jazz series at The Marshes in Kanata. Along with Lapensée on bass guitar, de Armas and Lamoureux performed standards ranging from a wistful and lovely “Misty”, to the energetic and intricate gypsy jazz piece “Micro” by Django Reinhardt, and ending with a swinging “What is this thing called love?” Lamoureux also added expressive tenor vocals to two songs: “All of Me” and “Body and Soul”. The audience strongly applauded many of the songs and solos, and there were smiles all around at the end of the show.

Lamoureux and de Armas will perform together again at the Marshes on Friday, September 1.

After the show, OttawaJazzScene.ca editor Alayne McGregor sat down with Lamoureux to talk about how Humber influenced him, his musical coming of age this year, and where he sees his varied career going next.

– Alayne McGregor

Listen to the complete interview with William Lamoureux

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Excerpts from the podcast

“From the start of my career, I always knew I wanted to do a lot of different things. I'm very interested in and I love a lot of different genres of music.”

“I actually didn't choose [the violin]. I was three years old and my mother owned a music school in Gatineau. She was always a pianist too, and she wanted me to play violin so she could accompany me. And then when I turned 5 or 6, she couldn't accompany me anymore because the pieces were too tough! But, no, I just loved it, I guess – I never stopped.”

“The first tune I played with Miguel on our rehearsal last Tuesday, I was like, 'How am I going to do this gig?' It was so different and so out there, and I've never really played with a Cuban piano player before. … The style is so unique. Even though it's still jazz, it's Latin jazz and Cuban-influenced, for sure. But the more we played together, the more we kind of reached common ground and fed off each others' ideas. But, to be honest, Miguel feeds me much more ideas than I feed him. It was pretty incredible to just share his language, to get some of his ideas, and to play with someone as inspirational as Miguel.”

“Music is meant to bring emotions to people, whether it's sadness, happiness, fear, empathy – name it. All my problems I solve them through music, and I'm sure you solve your problems through music – in some way. Just going out to see live music, to hear a piece of music that moves you – it puts you in another place. If you have problems, it just escapes you from these things.”