Steve Boudreau ©Brett Delmage, 2015
Steve Boudreau has been intensely studying George Gershwin's music, and the result is his new Gershwin tribute CD, Preludes, to be released on October 22 at the NAC Fourth Stage. ©Brett Delmage, 2015

Increasingly, Steve Boudreau has found that George Gershwin “permeates all the music that I look at”.

For the last few years, the Ottawa jazz pianist has been listening to, absorbing, and performing the music of the renowned Jazz Age composer. On Sunday, October 22, he'll release a CD of almost-all Gershwin compositions, in a show at the NAC Fourth Stage.

Entitled Preludes, it's centred around the three short Preludes which Gershwin composed in the 1920s, whose form is classical but whose spirit is definitely jazz. To those, Boudreau has added four songs from the opera Porgy and Bess, and several other Gershwin tunes which have become jazz standards – plus two of Boudreau's own tunes. The CD closes with a piece by Brian Wilson of the Beach Boys, who has also acknowledged his debt to Gershwin. editor Alayne McGregor recently interviewed Boudreau about Gershwin, the CD, and the upcoming release show. In our podcast interview, Boudreau explains:

  • how he discovered and researched George Gershwin, including reading the biography Gershwin by Ed Jablonski
  • how Gershwin's music speaks to us today
  • why he came to record a Gershwin CD
  • how he adapted the Preludes to work with the trio
  • how John Geggie's bass playing and Michel Delage's drumming enhanced the recordings
  • how he picked and researched the other Gershwin pieces on the CD
  • how his two original pieces fit in with the Gershwin compositions
  • why he closed the CD with a Brian Wilson song recorded by the Beach Boys
  • what you can expect to hear at the CD's release concert – including Gershwin pieces not on the CD
  • why he picked the NAC Fourth Stage and its quiet vibe and listening crowd for the show, and
  • what he plans to do next with George Gershwin's music
Steve Boudreau ©Brett Delmage, 2015
Preludes CD cover - painting by Annemarie Zeyl

We started with Boudreau explaining what he enjoys about playing Gershwin's music.

George Gershwin's music is very special to me because I always had it as part of my jazz background. You know, everyone plays Gershwin songs … But most recently I discovered the Preludes, the three short piano pieces, when I was just playing through a bunch of arrangements that Gershwin himself had written for solo piano. And then I found recordings of him playing them himself, and I just found they were so rhythmic and exciting, that I really wanted to get deep into that and bring them into my own jazz world.

But, along with that, Porgy and Bess is always something I wanted to play more of, and I just played through the rehearsal score of that one. And also there's so many great standards that he wrote in so many shows. And the “Rhapsody in Blue”, I remember when I first started playing musical theatre a long time ago … in 2004 I was doing a show, and the music director said, 'Oh you know what you should do – you're a jazz guy. Get the two-piano version of 'Rhapsody in Blue', record yourself playing one part, and then play along with it with the other part. It's a great way to practice and get a lot of those kinds of sounds under your fingers.”

There's really been so many different little parts of the Gershwins' catalogue that I've dug into like that. That's why it turned into a whole album's-worth of material rather quickly.

Listen to the complete podcast including the interview with Boudreau and short excerpts from Preludes.

Steve Boudreau will release his first trio CD, Preludes: The Music of George Gershwin, in a concert at the Fourth Stage of the National Arts Centre, 1 Elgin Street, on Sunday, October 22, at 8:30 p.m. Performing two sets with him will be bassist John Geggie and drummer Michel Delage. Tickets ($25) are available from the NAC Box Office (no surcharge) or via Ticketmaster on the NAC website.

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